From the Editor’s Files: The good – and bad – about socially-distanced holidays


By Paul Rhodes, publisher and editor

On Monday, the first workday of the New Year, I paused for a moment to reflect on the holiday season that is now being boxed up for another year.
Unfortunately, the new design of our lives isn’t going to be changing for some time to come. The pandemic that shaped how most of us shared the holidays this past year is still here…and worse than ever.
Several countries around the world are going back into full lockdown mode again, bracing against a new strain of the virus that is more evil than the first. Vaccine doses reportedly are being rushed out by the millions, but sadly won’t get to most of us until late spring or early summer.
I asked my pharmacist how I would know when it was my turn to get the vaccine, and she said not to worry. If I’m paying any attention to the news – and notices at my pharmacy – I’ll know.
Rather than fret more as I look ahead, here’s some observations from what I do know: What a socially-distanced holiday looks and feels like.
First, Kim and I went into the holiday season knowing that we were not going to be traveling to see any of our kids. Some had had COVID-19, and travel out-of-state to see the other kids just wasn’t advisable.
So we stayed home…for Thanksgiving, for Christmas and for New Years Eve and New Year’s Day.
And guess what? It was a lovely stretch of holidays.
We did a lot of cooking, a little carry-out from favorite restaurants, and the perfect touch of holiday movies. About the only thing we left the house for was to deliver food to Kim’s 90-year-old father, Clyde – an effort that brightened his days more than any Christmas gift could have accomplished.
I made Clyde a couple of dishes that only old pioneer souls like he and I could have appreciated. We brought him steamed beets at Christmas, and black eyed peas with sautéed vegetables for New Year’s Day. His smiles brightened my holidays, as well.
Just for us, we put up some Christmas decorations, and spent many mornings in front of the fireplace, enjoying the peace and serenity of our well-attired home. It was not how we usually spend the holidays, but it was delightful.
For any of you who were torn over the holidays – missing family and friends and simultaneously realizing this may have been one of your best Christmases ever – take heart in the personal growth that you experienced. It was a chance to savor the joys that were still available…your closest relationships, a perfect Christmas meal and a little holiday fun on your own.
We shared the holidays with our kids via video chat, and opened the boxes of presents that I had put together and shipped out before Christmas. The boxes to my girls and their families made it to them just in time for Christmas, but my son and his wife had to wait until Monday of this week for their box to arrive.
And even that delay brought us laughter as we examined the remains of the carefully packaged box I had sent. Yes, there’s a lot of miles between here and Sacramento, Calif., but this box looked like the one Chuck (Tom Hanks) brought with him when he left his deserted island in “Castaway.” In fact, this box looked worse.
Inside, everything was okay, except for a vintage table lamp I had gotten them as a surprise. It was bent in two places, but Bill is determined to muscle it back into shape. And oddly enough, the shade was still intact, and the lamp’s three light bulbs were fine.
With one look at this box, you could sense the stress and frustration that Postal Service and other delivery workers must have been experiencing through this one-of-a-kind holiday experience. And in fact, that box was a metaphor for all of us who tried our best to make it though the last few weeks:
Beat to hell on the outside, but surprisingly together on the inside.