Do you remember how two years ago we took everything for granted?
Everything being spending Christmas with your family and friends.
Do you remember rolling your eyes when it came to getting dressed for another clash with the relatives?
Do you remember making up the silliest excuses not to show up to another Christmas party, no matter if it was the office, the in-laws or friends hosting an ugly-sweater party?
But were those not exactly the celebrations we thought about last year when we were desperate to meet with as many family members as possible?
Are not those the parties we will miss again this year?
Two years ago, I dragged myself to our school staff’s Christmas party. I was tired and short on cash due to excessive Christmas shopping. The day had been long. My pupils had drained my energy-level to zero and doing the housework after I got home had not helped in rising this level at all. Would I be able to accept the challenge of converting myself into a party-suitable person or were I to give up and call my friend and colleague Miss Small to tell her that there was absolutely no way I could drag myself off the couch again. The decision was made by her calling and asking me to pick her up. I worked another Christmas miracle and looked almost fit for a formal dinner when I left the house. Miss Small jumped into the car, looking stunning as ever and we agreed to just stay for as long as we had to. We also agreed to not drink excessively. To make sure I stuck to this agreement I had volunteered to drive. A cunning move I regretted the minute we sat down, and everyone ordered wine. The success of a come-together mostly depends on the people who settle down near you. Not ten minutes into the evening I found myself seated next to my boss. Usually this means the fun drifts into another direction, but I have to say, His Chattiness held a positive surprise in store. And so did the whole evening. When Miss Small and I left the restaurant, we were happy we had been part of the party. We were happy to be part of our little work family. Considering how much time you spend with your colleagues and the relationships you form they can be easily compared with family. There are those you love to see every morning, those you try to avoid and those who drive you nuts. As much as you cannot choose your family, you do not have a word in who your colleagues are.
This year there was no Christmas Work Party. I missed this meeting.
This year the only thing close to a party is today’s ugly Christmas sweater sit-in with our friends.
Christmas Eve will be a rather small reception. Calm. Cosy. Close family.
When my brothers and I were little Christmas always meant being stuck in a stuffy room which held to many persons. The air was overheated and so was the tension. It did not matter much if the whole family met at my grandparent’s or at our house. The kitchen turned into a sauna, the living room into a boozer. Among the verbal fights ran us children. I must admit that Christmas at my parents came about as a tiny bit more sophisticated and my father preferred his wife’s cooking to his mother’s. He hated how she constantly stuffed her fingers into food, stuffing her fingers into her mouth and stuffing it back into another dish in preparation. He carefully selected what to eat, straightforwardly asking which nourishment his mother had not touch. We children loved the whole commotion.
Our parents considering the strangest excuses to not get dressed.
Cursing about having to meet the family.
Swearing us to secrecy not to mention any of their complaints to the rest of the party.
The overly cheerful greetings at the door.
My mother rolling eyes at the cramped flat of my grandparents.
My father inconspicuously checking on the preparation of the meal, while passing the kitchen.
My grandparents flat had two tiny rooms. Christmas was celebrated with about fifteen persons stuck in the bigger one of them. It can be regarded as a Christmas miracle that no one died of suffocation. When my parents hosted the whole event there was more room, less salvia in the food but still the flat full of buzzing life. This is what we loved as children. Of course, the presents were nice too, but mostly it was the dynamic atmosphere we enjoyed. The excitement. The almost patient waiting. The joy of our relatives when we loved one of the presents, they had chosen for us. The even greater joy when they unexpectedly received a surprise themselves. Everyone tried to make every Christmas magical for us.
Since I have become a mother, I can relate with my mother’s eye rolling and my father’s silent swearing. Clean the flat, bake the cake, entertain guests, keep the child at bay. Who would have thought that magic is such a load of work? I have become my own miracle.
I invite as many people as possible.
I prepare my father’s favourite dish strictly according to his hygienic standards.
I try to make up for eighteen exhausting celebrations to my mother by constantly topping of her glass of wine.
I encourage conversation and discourage arguments.
I make up the silliest stories to divert the child from Santa’s secret drop of presents.
All I want is for my son to have a magical time. He is thirteen now and still wants to believe.
Despite the fake cheer and the misty-eyed childhood memories, have we not all at least wished once for Christmas just sitting on the couch with our closest loved ones?
Have we not all toyed with the idea of not attending any Christmas party?
Have we not all considered spending money for ourselves rather than taking part in the Christmas shopping insanity?
Last year would have been the perfect opportunity to make our secret wishes come true without even losing our faces.
Christmas parties with colleagues were cancelled.
The number of participants on Christmas Eve was restricted.
Many of us were in quarantine and secretly happy to be saved from analogue Christmas shopping.
But did we not also look left and right for the first time?
Did we not realise that there are people among us who dread Christmas just because they have no one to get together with?
As movies make ultimately clear: Christmas is about togetherness.
Imagine having no one for Christmas and watching one come together after another.
Imagine listening to other complaining about having to go to Christmas parties.
Imaging this being your life. Not only on Christmas.
I would go nuts.
Last year we were restricted form being together. Restricted from being with people we sometimes do not even like that much. People from which we restrict ourselves most of the year. As the number of people allowed in our living room was limited, we chose carefully.
We ended up with my parents, my brother’s little family and astonishingly enough with Darcy’s ex-partner and the twins. It was a magical patchwork Christmas. Thanks to a virus that isolates us a lot, we were bound together a bit tighter.
Togetherness in a miraculous meeting.
I will miss it this year.