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Samantha Jones

Sam's Notebook

Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.

Opinion

Bittersweet Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

With Christmas coming up so soon, many of us are spending this week wrapping presents, writing grocery lists and decking the halls with holiday decorations. These are normal activities in the days leading up to Christmas, but this holiday season has been anything but normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of packing those presents in the trunk for a road trip to see family out of state, weíre dropping them off at the closest FedEx and crossing our fingers they arrive by Christmas day. Weíre literally gearing up with face masks and hand sanitizer to do all the grocery shopping, and those holiday decorations will be barely visible on our Christmas morning video call with loved ones.

So why do we do it? Why do we keep celebrating Christmas as if everything is normal, when we know nothing is normal right now? Iíd say thereís a couple of reasons for that. We are all creatures of habit in some form or fashion, and holiday habits are hard to shake. Weíre still having my nanaís chocolate pie this year, but sheís not the one making it. Weíre still going to open our gifts together on Christmas morning, freshly shipped from Arkansas to Texas and vice versa.

We havenít seen my mom or nana in nearly a year now. It would be easy to dwell on that but I choose not to. When I miss them, I remind myself that they are healthy and safe. Gideon and I are healthy and safe. My uncle who resides in an assisted living facility is healthy and safe. In fact, none of my friends or family have gotten the virus. How lucky am I that my loved ones are still healthy and safe as the pandemic rages on around us?

So instead of dwelling on what we canít have, I am focused on what we do have: health, safety, respect and unconditional love. We can still indulge in our holiday habits, even if that happens virtually. You can be together without physically being together. I canít wait for Gideon to show my nana his second attempt at her cornbread dressing (attempt number one took place over Thanksgiving) and for her to tell us that it looks even better than hers, even though thatís not true. Sheíll probably mention something about how her dressing turned out dry this year ó also not true, and another one of those habits she repeats year after year.

The bigger reason we continue to celebrate, I believe, is the inherent resilience and hope inside all of us. We know COVID-19 is deadly and has taken many neighbors, family members and friends. We wear the mask when weíre out in public in the hope that we can protect those around us from succumbing to that same fate. We see Christmas and New Yearís Eve as the beginning of a new year, a new vaccine and continued resolve to fight on.

I had a tough time falling asleep last night thinking about all the families that have lost a loved one over the past year. Whether itís because of COVID-19, long-term illness or an unexpected accident, itís never easy to spend your first Christmas without someone you love. To those of you who are experiencing that feeling this year, I am thinking of you. I know how tough it is to soldier on when you lose somebody you thought would be around forever, or at least a lot longer.

It took years for my family to find a new normal after my papaw died in 2004, and itís still bittersweet this time of the year. A few years ago, I realized that the holidays will never be the same after you lose a loved one. But if you continue to celebrate all your blessings year after year, you will honor the lives of those who loved you so.

Thatís what I hope you are all doing this year. On Christmas day when you are thinking of that person who isnít sitting across the table anymore, Iíll be thinking of you. I am wishing all of you renewed hope in the new year, faith in your fellow humans and the resilience to tackle new challenges in 2021.

As always, thank you for reading my column. I love what I do, and I love writing every week to you. Our community gives me hope every day ó the least I can do is send a little bit of that hope back to all of you.