I’m writing this column at a time when most folks — writers and journalists included — take a temporary break for the holidays. It’s Christmas Eve, and while some might applaud my dedication to duty, I have to confess that I have reason for the inspiration that causes me to pick up my pen and give way to some sentiment.
It’s been snowing most of the day, providing the prospect of my first-ever white Christmas. Yes, that’s true! To paraphrase a song of the same name, written by Irving Berlin and famously sung by Bing Crosby, there’s never been one I used to know. And yet, as Bing would sing, I’ve dreamed of a white Christmas for as long as I can remember.
Indeed, the treetops really do glisten and I really would love to hear some sleigh bells in the snow.
The latter didn’t happen, but it didn’t matter. As 2020 finally comes to a close, there’s a certain solace that accompanied the beautiful, picturesque snowscape visible just outside my doors. It’s quiet and comforting, distinctly different from the chaos, turbulence and uncertainty that’s come at us from all quarters over the course of the past year. It brought reason for reflection, knowing that with all the pitfalls life may throw our way, nature brings reassurance, and all we need do, is appreciate its essence.
This holiday has been unlike any other. It’s similar to what our forebears must have felt during wartime, when family and tradition were upended by the chaos and calamity of conflict on distant shores and the mutual sacrifices that had to be made to ensure our nation’s survival.
Many of us have shared in that sacrifice now. Our frontline workers and all the people who protect us in particular. Others wear masks to protect themselves and others. We pay heed to the warnings of doctors and scientists and take necessary precautions. We don’t allow our political views to obscure the reality of an epidemic that’s taken more than 337,00 American lives, a toll that surpasses the number of American casualties in World War II, and the total number of American troops killed in all the wars that preceded it combined.
I count my blessings that my burdens weren’t greater. I have a roof over my head, enough food to eat, and the money needed to at least pay my bills. And yet I continue to feel a sense of disconnect — from family, friends and those places where I’d once go to gather for a good meal or to enjoy some superb music.
I console myself with the fact that I’m not the only one who feels the distancing. Misery loves company, I suppose, but in this case, none of us has reason to feel any rejection or remorse. It is what it is, as the old cliché goes. We’re all in the same boat, to quote yet another. The pandemic has upended the way we do things. We meet over Zoom, staring at one another in a new world of virtual reality, attempting to ease our isolation in ways practically unheard of at this time last year. I find it awkward; either we talk over one another or simply stumble through a conversation while not quite knowing what to say. No hugs, no handshakes, no celebratory stance of any kind.
That may explain what I feel like as I watched the snowflakes gently fall and flutter and softly settle on the ground. Suddenly, loneliness takes on a new and better perspective. I lose myself in the beauty of what appears just outside my window. I feel one with the world, and yet still lost in thought and circumspect. In the quiet of a winter’s day, there’s a stillness and serendipity that begs for our attention. And for the moment anyway, nothing intrudes. Nothing distracts from the quiet of contemplation. We rejoice in finding the peace that’s evaded us for much of this past year, and celebrate instead a quiet, calming caress.
Although 2020 is over — at least according to the calendar — its repercussions likely will linger longer. The vaccine is being rolled out now, but we probably won’t feel the full effects until everyone is inoculated and our safety is ensured. The experts insist that could take at least six more months. Normalcy, or some semblance thereof, is still a distant beacon on the horizon.
Yet, each new year brings hope — hope for renewed happiness, the opportunity that we’ll actually follow through on those elusive resolutions, and that somehow, people will be kinder and gentler, and that we’ll treat one another with care and compassion and make decisions that will change our lives and the lives of those we love for the better.
We’ve fought so hard and come this far this past year. Why stop now?
With that, I wish you all a Happy New Year, one we need now more than ever.