Four years ago I wrote a post titled “Christmas is a season for ghosts.” In it I mentioned that
I started thinking about the ghosts of Christmas after an online exchange with a friend who was contemplating a Christmas without a sister she lost this year. The first year is usually the hardest, but even seven years after Laura’s last Christmas I can’t put up a tree or watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Call it what you may. Say that perhaps grief has become memory. In what should be a sad Christmas, living alone in COVID isolation, with all my children far away in Texas or Boston, I have finally been able to put up a tree and other holiday decorations. And to enjoy the lights and colors that I avoided for the past ten years because they only brought sad memories.
This Christmas morning as I thought about plans to go to Gale’s apartment to spend time with her daughters, their significant others, and her grand-daughter, socially distant, out on her terrace, wearing masks, I reflected on other Christmases that had been out of the ordinary. The Christmases that came to mind turn out to be the first Christmas with each of my wives. Mary and I spent our first Christmas on a freighter in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Kenya around the Cape of Good Hope. Laura and I spent our first Christmas with her brother Paul in Baltimore doing the Jewish practice of dinner at a Chinese restaurant followed by a movie.
The space heater I brought to Gale’s may have glowed but it put out little heat to ward off the cold of a late December afternoon. We did get some warm laughs, however, over the teasing phone call from Texas that they were enjoying sitting by the pool in a sunny 75 degrees. As we are learning during this pandemic, technology can help us embrace our loved ones, whether far to the north or far to the south, and to cherish all the more those with whom we are physically close. The warmth of those embraces are what lights our Christmas trees and Hanukkah menorahs.