On Friday, we celebrated Christmas in a way similar to the family at the center of the Christmas story; just the three of us: father, mother, and child.
We were merely three because our first child, Maria, passed away five years ago at the age of 30, and since Katrina works in health care and interacts with COVID patients, we decided to be extra cautious.
Such a small Christmas gathering is an anomaly for us. Usually, we unite with Barbara’s extended family on the 25th, a get-together that typically includes 20–25 people. Then, on the Saturday after Christmas, we often meet with my extended family and a similar amount of people. Only once during our 36 years of marriage did the four of us stay at home alone on Christmas, and that occurred only because a giant snowstorm kept everyone at home for the day and delayed the family gatherings by a day or two.
So this year, Katrina spent Christmas Eve at our home, and on Christmas morning, we opened presents as we usually did. When the girls were young — both excited and energized — we typically opened gifts first and followed that with a light breakfast. This year, we ate a big breakfast before we opened gifts. The excitement and the energy were not as strong, but the smiles and the laughter were similar, and we thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing morning of memories and stories of Christmases past.
Relaxation actually proved to be the theme of the day. In years past, we always experienced a subtle tension between wanting to stay at home and play with our new toys yet also wanting to rush to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to celebrate with siblings and cousins. With that huge family assembly canceled for 2020, we settled in on the couch and calmly listened to Christmas carols with no appointment in sight.
Just after midday, we opened a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle that Barbara had secured as our afternoon activity, an activity we hadn’t attempted since the girls were in grade school. So as Barbara and Katrina prepared the food for later, I set up our card table in the living room and began the puzzle process: turning over all the pieces and trying to find the corners and the edges. With three of us working on this picture of an old country store interior, I thought, “This will be a piece of cake”; we’ll have it finished before we eat dinner.”
In fact, it still hasn’t happened. Four days after Christmas, the puzzle edges are in place, and we can see many of the products on the store shelves and a few faces of customers, but the more challenging sections are still in disarray.
The three of us had fun working on the puzzle while the food was cooking and again after we ate. We also grazed on munchies and Christmas cookies all day long and shared a few phone calls with family and friends. The time passed quickly.
By about 7:00, we were all talked out and puzzled out, so we decided to watch a new movie together, an activity that we periodically enjoy with popcorn in the movie theater. Since our local theaters have been closed for some time, we were excited to watch George Clooney’s new film, The Midnight Sky, and as the lead character and director, Clooney did not disappoint. We all gave the film a thumbs up.
Looking back on our COVID Christmas, we all gave that day a thumbs up as well. Yes, due to the unusual circumstances, the day was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle for us, but we smiled our way through it for the most part and gave thanks to the King whose birth we celebrated. My prayer for 2021 is that we can soon return to the big holiday gatherings that we all enjoy while also being grateful for the people in our homes and for the tender mercies and blessings that God gives us each and every day.