Now, between the celebrations, we acknowledge our good fortune to be whole when so much sadness, worry, and fear haunt the nation, and our monster of a leader flames out to his own script. My old friend asked me if things felt flattened, diminished in the world, and to me that seems a reaction to a constant background of death and uncertainty.
My friend commented during a trip to Seattle – yes! After nearly a year, we spent a day in the city (accomplished with much thinking and laughable preparation on my part – extra mask, hand sanitizer, battery charger, warm clothes – how could a day in Seattle seem a Big Adventure, but it did).
On a blue-sky, frosty morning, we rode a nearly empty ferry to Seattle. Past Hammering Man who still pummels his target, we walked up First Avenue and encountered stores with buzzers to ring for admission or service windows where there used to be doors.
The Pike Place Market was busy, not the crush and bustle of old, but many vendors and masked customers. The Crumpet Shop, a favorite place for 40 years, drew us. We sat outdoors, side-by-side on metal chairs, ate crumpets and drank tea, watching masked passersby. We took home packets of crumpets for Christmas morning.
As you walk east with deserted office buildings overhead, it’s sadder. Westlake Center and Pacific Place malls are ghostly. In the eerie vacantness a few shops remain open, but tasteful graphics on boards hide more that are closed, and restaurants and food courts echo with empty. Up the street, the flagship Nordstrom hangs on – with perhaps more employees than customers.
We sat outside in the sunshine on the ferry home, protected by a glass windbreak, the Olympics with new snow stretched white on the horizon – a spirit lifting day with a good friend, walking familiar streets, and seeing well-known places, changed but there.
In the days leading up to Christmas, I read with grandchildren north and south together. My friend who paints in the woods taught me how to juggle phone and computer on Zoom, so the book was visible to the children, but I could also see their faces and talk to them (and they to each other). A technological challenge, but by Christmas eve we finished “The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits,” and Lady B read to us, “Mrs. Claus Saves Christmas.” (She must act because Santa falls asleep and misses his midnight departure!)
Beginning with a Christmas Eve trumpet carol concert by Papa Jim, played on the front porch for Zoom dinner and neighbors, we found more joy on Christmas than I ever expected, a warmhearted though electronic celebration. It is odd to have one’s old age observer status made concrete, but COVID has done that. We were grateful to be part of the California Christmas, participate in stockings and present opening, and share dinner at festive tables (with the Alaskans joining in), but it feels awful to be no help at all to the young parents. (Christmas magic requires a lot of work from them!)
So, we welcome the new year this week – with some trepidation, as hopes for respite rest on banishing 2020’s many woes. But I’m wishing a happier, safer, and kinder new year – for all of us!