So many of the songs we hear for Christmas were written for Christmases like this one.
“Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow”
“I’m dreaming… with every Christmas card I write…”
These songs, and others like them, come from times of war and tribulation. They suggest separation and an element of melancholia and sadness as well as a hope for some better times ahead.
It’s going to be that kind of Christmas this year, isn’t it?
Twitter is terrible in so many ways but it’s still a central tool in my life. One reason for this is that it shows me the implications of things. It shows me what the rather amorphous twists and turns of the news means to real-live people out there in the world.
Yesterday evening, London and other places got an un-signaled Tier 4 lockdown imposed on it. I’m not in London, I’m not even in England but that news made me nod sadly and say to myself, “that’s a tough one.” Then Twitter started to show me just how tough it will be on people and I understood better.
There was the nice lady who had just done her huge shop for the family who were coming to stay for the allowed few days. Sitting in a house full of food and drink and bright lights. Nobody coming.
The elderly gentleman who was packed up and ready to be brought to his daughter’s house for Christmas Day, his first family contact in so many months. Nobody coming for him.
The young son, first time away, who couldn’t come home before this, ready to roll homeward for his already-warmed electric blanket and a little well-deserved pampering. Not happening. Stay put. Muddle through somehow.
Here in Ireland, as I type, we will still be allowed meet in limited ways. But it is tenuous, tenuous. The numbers are on that climb that they do. They will not level off by themselves. Every little joy we allow ourselves seems to make the situation worse.
My own little family unit, the four of us, won’t see anybody else this Christmas. Our extended families must use the slender opportunity to see sons and daughter and mothers and fathers, rather than the aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews that we constitute.
Still we are lucky. Lucky and we know it. The four of us are here now, in our home, and here we will stay, together for the Christmas season. For us, it won’t be massively different from other years although the three or four key family and friend interactions we always traditionally have will be sorely missed.
A few more days of work and I’ll be finished until the New Year. The way the dates fall this year means there’s a few extras days over the weekend so it will be the 4th before I trundle back. This time of year is my annual holiday, I rarely take another. So, I look forward to it and treasure it.
I thank the fates that they have allowed the four of us to be together for this Pandemic Holiday.
But my heart goes out, it flies over fields and rivers, over mountains and seas, to those of you who must miss out on the things you need this year. It is tough on the remote factual level, but it is even tougher, down on the single human-being level, where Granny and Mother and Son and Daughter and Dad and Grandad cannot meet just this once and greet each other face to face, as in golden days of yore.
This next thing is easy for me to say, from where I sit, and I apologise if I sound trite or privileged.
I think it almost behooves us to have ourselves a merry little Christmas this year, no matter how hard that may be to do. The kindest thing we could do for the people we cannot see, the people who will worry and fret over us, is to show them that we are okay. We may not be together, but we can smile a little and shelter a little and interact in every way we can. The greatest gift I could get would be to know that my friends and family are muddling through somehow and that someday soon we all will be together once again. It’s not a gift easily given because there’ll be sadness and loneliness and a fervent wish that things could be different. And, of course, we can't all do this. Some people's Christmases are just too hard.
But, if at all possible, for that moment at least, let your hearts be light, if only for those who will worry about you and miss you. Let’s raise a glass to those we cannot be with us and those dear ones who are no longer with us and those brave ones who are going through even greater trials than us this Christmas. Let’s remember them well.
And perhaps next year, as the old song says, all our troubles will be miles away.
Happy Christmas, wherever you find yourself.