I drafted two end-of-year blog posts, and was struck by the sense that I was saying the same thing in different ways, so I interlocked them by paragraphs. Here are the things we miss, and the things we celebrate.
December has been a month of silent celebration for the Zook family. I say silent because we haven’t often been able to pull others into our joys – our county ranked third in the nation, and climbing, for new Covid cases per population, which put a mandated damper on gatherings – but among our family there was nothing silent about it.
I miss the Christmas things, the concerts and parties and traditions with others. I miss the party where Santa always hands out candy canes and the children paint crafts. It’s always been that way, for as long as we were a part of the agency. I miss the school program, Christmas caroling, and the his-family/my-family dinners.
Just before December, we celebrated more traditionally. Thanksgiving was a happy celebration with one of my brothers home from Florida, and another from Tennessee, and my mom’s and sisters’ lovely cooking. My family has scattered in several key ways, but we remember the things that tie us together, and they won’t ever go away. I love being with my siblings.
I miss the rest of our extended families, some of whom we haven’t seen for twelve months. We didn’t travel.
We celebrated Advent as a family, one more sweet non-event of waiting each day, and it meant more than usual, with so much else not happening.
I miss being able to try out new recipes on a large and appreciative audience. There are good things to try, but my family can only eat so many. There are no Christmas festivities this year where everyone brings a dish to share.
We celebrated the one public event we could, a drive-through Journey to Bethlehem by a church nearby. They did such a lovely job, with live animals including a camel.
I miss knowing what the faces of new people look like, though I am pleased to find that I am learning to edit out masks in my mind – that is, when I look backward to remember a face, and wonder, “Was that fellow-customer who showed me the way to the fresh cranberries masked or not? Or the newcomer at the support group?” I honestly do not know. I remember them, and their eyes. Not their policy and presentation. This is amazing progress.
We celebrated Puppy Departure, our second litter of Shih Poos placed joyfully in homes. This was GenY: Abby, Molly, and Kayte, and they were adorbsy. Yes, I really used that word. No, I will not let it become a regular thing.
I miss the easy hugs and handshakes, and always knowing what to do when I met someone I loved. Or greeted someone for the first time. I’ve always moved in, but not this year. What is their comfort level? What is mine? I am unsure. I miss having closeness be normal.
We laughed hard when Jenny discovered, all on her own, the age old joke about “Joseph and Mary and the baby lying in the manger.” She thought it was soooo funny, and her sister diagrammed it for her.
I miss having an endpoint to a season – summer will give way to fall, Christmas will give way to January snows, the flu season melts into warmer, healthier days. This year, Covid gave way to Covid gave way to Covid. I knew there’d be an end, but it wasn’t in sight.
We celebrated getting well again, after a mild but all-inclusive head cold swept our family. Sore throats and head congestion. No fevers, no mysterious losses of sense. We cleared our schedule, what there was of it, and pulled the kids out of school, and hunkered down and healed. We were not sick enough to be miserable, except one day each for two of us. We were hot-drinks-puzzles-crafts-and-candy-making unwell at home. So peaceful. So grateful.
I miss the days when cold symptoms were just cold symptoms. Hmmm. Well, take a Tylenol and I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning. Now all symptoms must be analyzed to the max, and with reason. We need to think of others, let the school know, check our empty social calendar and clear the last two things off it.
We celebrated receiving a huge box of Christmas crafting supplies and instructions from my aunt who lives in Texas. Bless her. She is the crafter of the family, and pulls others in. Her sisters tease her that it always looks like Hobby Lobby threw up in her trunk. I still use the hot glue gun she gave me when I was pre-teen (with crafting materials which she and I then assembled together). She sent a box like this to all the cousins – an amazing surprise and joy. It took us all of one morning to make our four snowmen.
We celebrated Jenny’s birthday with a Candyland cake. How can my baby be five? There was enough sugar on that cake to bring major mom-guilt. Which I discarded, along with most of the cake toppings when no one was looking.
I miss the glowing face of a little child leaning over a birthday cake that lots of people will eat, blowing out all the candles and no one seeing the germs, just bursting into applause.
I miss big celebrations and fellowship meals and large groups. I miss local friends from other churches, whom I now rarely see. I miss being a safe place for the elderly and vulnerable. I want to protect them more than we are, not less. I miss going to church – our family took two Sundays off during the worst of the infections, and watched the livestream.
I look back with longing to just one year ago, the way we packed people into a chapel and practiced our music each week, then crowded onto a stage and sang and sang, glorious and full-voiced, with never a thought of harm. I miss the safety of crowds mingling, all sharing the same air. I miss being thoughtless. I miss the days when being thoughtless did not cost other humans so much.
We celebrated me coming home from the ER, when my sudden and intense abdominal pain checked out to be more ovarian cysts, and one ruptured. I had to be alone in there because of Covid, but they took great care of me, and brought the pain down from a nine to a three. The medicine I’m on makes cysts unlikely, but obviously not impossible. Home again, I ate good hot soup, serving after serving, from a friend. We felt cared for, and incredibly grateful for home.
I miss being on the same page, plugged in. I miss being able to express my opinions without triggering taboos and highlighting fault lines between the people I love most. You may scour this post for a concrete viewpoint, but I’ve been as nonrepresentational as I could. Quietness may be cowardly, but it’s simpler.
We celebrated one whole year clean for Ryan. I don’t need to tell you the kind of joy that was. We picked up take-out (our favorite barbecued meat – wood smoked, the best in the world) and baked a luscious peanut butter pie. We made a huge poster, and gave him a small keepsake gift.
At the recommendation of our counselors, Ryan and I reopened our wound that week – a voluntary “full disclosure” talk from him to me, and an “emotional impact letter” from me to him. It’s the kind of thing you worry you won’t live through, and then find yourself at a whole new place afterward. Open, tender, closer, together. It brought me past wishful thinking, fear, and anger into pain, acceptance, and new forgiveness. We keep growing. I wish it weren’t so painful, but I don’t want to go back. We celebrated us.
I miss our innocence. I miss when we didn’t need to worry about the dark things we couldn’t see. We were like children. Go grocery shopping, come home and unpack it all, sit down and eat a sandwich. Go to church, sit down, think of nothing but the song and the dinner in the oven at home. I miss easy trust and painless belonging. I miss being mint.
We celebrated Christmas Eve with an appetizer feast. Each of the kids made one of the recipes, and opened one present each. I’m so happy we are all together this year. I don’t take that for granted anymore.
I do not miss the hectic pace, the many evenings booked each week, the endless meetings to attend. In 2020, we juggled schedules a lot less. We were together as a family much more. I like this. Seems like a smallish gain for a high price, but we didn’t get to set that economy, did we?
At last we celebrated Christmas. Rich day at home, and a stack of lovely presents. The next day, we met up in a small group with another two of my brothers – treasured gift.
We are sad and joyous and rich, betrayed and fearful and safe.
In the same breath, we hope we will make it, and know we are so blessed.
Give me a snippet of your December? It doesn’t have to fit together nicely.