This week I decorated the Christmas tree. I wasn’t sure if I would. Who’s to see it during this Covid Christmas? My internal struggle has been real. On again, off again. Should I bake Christmas cookies? Why bother. I repeatedly ask friends and compare their plans to what I hear on the news. Our kids both live in Toronto, which authorities have declared a red zone. Red zone people are not supposed to travel outside their zone. Adding more risk to this situation, both Matthew and Sarah are single and still seem to be mixing it up with their other single friends. I’ve told them not to come this year. Am I being too strict? What is everyone else doing? Christmas 2020 – the year of Covid. A confusing, contradictory time.
I go through the motions, preparing for a normal Christmas in spite of the news reports and medical statistics. Gifts are purchased, wrapped and now its time to decorate our Christmas tree. Warren drags the massive plastic tote boxes of up from the basement. I put on my favourite CD of Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas and go about the task of unpacking a mound of boxes – each carefully nesting my old ornaments. One by one I finger the hooks and satin loops and lift the decorations up, freeing them from their storage. Each holds a sweet memory of when the kids were young, or as retirees when Warren and I travelled and bought Christmas ornaments as souvenirs. Here is the little clam shell from Shediac New Brunswick and the miniature PEI Anne of Green Gables. I reminisce upon that summer RVing in the Maritimes. My Santa on snow shoes was picked up in Skagway Alaska on my 60th birthday. Aww, the green clay alien from Roswell New Mexico deserves a place of distinction on the tree – front and center. I place a tiny Nashville guitar to its right. Finally, I come to my favourite. It is a hand-painted antique. The last ornament left from my parent’s collection. It is very beautiful, soft pale greens with silver. So fragile. I’m definitely feeling; feeling … in the moment. I’m not exactly happy but I’m entertained and keeping busy.
Decades from history will still be measured against the fatalities recorded in 2020. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed anything like these times. I think back and appreciate how stable and safe my life has been up until this year. Warren is older. Seventy-six years ago when he was a baby, Canada was still waiting to get out of World War 2. There is a comparable time. I take a moment to imagine what Christmas might have been like in 1944.
I did some research. Did you know that on December 11th in 1944, Toronto experienced its worst single-day snow storm? They got dumped with 22 ½ inches. Apparently, there were gale force winds and huge drifts making travel impossible. No home deliveries of milk, fuel or ice. Ice! These were the years before the electric refrigerator. So hard to imagine! There are news clippings with photographs of expectant mothers walking to the hospital. Of major concern was that the factories producing war ammunitions had to close temporarily. In total 21 people died in Toronto on December 11, 1944 because of this storm. Thirteen of those deaths were caused from over exertion. I think about this odd fact for a moment. At this point Canada is already five years into World War two. Almost all of the young able-bodied snow-shovelers would be serving in a war somewhere overseas. Five long years of desperate times. Praying and wondering if they would ever be reunited with their sons, brothers, boyfriends, and husbands again. So bleak.
At least today we have an abundance of world news. In 1944 there was a great void of credible, current news. I read that on the average soldiers wrote six letters per week and these often took over two weeks to make their way home. Even then, they would be heavily redacted. Hmmm. Censored news. That sounds oddly similar to our current “fake news “situation.
I read further and learned that the ideal Christmas gift in 1944 was handknit socks and mitts, or a can of Spam or perhaps a flat 50 of cigarettes.
Seventy-six years ago, when Warren was about to experience his first Christmas, the whole world was twisted and locked in a unimageable horror. Everyone waited for it to finally end. In December 2020 the world waits too. When will our world return to normal and our families be reunited again?
Oh, how times have changed. Or have they really?