Every family has their favorite holiday specials. Ours was A Charlie Brown Christmas, and this year it feels more poignant than ever. Here’s Charlie Brown talking to Linus: “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.” I told you, right? He just gets me. Because here we are smack in the middle of another don’t-you-dare-gather holiday season. A holiday season, by the way, that historically has been defined BY its social gatherings. So what do do? I mean really. What. To. Do.
Linus responds to Charlie Brown like this: “Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest!” Good point, Linus. I’ve got to perk up a little.
My ex-husband and I used to enjoy taking drives in the backwoods of New England. I’d have us follow those skinny wiggly lines on my map that would loop us through a mountain range or follow a river down into a valley. The road would start with a choppy pavement, then switch to gravel, and then finally go to dirt. As the car navigated the potholes, I would rock side to side and admire the scenery. Every once in a while, along would come someone’s home. I’d crane my neck to catch the details – straining to flush out these lives. Who were they? Is that a brave pot of annuals on their front porch? Was there a baby crying in that window? Was that front door freshly painted? Did it bother them that any beautifying efforts they made would be enjoyed almost entirely by them alone? Would they put up lights at Christmas?
Our situation with COVID may not be much different than theirs – although the holiday lights outside are an easy yes to some. Doesn’t it seem like there are more of those over-the-top holiday displays this year than most? (Fun drive by’s, but witnessing that kind of manic effort always made me check the locks.) The lights are one of the few traditions that still holds up this year. They are bright and cheerful and can be enjoyed by all. So YES - go nuts with the lights if that’s your thing. What on earth else do you have to do? But for me (and remember, I’m the Charlie Browniest,) I just don’t feel like doing much. I’m going minimalist this year, and you can’t stop me.
As with everything else COVID, our emotions can run the gamut on any given day. Take Thanksgiving: small gatherings or not, some people still stubbornly produced more side dishes than would even fit in her fridge - never mind the bellies of the few brave souls that actually sat at her table. Do not judge her for making sweet potatoes AND mashed potatoes AND scalloped potatoes. And don’t shame her by pointing out that the number of pies almost outnumbered her guests. (Yeesh, no wonder I’m exhausted.) But we all get to have our own brand of crazy during Covid. And sometimes that means leaning in, and sometimes that means leaning out.
The one thing I think COVID is good for, however, is a regroup. It’s a great time to assess why we do what we do. Do you actually enjoy putting out that crocheted holiday doll set that your mother-in-law picked up at a craft fair? Or have your traditions ballooned over the years and taken on a life of their own, leaving you to chase after them with a rolling pin in one hand and a stack of holiday cards in the other. Because if so, now is the PERFECT time to recalibrate. If you want to pare down (and I’m not saying you should) this could be your year.
So, at the end of this season, when you are breaking it all down - think about what you enjoyed and what you didn’t. If you are hanging on to holiday stuff for the kids - get specific with it. Buy some tubs (clear ones to see through, and matching ones for easy stacking in the attic.) Label them and split that stuff up! Have a goal in mind for the items you will keep - two tubs worth? Three? And edit ruthlessly to get there. You can even have a tub marked “purgatory,” for the decisions that are too painful to make. If you don’t use that stuff next year, then out it goes! How liberating! And how great to know that holiday gear is all packed in their matching and labeled tubs – stacked up in the attic like tidy little soldiers.
Is that type of re-group for you? I have no idea, but if not, there are others. If you have the inclination, just go for it! What on earth else do you have to do? Just call it your brand of COVID crazy.