Sunday, December 26, 2021

Covid Christmas

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."

As for me, I had a peaceful Christmas. It was just the man and me, which meant I felt no pressure to "make something" of the day. We woke up slow, I made my father's Christmas morning cheesy, oniony scrambled eggs with bacon, then we opened presents while my husband ran a playlist of carols on the new Vizio surround sound speakers our daughter's love gave us for Christmas—it was like the choir was in the room with us! Later, we watched the movie Klaus on Netflix and then spent the better part of the afternoon cooking a honey-glazed ham and truffle mac and cheese for dinner while watching the always good-humored contestants on The Great British Baking Show. 

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?

Friday, December 24, 2021

She does not have covid

Three separate antigen rapid tests said she was negative over the four days we waited for the PCR gold standard result to come in. It finally hit her email this morning. It, too, was negative. So she went north as planned to spend Christmas with her love and his family, we drove her there this morning. The family came out with bags of gifts and plates of pineapple-glazed ham and Mac and cheese and blueberry loaf cake and caramel popcorn for us to take back with us to the city and they seemed very happy to have our girl back in their midst, especially her sweetheart, and that made us happy as we drove away, just the man and me, the way we started out, as we like to say. Merry Christmas, all. It’s going to be a quiet one over here. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

I love to see it

“Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” 
—Toni Morrison, Beloved

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Vacation snippets and omicron news

We stayed on San Pedro island off the mainland of Belize last week, a beautiful and laid-back place, where the people were, without exception, warm, helpful, and congenial. In every single interaction while we were there, we felt fully welcomed.

Getting out of New York was an adventure in itself, as our flight was delayed the first day, causing us to miss our connection in Miami. The airline rebooked us on a flight for the following day, but our bags having already been checked, flew on ahead of us, to be picked up by us once we arrived in Belize City on a different airline. Then it was onto a 14-seater to fly 13 minutes to San Pedro. That's me with some other passengers on the tiny plane above. I thought the flight would be scary, but the alternative was an hour and a half water taxi ride after traveling most of the day, and my cousins had taken the water taxi the day before we arrived, only to have it break down on the open water twice. The crew got it going again with a hammer and a screw driver, but the hour and a half ride took them three hours, so after hearing that report I booked us on the puddle jumper, figuring I could weather being scared for 13 minutes. But the plane, tiny and cramped as it was, flew steadily and calmly into San Pedro, gently kissing the ground as it landed. Definitely a good choice.

Half an hour later we ate dinner from a row of food shacks, where my husband got into a long and animated conversation with a fisherman who manned the chicken wing stand, while I turned my face into the sea breeze and tried to adjust to the fact that I had arrived. I felt disoriented, not yet fully inside myself. The place was pretty empty, even though it was reportedly at full capacity. I think guests were out doing excursions and generally social distancing.

That's my nephew on the right and the daughter of a family friend, who joined our vacation group. The two young ones were on board a catamaran snorkeling trip, when the wind whipped their hair in twin tornadoes. They're beautiful, these young people. They, and their parents, and my husband all swam on the reef, and then swam with sharks. This was the highlight of the whole trip for my man. Certainly the boat experience was calm compared to the previous day's heart-stopping adventure.

The whole group of fifteen souls dressed up and went to dinner on Friday night, to celebrate the birthdays and anniversaries we couldn't celebrate together last year, because of lock downs and quarantines. That's the man and me. We joke that his shirt says that man is on vacation!

I chilled at a table in the sandy area behind the food concession stands, soothed by the palm fronds swaying in a soft early evening breeze.

The WalkingEagle men, father and sons, were on one side of the table when we ate at Carambas in town, best seafood on the island, everyone said.

My sister-cousin, aka the WalkingEagle woman, and my man were on the other side of the table with me. The food was as advertised. 

After getting our negative covid tests on Sunday, we said goodbye to the island yesterday morning, returning to the mainland as we came, on a tiny plane with spectacular views.

And then we were back in the netherworld that is America. The change in tone on our connecting flight from Miami to New York was so marked, the captain sounding surly and threatening as he warned passengers to keep their masks on and that if they didn't do exactly as the flight attendants said, they would be thrown off the flight. 

To be fair, omicron exploded in New York City literally the day after we left. The town we have returned to has a completely different feel than six short days ago. It's like March 2020 again, perhaps worse, because now literally everyone knows multiple people who have tested positive for the super contagious variant. My son, starting today, will be living at the firehouse so as not to expose his live-in love who will be going to her parents in New Jersey for Christmas, and also because there simply aren't enough firefighters to man the houses, as so many have come down with covid. Our boy picked us up from the airport last night and told us that once he goes in to work this morning, he won't see us again until after Christmas, when he's had a chance to test again and know his status. He reflected that he fully expects to get covid at the firehouse this week, and we all expressed the hope that if he does, his symptoms will be mild, as anecdotal reports suggest omicron symptoms generally are. Everyone is praying this pattern holds.

Meanwhile our daughter, who is with us for the week, is freaking out this morning because a friend with whom she spent time last week called to say she has been exposed, and is awaiting test results. Another friend called moments later to say her partner, with whom she lives, has just tested positive. So now our daughter is off to stand in a line for hours so she can get tested, too. She is terrified she has exposed us, but I feel somewhat blase about it all. If she's positive, she'll spend Christmas with us, not a bad deal. As for us, we went to Belize, we returned with negative covid tests. What happens next is anyone's guess.

Storm at sea

On day two of our trip, we crossed by boat to the mainland, drove an hour by van to a wildlife preserve, got into another boat and cruised up New River to take in the flora and fauna, sighting turtles, crocs, epiphytes, and a number of “life birds,” then spent the afternoon walking among the Mayan temples at Lamanai. It rained on and off all day, and on the drive back to the dock a monsoon poured down. By the time we got to the skiff that was to return us to San Pedro, the skies had cleared, so we climbed aboard for the hour long trip across open sea. 

There were fourteen of us on the small boat heading back to the island. Fifteen minutes in, forked lightening split the glowering clouds. The moon came out, a soft nimbus in the sudden darkness. Drizzle. The lightening moved closer. Rain. Waves getting tall. Finally our captain Eric signaled for rescue by a larger boat in the distance, which ignored our lights flashing out an SOS at first, the sturdier vessel fast disappearing, until a call to the big boss on the mainland made them circle back to get us as the storm rolled in. 
We climbed from our small fair-weather boat onto the large covered one, rain stinging our faces, the sea rocking under us, footfalls slippery, the transfer across dark water terrifying. But then we were inside the workhorse water taxi built to withstand such squalls. The wake was fearsome. Most of us were soaked and chilled right through. But we pulled in to the island an hour later, safe in the end, and with a new adventure in our pockets, a moonlit rescue on the open sea, a tale that now becomes part of our story, forever and ever, amen. Thank you, Eric, for keeping us safe and knowing when and how to bail. We were relieved to learn you and your brave little skiff put in safely, too.

Saturday, December 11, 2021


Photo by Danielle Lee


My niece Dani is a wonderful photographer. I love how she notices the world around her, like the juxtaposition of colors and the sign "Love" above that door in her Brooklyn neighborhood. She posted it on social this morning and I asked if I could use it on my blog. She said yes and immediately texted me the original image. I thought it would be a perfect sentiment for the top of my blog while the man and I are off traveling. I'm now in the throes of packing, with all the showing-up anxiety that provokes, but we are resolved to meet whatever circumstances we find in this new world of pandemic protocols with grace and equanimity, to be okay with all of it, to find the good and allow everything else to just be. I don't know if I will have the literal or figurative bandwidth to post while we're away, but if I find that I can't, let love hold this space until I return.

Friday, December 10, 2021

To be brave


"My son rolls up to a scene like this and doesn't bat an eye," my husband said, coming across this post about a four-alarm fire in Brooklyn this morning. He handed me his phone so I could see the video of the licking flames, swipe through the pictures, and read what the fire chief had shared. Extreme conditions. Firefighters trapped inside, quickly rescued. Four non-life-threatening injuries. Civilians safe. I handed back the phone and the man and I just sat, looking at each other, the two of us silent for a long time. I think we were both praying.  

May they all be safe always.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

A slant of sun

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the body weakens, how its scaffold crumbles in infinitesimal stages through a passage of decades until one day you wake up unable to execute a movement you could do only yesterday. I’ve been reading about the immune system, about inflammation, how the blood sends its emissaries to do battle with cellular invaders, and how sometimes these sentries don’t retreat when the battle is won. Instead they linger abroad, unnaturally swelling the field, causing progressive damage not just to the physical self but to mental and emotional bodies too. When exactly was the moment I could have halted the autoimmune invasion, turned it aside somehow rather than becoming host to this incursion being waged inside me, stealthy and merciless, wracking my entire being with flares of pain, even as I smile and unkink the locked muscle or aching joint, square my shoulders and carry on? Good morning, tree, with your branches dusted in sparse gold. I am moved by the way you stand with your few tenacious leaves glimmering in a slant of sun. No matter the season you hold the field. You carry on. 



Thursday, December 2, 2021

Back to the water

We'll be traveling this month for the first time in two years. In a couple of weeks or so, we'll arrive at this place. 

And stay in a garden cottage that looks something like this.

And sleep in a romantic mahogany bed like that one.

And possibly reserve one of those shoreline cabanas, lounging inside gauzy curtains and listening to the sea murmur beneath us. 

Then, come evening, we'll take in sunsets that set the senses aflame with color, which I think will be the capstone on a very fine plan. 

I have some trepidation, of course. I booked this stay for us back in June, when the world was newly hopeful that the pandemic might be on the wane, and hotels were enticing visitors to return by offering ridiculous deals to the vaccinated. I longed to once again dip my toes in the Caribbean, and feel the sand give softly under my feet. My cousin who lives in Virginia proposed the trip, convincing us to join a small group of people who want to recognize all the birthdays and joyous occasions we couldn't gather to celebrate during the previous year. Once there, she explained, we can choose to do activities be with the group or go off by ourselves, the best of both worlds. But then Covid surged again, this time calling itself Delta, vaccinations stalled, Omicron showed up, sounding like a new Marvel character, positivity rates climbed everywhere, some borders closed down, and travel was once again deemed ill advised. 

"We're still going," my husband whispered to me in the dark one night. "We'll wear our masks and be safe, but we're going." If you knew my husband, you'd know he isn't usually declarative like this except to heed the full desire of his heart and mind. I believe his Caribbean soul misses the sea as much as mine. And so we'll get our negative Covid tests and board that plane, and walk in the water once more.