Mr. Tucker and I have covid so we’re taking precautions so the kids don’t get it
When the pandemic happened the holidays were furthest from our minds. Easter was the first holiday after the lockdown started but it had never been a huge deal for anyone but the kids. When Thanksgiving rolled around we rented a couple of cottages on a lake, quarantined for two weeks, and then met up with another family. If I am honest, it was one of the best Thanksgivings we ever had. The kids hung out with other kids, the adults had drinks & played cards, and Mr. Tucker made an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. After dinner we played games, laughed, and then built a bonfire. Everyone was full, happy and relaxed. After that first one, the past two covid Thanksgivings we’ve used to take a small road trip and do something fun as a family, usually Halloween-related (Thanksgiving in Canada is the second weekend in October) with those same friends. It’s been a nice, new tradition that we all enjoy.
Christmas that first covid year was just the four of us. Determined to make the kid’s holidays still good, we ramped up the activities that we could still do during covid. We baked cupcakes for The Mission, we headed out to pick out a fresh tree, we did our 12 Days of Christmas Movies & we baked cookies and delivered them to friends. We also doubled-down on Advent calendars to make every day of December special and started incorporating Jólabókaflóðið – the Icelandic tradition of getting a book & some chocolate on Christmas Eve – into our new holiday tradition. Christmas day we had outside visits with family and friends (no easy feat in Canadian winter) and then sat down to dinner just the four of us. This time the kids were honest: they loved having a relaxed Christmas. We spent the day in our PJs and watched movies and they loved it. They hated having to dress up and sit around watching the adults talk about boring things so this was a change they really enjoyed.
I loved it, too.
I loved it for different reasons than the kids did. Because we were the only people in the family with young kids, we’ve always hosted. That has meant 13-15 people for dinner, including my divorced parents. For various reasons, it’s always been stressful and chaotic but we always did it because otherwise we’d have to choose somewhere to go that would exclude other members of the family, feelings would be hurt etc. So from that point of view, it always made sense for us to host.
We are heading into year three of Christmas with covid and over the past years I have discovered that I ENJOY a simpler holiday. I love not having to hold myself up to some ideal holiday standard where every moment feels like I’m shoving a square peg into a round hole. No matter how hard I tried to make everything perfect, there were always little stinging comments and judgement or a divisive conversation would erupt. Mr. Tucker and I would shut the door behind the last guest and then feel like collapsing from exhaustion both physically and mentally. It was a lot of work and we convinced ourselves that we were giving our children the experience of seeing all of the family at Christmas and vice versa.
Looking back, I realize now that I can take the things I enjoy about holidays and leave the rest. I grew up in a house where a fake Christmas tree was just unfathomable. But just because our families did it one way doesn’t mean we have to do it that way. We don’t need to take the most difficult path just because, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” So this year when I saw a sale on fake Christmas trees I pointed to the flyer and said to Mr. Tucker, “Do you think we should consider…” I didn’t even finish my sentence before he shouted, “YES!”
My ideal Christmas has fallen heavily on Mr. Tucker’s shoulders these past couple of years. When we were younger and more energetic I could do a lot more of the heavy lifting but since I’ve become more and more disabled a lot of this magic has to be done by him. It occurred to me that it’s a lot to ask of a man who already works full time, cares for two kids and helps his disabled wife to also be responsible for all the traditional stuff. To be fair, now that the kids are older they can also do a lot of the work and that eases the burden somewhat. But I also realized that we can even let a lot of it go and still have all of the magic. A great holiday doesn’t have to include stress and exhaustion…and you don’t have to have a neurodegenerative disease to say no to things that make you miserable, either!
The eldest was kind of sad to not be able to go and get a fresh tree but when we pointed out all of the benefits, she got it. No needles all over the place that get stuck in your feet, no having to water it all of the time and it spins so no worrying that the dogs will knock over and make a huge mess of water and needles. It’s even easier to decorate because the branches are moveable and sturdy. We still decorated the house and listened to Christmas music – the important ritual of a good holiday, in my opinion. All of the magic, half of the work.
This year on Christmas Eve, we are having my brother and my Dad over for Réveillon and instead of a traditional French Canadian feast, we’re going to order in Chinese food and just hang out and play cards. We’ll then curl up with our new Jolabokaflod books & eat chocolate. Christmas morning will happen when we all wake up (probably late), we’ll open presents, have a leisurely breakfast and then drive around seeing family and friends for porch visits. Dinner will be easy, eaten in our PJs and then we’ll probably watch Miracle on 34th street (another tradition).
If covid has taught me anything, it’s to let go. Let go of relationships that don’t serve me, stop trying to force relationships to be what they never will be, let go of my expectations and stop doing things I don’t want to do just because it lives up to someone else’s preconceived notions or sense of tradition. I don’t think we will ever host another large family dinner again. We enjoy a small, quieter holiday where we’re aren’t pretending that these traditions that don’t serve us are the most important thing. The most important thing will be the holiday will be spent relaxed and together.