We go up to the garage and watch our loved ones drive away after their visits. It’s always sad to see them drive up the road, make the sharp right turn, and disappear from view. This time, Val and family walked up to the highway to meet Joy and Rich, who had to park their van up on the highway, as it could not navigate our slippery road. They drove them down to Missoula and the family had an epic journey of delayed flights back to California–as so many people did for this Life in the Time of Covid Christmas holiday. We were so grateful to be together, in spite of it all.
It was the kind of Christmas the California grandkids had wished for–cold and snowing and the pond through the woods froze for ice skating. Every day, they bundled up and headed out to shovel the new snow on the ice for hockey, and they sledded down the absent neighbor’s steep road. We played board games by the fire, and ten-year old Eamon taught me how to play Gin Rummy. We laughed at our favorite Christmas movies, all squeezed into the library. Once the Billings family arrived, twelve of us fit around the dining room table for meals at night and the house was filled with light and laughter. I managed to get into bed at a reasonable hour for my health issues each night, and even when I was a layabout with my legs elevated, I didn’t feel I was missing out. In fact, one of my favorite moments was when I was resting, eyes closed, in the middle of the living room, trying to gather my wits about me to manage this neural pain. I could hear the murmurs of the three teenagers, sitting in a circle by the fire, as they made jewelry together and listened to their Spotify playlists. In the library, Fletcher, now nearly 21 years old, was sitting next to Eamon on the sofa, watching football. Eamon likely has never watched a football game, and Fletcher had an eager audience for his passion. Their Q&A was adorable. My daughters and husbands and Grandon were all making dinner together, shaking margaritas, drinking wine, laughing and talking. I thought my heart would break open in joy and gratitude to have all this in my life, after such a tough year.
Rita and Lee came by for a New Year’s Eve soup dinner early last night, and I tried to find a Spotify playlist, but they all had names such as “Dumpster Fire 2021 Playlist”. We talked about how bad it has been, the personal health news that’s profoundly changed our lives, the sad events. We discussed the horrendous fire in Boulder and how maybe 1000 homeowners lost their houses at the end of this year. The news had just come in that Betty White had died, just shy of making it to her 100th birthday, and it felt like another assault from the Universe. We had awakened yesterday morning to a power outage, freezing in the house with 5 degrees outside. It took seven hours before the heat came on, and I fought back tears most of the morning at how awful all of it has been this past year. But, by evening’s close, we had laughed much more than we had cried. And, I went to sleep, knowing how tomorrow was a new day, a new year, and, in that, there is new hope. Happy New Year’s to us all.
From Letters of Note by Shaun Usher:
30 March 1973
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang onto your hat. Hang onto your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White