The days felt 47 hours long. The only conversation I had with anyone, other than my husband or 2-year-old, was on the phone. And we were all running out of things to say.
As the months wore on and family gatherings for Easter, birthdays and summer vacation were all canceled, I clung to the hope of being back to “normal” by December.
For those of us who could gather with loved ones last Christmas — even if it wasn’t everyone we wanted to be with, and it required multiple trips to the local pharmacy for COVID-19 tests and self-imposed quarantine — just being together was worth celebrating.
It wasn’t hard to remember the “reason for the season” after a long year of fear, uncertainty and far too many lives lost.
This year, it seems, the effects of the lingering pandemic will impact yet another Christmas. This time, we may be less concerned about getting to grandma’s house, as with whether there will be a present for, or from, grandma under the tree.
You’ve likely heard about the global shipping crisis currently causing panic among Christmas shoppers hoping to get everything on their lists in time for the big morning. Media outlets are encouraging people to get their shopping done early, as delays may hinder arrival dates for some of the year’s hottest items.
This seemingly great inconvenience is just another example of how greatly our lives have been disrupted by this pandemic. But I would argue, it also presents an opportunity for self-reflection and growth ahead of what can be one of the busiest times of the year.
When I think about what last year was like for so many dealing with the absence of loved ones on Christmas morning, these reminders to get shopping done early are a sad reminder of how quickly we can culturally be jolted back into worrying about the commercialism of Christmas.
What did we learn, if anything, from the last almost two years of the pandemic?
Messages about the “true meaning of Christmas” typically abound this time of year and sometimes crack through the hustle and bustle of checking off items on those gift lists.
You don’t need a lecture from me about what we are really meant to be celebrating on Dec. 25, but perhaps this global shipping crisis will force many of us to confront our own struggles with keeping Christ’s birth at the center of the celebration.
Rather than rushing to shop early and often, clicking away online or rushing to the mall even earlier this year, maybe we can use this as a forced opportunity to embrace less. Can we worry more about who is gathered around the Christmas tree than what is under it?
In a recent conversation with a co-worker I was reminded of what I described at the opening of this article, and how truly lonely and scary the spring and early summer of 2020 was. We were alone in an office space that can comfortably sit more than 300 people … the new normal.
But even as we shared our experiences of those early weeks of the pandemic, surrounded by dozens of empty chairs and blank computer monitors, I realized how much of that time I had blocked from my memory. And just how easy it has been to forget how grateful I should be to be able to give a loved one outside of my household a hug.
For me, those carefree hugs and shared meals will be the greatest joys of Christmas this year.
(Jones is a freelance writer based in Maryland.)