Monday, January 3, 2022

Another COVID Christmas

Happy New Year! Pretend that you are reading this right after Christmas, which technically you are, but you know, as if the calendar still read 2021...

December is always a crazy month for me. I tend to experience it in three distinct phases: (1) my birthday; (2) that weird space between the 10th when everything is still moving in slow motion until things suddenly accelerate to the 24th; and (3) then the countdown to January and the annual question of how long to leave up the decorations. (For the record, mine are still up.)

This year, as in the past three years, it has been one crazy ass month.

It began with so much hope and promise. I actually got to celebrate my birthday with brunch, a play, and dinner. I ordered our Christmas cards on time and got my Holiday Gift Guide up on IG and FB. I got most of our shopping done, including some gifts for my Dad, and all was proceeding steadily...then shit hit the fan on the 16th.

I got a phone call, and I almost didn't answer it because I didn't recognize the number. But there was a little green check mark beside it, kind of like those blue check marks on Twitter, so it registered as a verified number and not a spam call to get solar panels on my roof. It was the assistant vice principal at my daughter's school. The Kid had been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID.

As you might imagine that notification threw me into a panic spiral which was exacerbated by the fact that I was sitting in the car in front of the Target. The plan had been to go inside to pick up an order, then to head over to the mall for a little more shopping for all of the events that had been planned for the coming weekend. I called the Hub to inform him, and then after wandering in a circle around the Target for at least five rotations, I tried to contain the urge to scream.

We got ourselves tested the next day. We notified the appropriate persons with whom we had been in contact. Our results came back negative on Saturday, as did the two subsequent tests we took over the next few days. All of our extra-curricular activities were cancelled and where appropriate, everything went virtual and we stayed quarantined in the house (except to get tested). We got cleared the day before Christmas Eve and we were able to resume the rest of our holiday preparations. In a word, we were spared.

However, other members of our family were not. My brother, who is a teacher, tested positive for COVID the same day we got the call about my daughter's status. His wife and youngest daughter tested positive that weekend. Two of my nephews in New Jersey also tested positive, so we decided to cancel our travel plans to New York. I have heard from several other people that this Omarion variant of COVID got to them before they could get boosted. Just this past week, I have read emails from several parents that their children tested positive on or about Christmas Day.

I am still suppressing the urge to scream. It isn't enough to suggest that we got lucky, because I know it was more than a roll of the dice. The Hub got his booster in October. My parents got their in-home boosters in November. The Kid got vaccinated as soon as she was eligible, and I got my booster shot a few days after my birthday. Fortunate doesn't even begin to describe my relief, and exasperated isn't an adequate word to describe how it feels to be heading into season 3 of COVID.

Maybe to the folks who keep suggesting that this isn't that big of a deal, it is just an inconvenience to cancel travel plans at the last minute and have to provide all kinds of documentation so as not to forfeit a $500 deposit. Maybe I shouldn't have been anxious that on the same day I got word that my child was a close contact, she had just been in dance class around other kids and their parents, so out of respect for their health, they all had to be notified. Maybe it isn't all that difficult to keep an energetic six year old occupied when she wants to be in school with her friends and there really isn't a sufficient virtual learning option. Maybe all of the families that just celebrated their first or second holiday season without a cherished loved one should just...

In all of the other parts of the country where folks have been protesting mask mandates, misquoting MLK, and blocking access to mail-in voting, maybe it doesn't matter that we were just starting to get back to some version of normal pre-pandemic living. Now we have to reset. I've had to re-draw imaginary lines around my family again because I can't afford to slip up. Contrary to your jeers that I am living in fear, nah...I am living in the real world where a global pandemic compels me to take precautions the same way you "live in fear" over Critical Race Theory ruining your lives.

And that is the part that has me scanning the thesaurus for better words to describe my feelings. Vexed is a good word, but it is too close to vaxxed (which is now a word that doesn't trigger the Spell checker). I am vexed that people are so infantile and peevish about making minor adjustments to preventing the spread of an airborne virus that has killed more than 800,000 people in this country. Thankfully, I am also vaxxed and boosted. Another word that I like (one that my Mom used a lot when we were younger) is heedless. Because calling folks selfish is so 2020 (and deplorable is so 2016).

After her embarrassing interview with TFG wherein he contradicted her stance against the vaccine, I wanted to find a good word to describe the prattling college drop-out pundit who swears that she is smarter than folks with medical degrees. It was a toss-up between supercilious and delusional, but as I watched her cat fight on Twitter with her sorority girl rival, it seemed more appropriate to move along and just let them have at it. Mudwrestling isn't even a sport. As for the other young clout-chaser I saw attempt to take on the Oprah over her holiday dinner policy, she definitely earned all of the ridicule meted out for taking aim at our Patron Saint and missing. I almost felt a twinge of pity for her, having invited the wrath of a gang of blue checks on Twitter who probably should have left her to being dragged by the unwashed masses. But I won't waste any emotions on another opinionated Canadian (that's an inside joke, btw).

Nor am I going to waste any energy complaining about these new CDC guidelines since I am going to keep wearing my masks, washing my hands, and staying the heck away from people who want to live free and die. I admit to having advantages that allow me to ignore the shortened quarantine recommendations, and I realize that there are economic costs to COVID that someone must bear. Therefore, if that means I have to wait an extra day or so for an Amazon Prime Delivery, so be it. I can wait for that fire pit that I haven't yet ordered because it isn't a necessity. Save your trash talk about my alleged misunderstanding the global economy if that is what makes you feel better, but I have been ridiculed ALL of my Busy Black life for one thing or another, so calling me a sheep isn't the worst insult I've heard. Not even top ten.

And in spite of COVID being that houseguest that has way over-stayed and refuses to get the hint to GTFOH, I declare myself blessed this Christmas. First of all, my family walked away from a hit and run car accident. Second, my brother, his family, and my nephews are on the mend. Third, I already told you that my parents are vaxxed and boosted, and they are living one day at a time. In spite of daily attempts to steal my joy, I didn't even lean into my Grinch routine this year because as I reflected on the story of the birth of Christ, I had a revelation about real inconvenience. Try having to travel when you are nine months pregnant on the back of a donkey, giving birth in a barn without anesthesia, and then putting your newborn baby to sleep in a food trough for livestock. Add in a stream of uninvited visitors, including a child with a drum...

The Christmas story isn't about any of the superficial shit that we have emphasized all of these years. It isn't about disposable coffee cups or what the minimum wage-earning cashier says after bagging your purchases. It isn't that perfect Hallmark movie ending with a kiss in a gazebo. Nor is it about actually being in a church on the day in question (because I've done that, and nobody else comes but the most devout and childless). Christmas is the kindness that doesn't get staged for social media--the generosity, the selflessness, the humanity that transcends hashtags.

Therefore, if you think your holiday was ruined by COVID because Pete Buttigieg took paternity leave and your packages didn't arrive on time; the FOX News tree was intentionally set on fire; or because you didn't read the instructions and burnt your pumpkin pie...I've got a thimble-sized amount of empathy for you. Life happens. You are entitled to your feelings and I won't respond with the same kind of indifference and lack of compassion that has been the norm since the beginning of this pandemic. Better luck next year.

However, if your Christmas was impacted by COVID in a more extreme and tragic manner, you have my sincerest condolences and sympathies. If I could offer words of comfort, they would express my hope that you find some measure of reassurance that you are not alone in your suffering or grief. Others are in your midst ready to surround you with love and to see to your physical needs. In the event that all I can offer are thoughts and prayers, they are sincere in wishing for your ability to endure and power through this moment.

Finally, as it is now several days after both Christmas and the New Year, my personal public service announcement (because it is crazy out here in these COVID streets) is to take precaution and extra care. I have been reading some of the chatter on social media, so let me state at the outset, I am no scientist; I am a lawyer. And that part of me wonders how some of these folks get to go on television every day as if they are reading these recommendations for the first time on the air. As in, nobody considered that y'all were going to eff up sick leave, such as it is, for everybody? Therefore, let's all touch and agree that those CDC guidelines are aspirational in assuming that folks are going to be honest. And since that hasn't exactly been working out as we hoped, you can take care of you by masking up and getting vaxxed and boosted (or not); however, if you won't do either of those things, then stand six feet back! This isn't some gazebo scene out of a Hallmark movie.

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