It’s been a while since I documented our COVID experiences. As 2020 draws to a close and a vaccine is on the horizon perhaps (and I pray this will be so!) I won’t have much time left to share stories of our lives during this pandemic.
Thanksgiving turned out to be a far less stressful holiday. It was a bummer not to be swapping stories and sharing laughs with family but we held a family Zoom which was a fair replacement. What took the edge off was Meghan’s family being with us. If not for that, the holiday would have been on the sad and lonely side.
With a successful Thanksgiving holiday in the rear-view mirror, we prepared for Covid Christmas. It was hoped we could do a “sidewalk visit” with brother Dean and his family, but an impending rainstorm (read that as “blizzard of rain and wind”) dashed those plans. My mother often said of holidays, “It’s just another day.” Granted, this was probably her way of softening the blow when holiday plans went awry, but she had a point. So we can’t be together on Dec. 25? Perhaps we will plan for “Christmas in July!” It doesn’t matter when we connect. Most important is that we all be ALIVE and HEALTHY so we can get together often in the future!!
One tradition was sorely missed however. For the past few years, Meghan and I, along with cousin Mia and “honorary” family member Doreen, have been getting together to make what I am now calling the “Holy Trinity.” (Hmm… that’s probably wildly inappropriate, especially considering I’m Jewish.) For as long as I can remember these three cookies were the “main event” at Christmas Eve: Viennese Nut Crescents, Cream Cheese Crescents, and of course, Linzer cookies. Due to Covid concerns, it was determined that Meghan and I would make the cookies by ourselves and deliver them afterwards.
We spent all of Wednesday baking. Paisley and Logan “helped” for a bit and then went downstairs to entertain their father for the next 6 hours! The next day, we traveled the area delivering our goodies to the traditional recipients. Paisley and Logan loved ringing doorbells and chatting with friends and family. They thought it was a variation of “Trick or Treat,” asking “When do we go to the next house?”
Scott often complains that I’m always so negative. That’s really not it. Once I see things are going downhill, I just embrace what is usually a very rapid decline. So, I decided to grab hold of this year’s holiday. It’s Covid Christmas! Let’s do it up! With that thought in mind, I set about making the ONLY thing I can bake independently without burning – my traditional Christmas Yule log cake. But 2020 just seemed to be screaming out for something slightly different. Presenting – the 2020 COVID Christmas Stump – complete with marzipan poison ivy. Perfect!!
Christmas Eve in our family was traditionally celebrated at the home of our parents in Hamden. When my mother passed away on Dec. 2, 2011, we still held Christmas Eve at Goebel Road. Thankfully, Meghan and her husband Andy purchased the home allowing us all seven more years of celebration in the “homestead.” They sold the home in 2019 but continued the tradition that year at their new home in Southbury.
Enter 2020. Meg and Andy sold their home in November and moved in with us. There would be no homestead, new or old, in which to celebrate Christmas 2020. But it didn’t even matter. There was no one gathering to celebrate anyway.
We enjoyed a Christmas Eve dinner of salmon, asparagus, and homemade macaroni and cheese with a few other trimmings. A few cookies later and I was on the couch (where else?) for the evening. It occurred to me I had eaten far less than on any previous Christmas Eve. I did miss the all the appetizers though, And the manicotti. But… I was VERY relaxed!
Christmas Day began for me at 7:15 a.m. Not too bad, considering there were two little kids in the house. We were also pleasantly surprised to wake up to a house with electricity. The weather was just awful; very strong winds and ridiculous amounts of rain had prompted Christmas Eve warnings of widespread power outages. Ironically, had Meg and Andy been in Southbury, they would have opened presents in the dark – no power there!
Scott and I were grateful to have two of our four grandchildren with us to celebrate. It’s been almost a full year since we saw our Boulder, CO boys, Jack and Abe. With the help of technology we had a Zoom session with the boys while they opened our gifts, Pleasant, but just not the same as being there.
Another family Zoom was scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern. After multiple texts to be sure everyone in the various time zones understood the designated time, we set about preparing the Christmas Day meal, timed for post-Zoom, around 5:30 p.m. Sweet potatoes went in the pot to boil. Scott prepped the 7.5 pound prime rib. I’m curious to know if there was an increase in prime rib sales this year – at least three of us planned for that as the centerpiece of one of our Christmas meals. We voiced our appreciation that we, unlike 36,000 other Connecticut residents, had power.
Scott put the roast in the oven at the prescribed temperature of 500 degrees (to seal in the juices.) Ten minutes later, the power went out!! Are you kidding me? The storm had been over for hours! We were literally “in the clear.” What the “H”??? No worries … we have a gas oven. Um. No. Apparently newer gas ovens won’t remain lit in an outage. We decided it wasn’t too bad since the meat had just barely begun cooking.
But, I was a little concerned about the family Zoom scheduled to start 20 minutes later. I texted folks to alert them that I’d be starting the zoom using my phone and hoped for the best. Immediately, I felt like one of my text-challenged students. “I can hear you but I can’t see you.” My phone informed me I was in “Drive mode” so no video. Really? I was driving from my seat at the dining room table? Ugh. I decided to switch to my iPad but that just annoyed me since the cell service was soooooo slow. I gave up on the iPad and texted a request for someone to take over as co-host. But- no one received that text as our cell service had also gone out.
Thankfully, daughter Caitlin stepped up and sent a link for a new Zoom call. And then – then there was light!! The power was back! Scott reset the oven at 3:11 p.m. (Times documented by my desperate text strings!!) I resumed the Zoom call, enjoying the tiny faces of my family on my phone. (I would normally be using my 17″ HP laptop.) Twenty minutes later – the smoke alarm went off! The high oven temp caused some grease to smoke in the oven. Scott rushed to clear the smoke. I muted the Zoom. Three minutes later the smoke alarms went off again! Scott rushed to clear the smoke. I muted the Zoom. And … again four minutes later. Scott dealt with the kitchen. I sent this text, “Ok, now I’m just surrendering.”
A few minutes later we all signed off and went our “merry”ways. I changed my shirt. I was actually sweating from all the angst! The rest of the afternoon and our Christmas dinner was a complete success. The prime rib was perfection as evidenced by Paisley eating several helpings. The sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows were delish – I did decorate them COVID style before popping them in the oven. Meghan made a salad, graced with Pop-Pop’s traditional celery cross. Despite not rising as expected, the yorkshire pudding was still yummy. Steamed green beans rounded out our dinner menu. Dessert consisted of Christmas cookies and our own COVID Christmas Stump, decorated by Paisley.
By 7 p.m. the kids were in bed and their parents retreated to their “domain” in the basement, leaving the Old Folks to relax in the living room. COVID Christmas 2020 was about as successful as a holiday could be, under the circumstances. But I’ll happily celebrate Christmas 2021 in our usual, boisterous way!
Be well everyone – let’s stay the course and look forward to celebrating the holidays of 2021 TOGETHER!!