• Tanja Battle

Covid Christmas

Words always come easily to me, until they don't. There are periods in my life in which words string together in my head and demand release. Other times, they are in my head but never see the light of day for others to consume. These are the first words I've shared in a long while. It's almost 4 am and I sit in bed, dogs snoring as deep sleep does not escape them as it does me. It's Christmas and, for many, it's unlike any other Christmas before. The isolation. The social distancing. The zoom holiday parties. For the masses that don't believe the pandemic to be real or those who refuse to let others tell them what to do or even those who are just selfish, perhaps it is like other Christmases with large family gatherings without a care in the world as to whether or not 90-year-old grandma will be exposed to anything that could keep her from reaching 91. I'm alone this Christmas, which has absolutely nothing to do with a global pandemic. It is, by design, my very own tradition. When my daughter was little and her dad and I divorced, I wanted her to experience the joys of Christmas and knew that she wouldn't get that with me. For many of her early years, Christmas meant a trip to visit my parents in a nursing home - not exactly holiday cheer epitomized. When my ex-husband remarried, I suggested to him and his wife a deal. What about if I spent Thanksgivings with Jordan and they spent Christmas with her? And so it was. And so it is. To this day, Jordan gets excited about the tradition of Christmas Eve games and presents in the morning, so much so that she can't sleep - even at 17. I'm glad she has that. I, on the other hand, am always happy when it's over. Christmases weren't always like this. Much of the year, my heart longs for Hawaii. I can vividly recall that first breath of air stepping off the plane on Kauai. My favorite smell that infuses life into me. The smell of engine fuel mixed with a plumeria-scented tropical breeze and a hint of home though I've lived in many other places longer than the two-year stint I did in Hawaii in the mid-90s. Hawaii feeds my soul. But at Christmas? Well, at Christmas, my heart longs for Germany, where I spent many holidays enjoying family traditions and the best Christmas cookies I've ever tasted. The lights in my mother's hometown were always festive and the Christmas Market both fun and satisfying to my taste buds. I miss my Oma and Opa, long gone from this world, and my aunts and uncles and cousins with whom connections remain through social media and WhatsApp. Somewhere along the way, their Christmas Eve dinner, which previously entailed a quintessentially German meal, was replaced with homemade teriyaki and rice steamed in a rice cooker. Not the tradition I recall, but one that brings a smile to my face as it evidences the union of my parents and the collision of their two worlds. I miss Germany greatly and have been back for Christmas only once in the almost 40 years since I lived there. I gained 8 lbs during those 10 days. Yikes. I also think of Christmases in Augusta, where it was just me and my parents. We always had a tree, we always ate turkey and we always opened presents on Christmas Eve as was done in Germany. But today, during this global health crisis, I will be by myself. I will watch endless amounts of television, nap and paint, if I had to guess. It's what I did yesterday and what I'll do tomorrow and the day after. This Covid Christmas is unlike every other for most, but for me - aside from masking up when I make my way to the grocery store - it's the very same.


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