Christmas in the Time of Covid

Christmas season began with a bang. Or should I say a doorbell. When we opened the door, what to our wondering eyes should appear but an elf and two pair of jammies. It was The Elf on the Shelf. And he was especially exciting for us, having previously met his mates Noggin and Wooden Christmas Tree – the elves that come to the Clappers and Nelsons every year.

Our elf’s name is MaxMax and the jammies with him matched the ones Noggin and Wooden Christmas Tree brought the Clappers and Nelsons. Now everyone in our pod had them.

These kids are excited.

For reasons that baffle me, Marie and I feel especially blessed this year. So for the first time in years we put a scene celebrating the first Christmas in our yard. Although we did this for ourselves, we were delighted when a neighbor stopped and thanked us. She loved that she could point out each of the pieces to her daughter and share its part in the real Christmas of two thousand years ago.

The real Christmas

This past fall all of our Arkansas grandkids attended virtual school, putting a heavy burden on their working parents. So every Wednesday, the kids came by after lunch for Gria and Grandpa Day. Marie prepared a written schedule of activities starting with a snack and including lessons, crafts, outdoor recess and dinner. Our objective was to give the adults a few hours of their own. But often we’d get a surprise payoff when pickup time arrived and moms and pops stuck around for a great time while the kids were off playing by themselves.

As Christmas approached, we added a special activity – set up and decorate the Christmas tree. Fully expecting to find a few spots with dozens of ornaments dangling precariously in those few spots and a whole bunch of bare branches, I was surprised and delighted to see a tree decorated as beautifully as any we’d ever had. Even three-year-old Robbie had found a step stool so he could put his favorites exactly where he wanted them.

HIgh spirits following setting up and decorating the tree.

As a new practice this year, the grandkids each chose an ornament to take home and keep. It would be theirs for the rest of their lives. That they might treasure these seemed unlikely. But then I remembered last year seeing an ornament I made more than sixty years ago adorning Susan’s family tree. She had picked it when she was little and still hung it every year.

This week we reversed the process and untrimmed the tree. When all the ornaments were stowed and the tree taken out, I was amazed again – not a single ornament had broken and no tears had been shed.

Not all surprises were joyful. Three days before Christmas, Brenda stunned herself and the rest of our pod with the discovery that she had been inadvertently exposed to Covid. Pod interaction was suspended and Christmas plans were adjusted. This was especially disconcerting because it was Brenda who had taken the lead in protecting us all. Way back in March, she insisted that Gria and Grandpa stay home and she’d leave whatever groceries we needed by our front door.

With six kids, Marie and I had long since quit being locked into the calendar for celebrating holidays. But although celebrating Clapsgiving on the fourth Saturday in November might feel perfectly natural, Clapmas was a different kind of poser. So each family sent its elf back to the North Pole with a request that Santa avoid their house until it was certain that he wouldn’t risk exposure to Covid. We were all delighted when he promised to come the following week.

Our new schedule: On Christmas day, Gria and Grandpa had a quiet weekend that included sweet Zoom visits with Lainie, the Petersens and the Kashmiers. Scott would have to come later – he was on layover in Jamaica. December 30 the entire pod celebrated Clapmas Eve at Nelsons. That night Santa came as he promised. Clapmas day we all gathered at Clappers to see what Santa brought and to eat, laugh and play.

January 1st, the day after Clapmas, Marie and I celebrated the first day of a new year and the joyful completion of 41 years of marriage. Everyone in our family – now numbering twenty – is healthy and in good spirits. We are indeed blessed with peace and good will.

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