As it has for several Christmases now, the little train under our tree still spouts a hearty Ho, Ho, Ho on command. The whistle blows and a waving Santa welcomes all aboard. Push another button and he wishes all those within earshot Merry Christmas.
The only thing missing this year is not a thing at all. It’s our grandsons who delight at making the train go forward and backward at the punch of a button.
A Merry Covid Christmas is not what any of us had in mind at the beginning of 2020. Holiday traditions are changing. We’re staying home and gathering online and singing Zoombayah with family and friends. Gone are the holiday parties and potluck dinners. No more dance clubs or brunch get togethers. Midnight Mass won’t be the same on the big screen. The office lunch is at your desk.
• • •
There are fewer gifts under the tree. Most have been mailed. Thank you USPS. The stockings are there but only about half will be filled. Norman’s parade was a drive-by if you could get through the blocks-long traffic to get there. Concerts are virtual if they are held at all.
Hang in there. It’ll get better and we can return to some sense of normalcy soon. In the meantime, think of your favorite family traditions and maybe make some new ones. Cherish what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have.
• • •
Growing up it wasn’t really Christmas for me until nearly half a day later when an aunt would arrive on the bus from south Texas. She played the organ for Midnight Mass and caught the overnight bus to Dallas and then another one to Norman in time for an afternoon dinner and gift opening with her family. She’d play the piano and accordion and we’d sing every song that beautiful nun knew.
The night before all of our dress shoes were shined to look good for morning Mass. Sometimes, we’d load up the Rambler with blankets and a Thermos of hot chocolate and a box of Little Brownie cookies and drive to Nichols Hills to see the beautiful lights.
Our eight stockings had hunks of hard ribbon candy, likely provided by the family dentist. There were a handful of Hershey’s Kisses in the bottom of those hand-made socks. Gifts were practical and not usually wrapped. Clothes. Bicycles. BB-guns. Pocketknives. Maybe a Troll Doll.
Pumpkin and Pecan pies were topped by whipped cream that came from the Potts Dairy on south Chautauqua.
• • •
Our own children enjoyed their traditions. Pans of butter cookies cut into holiday shapes. Decorated with colored icing and sprinkles. A few cookies left by the fireplace for Santa. Some carrots, too. Reindeers need to eat, too, one daughter reminded me. Gifts opened by birth order. No exceptions. Everyone got socks. (This year, everyone’s getting masks).
On Friday, we’ll celebrate in our bubble with three generations of local family instead of four. We’ll miss the fourth but are grateful they are healthy and happy. The day will come soon when we can all gather offline, give thanks and real hugs without sanitizing first.