It's almost a tradition now. Every year I can count on my daughter's boyfriend's sister to send me the most Christmasy photo to land in my inbox for the season. It's always of our girl and her guy, and now their dog Munch, too, standing next to the Christmas tree amid wrapped presents, in matching Christmas jammies that his mom picked out for them before they arrived. Not gonna lie, it looks like the Christmas I once wished I felt capable of creating, but I have come to accept that organizing such an occasion is not my gift. It was my mother's, however, which is why I've always felt this is what Christmas should look like, but I just didn't have what it took to pull it off. My husband will tell you that after I began living away from my home of origin, I didn't ever have a Christmas tree until I married him. He is still the one who goes out, usually with our children, and gets the tree, and he and my daughter are the ones who decorate it, while I sit across the room and point our holes where an ornament is needed.
I'm happy that my girl now gets to experience this immersive family Christmas with her love and his extended clan upstate, because I do think she is more like my mother in this way, and that when its her turn, she will manage the festive pajamas and decorations, too. And if last week when it seemed our girl might have Covid was any indication, her love enjoys being able to celebrate these rituals with her as well. He said all the right things to relieve her guilt at possibly not being with him for Christmas. But my girl knew he was disappointed. "He's texting without punctuation," she said. "That's how I know he's sad."
Our son was working at the firehouse, where he has been exposed to covid all week, but seems to have no symptoms. He called us on Christmas eve and on Christmas day, and I asked him to send me a photo of him at the firehouse, to which he simply responded, "No." So no Christmas photo of our darling boy but there's my man with the GoPro I gave him for Christmas, and the accessories to the main bundle that our children added. "Happy adventuring!" they told him. He could have used that camera when he was swimming with sharks on the reefs off Belize last week.
I loved all my gifts, including the book Renegades Born in the USA that my husband gave me. It transcribes the historic taped conversations between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen, with photos and other documents and memorabilia of their friendship.
My son just called. He got off his shift at the firehouse this morning and is now home alone, as his live-in love is at her parents home in New Jersey.
"Do you want to come over?" I asked him.
"Nope," he said. "Definitely not coming over. I just tested positive for Covid."
He says he has only a slight cough and some fatigue, the latter easily attributed to his having worked last night. He sounded almost pleased, or maybe it was merely relief that he no longer has to play cat-and-mouse with the
thing, after successfully evading it for two years. I suppose this was probably always going to be an inevitable outcome, given how out there and exposed he has been from the start. I pray that his symptoms remain mild. In that photo of my boy on the train, I still see the mischievous expression he had as a little boy when he'd done something that made him rather pleased with himself. We never stop seeing our babies in the grown men and women our children become, do we?