Everyone left yesterday and we are all still friends. We all have standing invitations to each other’s houses and we’ll keep celebrating Christmases together with each other in the years to come, but it was very stressful and I was, at times, crying.
The whole thing, of course, stemmed from our differences in how we feel about covid. Sweden, famously, was very lax with their prevention of the spread of covid – so the Swedes never had school shut down, they are not used to wearing masks, it is literally nbd. We, on the other hand, are still masking in grocery stores, reluctantly go to restaurants, but we are figuring it out – like we did go to a large Christmas party, I have gone to restaurants more frequently. But there are still reminders – Jeremy’s paranoid office, for example, still had a virtual Christmas party, my friend’s school cancelled a very popular holiday get-together. My parents are still very covid sensitive, and mostly in my circle, if you test positive, you cancel plans, stay in your room away from your family and have chicken soup delivered to your door which you eat on your own. I understand and have wonderful friends in the US who have flown covid+, gone to out to plays, concerts while covid+, stopped testing and did everything holiday with sniffles and coughs, so I’m under no illusion that anyone else is following my covid protocol. People are just milling around, little covid vectors. I also understand that it’s mostly just a nuisance, no one is going to die from covid really, there are lots of treatments, it’s a more mild variant, it’s mostly ok – now it’s not about dying, it’s mostly about what you think “good manners” are. Also, besides the covid, there are just differences in how we each run our families that have always popped up when we have these family vacations one of which is how we all think about time. We like to get up early and go to bed early and plan the days with like – ok 9 am, we are doing this and we’ll have lunch at noon, but we need to shop and so I’ll shop before 9 am to get the food before anyone gets up and we like to be at the train station 10 min ahead of schedule. The Swedes like to get up late and stay up late and play fast and loose with time – they like to run to catch the train because why would anyone waste time waiting on the platform for the train? I will tell you that there are advantages/disadvantages to both systems – I do think, overall, the swedes have more “fun”, but, man, their style would give me a heart attack every single day. Also, we are more go with the flow, like if you say – I want to go to Baltimore and buy a beer and then find Edgar Allen Poe’s grave at midnight, I might try to edge it closer to 8 pm, but I’d be game. But the swedes have stronger ideas about what they want to do.
So about 5 days before the swedes were supposed to fly to the US, Reuben, the youngest son, had tested covid + and then 3 days before they were to fly, Johanna tested + and they asked if it was still OK to come to the house, they had mild symptoms and were feeling better. Bob and Katherine (Jeremy’s parents) seemed ok with it all, so Jeremy and I agreed to have them come. I cancelled Christmas plans with my parents because of their sensitivity to covid (so that meant that they were going to have dinner by themselves on Christmas which is also my father’s birthday) and they came. Emy, who is in the middle of packing up her life in NY and moving out west, did not want to be sick on this cross-country trip, and would prefer to have the covid + people sequester in the basement struck a compromise with the Swedes to mask in the common indoor spaces. So we tried to stick to that promise – we ate separately and generally masked while we were together. Christmas Eve was lovely and mostly fine. But by Christmas Day, it was clear that the Swedish kids were not reliably masking indoors and wanted to continue to not reliably mask. So then Emy decided to not come to Christmas dinner about two hours before it was to be served which was well within her rights (she and Seth were staying at a hotel down the street) and she left early on the 26th (which was the plan) and she did come back to the house and say goodbye to us and, more importantly, to her cat Ivy.
So we stumbled through Christmas dinner and then we woke on the 26th we were facing a full week of togetherness. I had spent a good amount of time this month thinking of activities which ranged from a s’mores bonfire, to outings to museums, to visits to arcades, possible hikes, etc. I bought sparklers, games, procured tickets to museums, etc. in advance of this visit. Anyways, on Monday, there was a trip downtown to see the newly semi-renovated Air and Space museum and various art museums which was mostly fine. Then on Tuesday – two things happened. First, Felix tested newly positive for covid (which resulted in me cancelling my girl’s night out with four of my friends that night – I was hoping for no more + test results, by this day, both Ruben and Johanna were negative) and they wanted to see Avatar (excitedly!), which I was game for. Not normally a movie I would clamor to see (or ever see, really), I was driven by my friend’s Vickey rave review of it and the fact that Jeremy, Bob and Katherine did not want to see it and it seemed poor form to have them go by themselves (without Felix). Vince also wanted to come. So I drove extra to find an IMAX theatre and we went out together. Vince and I, in our normal way, had a fight throughout the movie in our regular passive aggressive way, the highlight (or lowlight) of which was that he was using his phone during the movie. I let it go for two hours, but by the third hour he was actually playing game, I was really irritated and leaned over to correct his behavior, to which I knew he would be furious at me. So at the end of the movie, I asked him what he thought of the movie and he glared at me and told me he hated action movies, and I was hurt by this because, of course, he didn’t have to go and he knew it was an action movie. Then we all went out after the credits to pee and regroup, and I told Johanna that I enjoyed the movie, mainly because I did enjoy it for what it was (which is a James Cameron movie, no Jane Campion..) and also because it’s generally what you say when you are doing something you would prefer to not do, but are doing because the other person wanted to do it. But she hated the movie because there was so much killing (to which I was like – uh, it’s an action movie? and usually, there is a lot of killing in those movies) and then everyone got into how much the movie sucked and they hated it which is, of course, a valid reaction, but then I felt like I had wasted my time and all this money because you know, I don’t like taking people to do things that they hate to do (which, I thought was preventable because the things they were complaining about seemed, to me, obvious before one walked into the theatre). Anyways, I started to cry while walking to the car and then I really started to cry uncontrollably on the way home and Vince, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, could see that I was crying and tried valiantly to rescue the situation – by saying how great the theatre was or how nice the special effects were, but it was too late, I was too hurt, not by just this outing, but by the stress of the entire week. Anyways, I drove home in awkwardness trying to stop the crying, but I really couldn’t. And I couldn’t stop until well after midnight (I know! An overreaction, but I couldn’t stop..). And then I released myself from any more planning or outings and left it to Jeremy. (Vince (who read this before I hit publish) wants to say that he was not irritated by me correcting him using his phone, and his reaction to the movie was an honest reaction, not to “get back” at me for making him put away his phone. He was using his phone because he thought the movie was boring, but agrees with me now that phone use during movies is rude. So, you know, I misinterpreted his reaction…)
Wed and Thursday passed with various outings by various parties. We do much, much better when we don’t try to force us all to be together, if we try to break up the party a little bit. I do enjoy each person, but it’s hard to manage everyone all together all at once. No one tested positive the rest of the time. We managed some good discussions, a puzzle was completed, there were takeout meals. Dogs were walked and cats were fed. And we took exactly 2 group photos – neither of which are perfect, but that is who we are, imperfect people having an imperfect Christmas together. At least we never ran out of coffee or cookies and the power stayed on the entire time, and for that, I’m grateful. (We are all waiting patiently to see who has covid. Jeremy is feeling a bit under the weather, so is masking and backing off from his workouts. Vince has a stuffy nose, but can’t tell if it’s from his allergy to the cat (who he loves and pets and lets sleep on his chest) or if he’s getting sick. Edda and I are just hanging out watching TV and taking down the Christmas decorations and doing laundry).
2 thoughts on “And we bring on the new year…”
Oh this sounds so hard and stressful. Covid has really highlighted people’s vastly different approaches to all sorts of things. I’m sorry that it has been so stressful for you. Hoping no one else gets sick, or if so, it is very mild.
Oh, boy, there would be tears on my end, too. We’re still really COVID sensitive, too. We don’t eat in restaurants or go into stores without masks. We have a friend with cancer and we regularly test before we go to see him to make sure we don’t put him at risk. I struggle when I just see people living their lives as if we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, but I guess we’re the odd people out. Maybe it would be better for my anxiety and my level of fun to loosen up a little bit!
Regardless, Happy New Year! I hope 2023 brings great things for you and your family!