I won’t be home for Christmas. And neither will you. And in fact, very few people throughout what was once quaintly called Christendom will be home for Christmas.
When I was thinking about this post, I was going to say that we’d never spent Christmas on the road, but that’s not precisely true. Our technically first Christmas together was spent in Portugal. See, our wedding was on the 28th of December, so we went over a little earlier (about a week.) For one, I needed to have fittings on the gown. No, don’t ask. Yes it was insane.
But that was arguably better than our second Christmas, when we were alone. Being childless and away from all family, even though I’d cooked a turkey breast for lunch, we found ourselves all out of sorts, so we went out in the evening to a steakhouse, and that was worse, actually. Because the place was filled with lonely souls, hunched over their plates, looking lost.
The next year we’d learned and ran an “orphans dinner” for Christmas (and thanksgiving.)
I’ll be honest, except for the period of about 8 years when we had a writers’ group, and people came over because ours was the gathering space, most of our married life, Christmas has just been the four of us. A far cry from the Christmas of my childhood, where the entire extended family got together at grandma’s. Well, the extended family in Portugal, which made it all of 14 people or so. But then we’re very different sort of people, and I wouldn’t do well with the sort of tribal politics, infighting for who brings the roast, and– No. Just no.
But this year….
This year with no church. This year with no lights, no walk through the botanic gardens light trail (because they make you wear masks. Outside. Without being near anyone!) this year that hasn’t had any other holidays, any other gatherings, all to defeat a virus that is no worse, and frankly might be better than a bad flu year….
I don’t know what this is. I look around at a strange land in which the governor tells us we’re a society of laws, and his word is law, and I wonder where I’ve gotten to, and how.
And this election showed us we can’t get rid of our tormentors. They’ve “Fixed” things so we can’t get rid of them and their ridiculous, over the top rules.
But worse, much worse, is seeing our institutions go along with this ridiculous nonsense, including our mainline churches, which jump in to demand you reserve seats online, and oh, yeah, you trace contacts (which even restaurants refused to do) because those martyrs through the ages who suffered for their faith were apparently chumps who risked themselves and others for faith.
We’re traveling. Because if we can’t do anything else, at least we’ll see family. And hey, stupid mask mandates are everywhere, but at least in other states you can still eat out.
But nothing is right. This morning, at a diner, most of the tables — even allotted tables — were empty. And people sit at their tables looking lost and dispirited. It’s worse than that steakhouse on Christmas. It’s worse than it was in Fall.
It’s like EVERYONE is looking around, with completely confused eyes going “where are we? And how did we get here?”
When I was little, in a land faraway, amid a boisterous, sociable tribe, I’d often think “I want to go home.”
I had no idea where home was, or with whom I should be, but there was a strong feeling of not belonging, and also that there was a place SOMEWHERE where I belonged.
Well, I found that. And I had it. We all had it.
We should have guarded it better. But I don’t know how. It wasn’t up to any of us. And our institutions were long corrupted, before most of us were born.
All I know is that this Christmas, like wanderers in Egypt, we are far from home. And we must go home again, however long it takes however hard it is. We must, all of us get back to America. Constitutional America. The USA that counts. The true USA where religion is not constrained, where we’re allowed to show our faces, where we can’t be arrested without due process, where governors words aren’t law, and where our votes count for something.
Let’s work towards it, and way from this painful land of our exile.
Next Christmas in America. Next Christmas in the USA.
Let’s work on it.