Christmas Eve: Thankful But Not Silent
Christmas Eve: Thankful But Not Silent
Here we are again. Christmas Eve. Another year. A different year. For some of us, we will go on like we did for years. For some of us, the landscape has changed. For some of us, we’re rolling with it and trying to hold on to tradition.
For others of us, we will break traditions and find a new way to be joyful.
Christmas has always been a bittersweet time for me, personally. When I was 9 years old, my uncle passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack four days before. It devastated my family. It was the first time that I understood the permanence of death. Fifteen years ago, it was also the first time I understood the miracle of life twofold. It was Christmas Eve, 2005, when my husband and I (and our son-to-be) hopped in the car for a drive to the Emergency Room after my blood pressure escalated. It was late Christmas Eve when I was laying in a hospital bed, and later on a table in an OR, pondering life and its delicate balance, bargaining with God that if He had to take someone, to take me.
God must have said to me in my OR slumber that I wasn’t done yet. I awakened to my gushing doctor that our beautiful baby boy was three pounds, eleven ounces and came into this world kicking, screaming and peeing all over everybody. He was a little fighter and screamed while respiratory therapists and other NICU staff poked and prodded him for two hours. Suffice to say, his lungs were fine. “Thank God for the miracles of modern medicine”, I marveled as my softball-sized hands cupped his tiny baby feet and I kissed his forehead. He was so little and admittedly, I was scared I would break him!
Fast forward 15 years later, his feet are larger than my own. He can take me down in one wrestling move. He’s a typical teenage boy who burps sentences and warbles loudly while playing XBOX across the miles with his best friend since third grade. Despite the silliness and sometimes immaturity, he knows who he is and doesn’t feel the need to follow along with the popular opinion or the “in crowd”. He makes no apologies for his opinions. He loves anatomy and physiology, biology and is always trying to diagnose ailments and, bonus… his handwriting is terrible. We just may have a future doctor on our hands.
Between my family and my husband’s family, packing 30 people in one small house for the holidays was a tradition. The more, the merrier, was the motto. Not the motto of 2020, however. It’s a “new normal”, they say.
Christmas photos of college friends pictured with their families outside in a winter wonderland, in their color-coordinated masks. Letters lamenting on this “new normal”. And isn’t it odd how some are safe to “gather” with and some aren’t? Protests and standing on street corners with many strangers are great but gathering to share a meal and laughs with those you have known your whole life could kill you? I begin to wonder, “who are these people?” Yes, chairs will be empty because individuals lost loved ones to COVID-19. Chairs are also empty because grandma is alone and no one is able to visit her. Chairs are empty because a loved one from far away lost his or her job and does not have the money to travel. Chairs are empty because people are afraid to travel. Chairs are empty because loved ones, have lost their hopes and dreams and, caving under the pressure of it all, have committed suicide. There are many reasons why “chairs are empty” this holiday season. Some chairs are empty because of the vast, political divide.
If we think about it, the vast, political divide is the main driver of many a chair at the Christmas table being empty this season.
Christmastime in the city has been replaced with Christmastime in what looks like an apocalyptic war zone in protest of American Capitalism. We’re told to brace for “the long dark winter”. We’re told to patiently wait because “help is coming”, there’s a new “Big Guy” in charge. We’re told to be stagnant, to stay still because come January, all will be right in our world. We’re told we are selfish to want to see grandma, go to a hair salon, or sit at another table and have someone else cook a meal for us. We’re told to do this by someone who, laughably, went on a You Tube channel and ate a $20 dollar pint of ice cream. By someone who went to an elaborate dinner party. They are coming to make out lives better? With a $2,000 check? C’mon man!
My little family has been lucky. We are both gainfully employed. Our son is not having a hard time with virtual learning. Other than COVID restrictions, our immediate lives have been fairly normal. For this, I am thankful but I cannot say that I am going into Christmas with sadness for those who have not been so fortunate throughout this tumultuous year. I also fee sadness and anger for those who have just thrown up their hands and have completely given up. I feel a sense of shock come over me when someone I thought I knew recites the script verbatim. I, myself, have almost found myself reciting the script! Almost daily, we’re told that we need to “suck it up and be thankful” that we’re still sitting at the table as one, by one, our family members are picked off by either fear of or disdain for others sitting at that table. The holidays have new meaning, they say. Until they have no meaning anymore. That Facebook altercation you got into with a friend or family member this past September carries more weight this year. The “love” has been obliterated from the holiday cards. Family members are strangers in a strange land, through no fault of our own but through a bigger driving force that has made that wedge.
This Christmas Eve, I know I will be sitting with family and extended family members with whom I differ philosophically. And you know what? That is okay. There will not be any heavy-duty politically-charged discussions generated by yours truly at the table. I will keep the peace and be thankful. But my gratitude is not weakness and will not snuffed out by silent oblivion. You may be doing the same these next few days and that is completely respectable. Be thankful at your tables this Christmas. You may have to flip a few in 2021.
Photo Credit: Miia Ranta from Finland, CC BY-SA 2.0