This year was a first for us, a drive-by Christmas celebration. Since I met my husband in 1985, we have spent all but two Christmas Eves at his parents’ home. And those two times, we had chosen to spend the holidays in Florida with just the six of us together.
Last night was the first time in 35 years; we have not spent the evening eating, laughing, sharing, and spending the evening with his family.
What we did do was stop by his mom’s home with our gifts. All six of us, standing in the garage with the garage door open. His mom stood in the doorway to her house, and we talked a little.
My mother-in-law had not seen her grandsons in over six months. One son lives in Wisconsin, the other left in June to start Basic training. I know she wanted nothing more than to grab them in a big hug, but she didn’t.
This year, we stayed apart, but together.
As much as we would have rather spent the evening with our extended family, it is not the year to do so.
Our visit was brief, less than the 15 minutes some deem safe.
What I can’t imagine is what it is like from her eyes, heart, and soul. To see her family respecting her and wanting only good for her, but not hug her.
What does Christmas 2020 feel like as an 80-year-old, when the one thing you want is to be with your family, and you can’t. A drive-by Christmas just doesn’t feel the same.
I wondered as we pulled away what she was thinking and feeling. Was she happy to have seen our faces, even underneath our winter clothes and masks? Was there some disappointment she could not sharing her home with us? Did she miss creating a meal to feed her family? Or was there some relief to have had a quiet day?
I pray she wasn’t sad when we drove away. Even if she was, she would never tell us; that just isn’t her way. I pray she was ok. I know I may have lost a bit of myself driving off from her house last night.
We came home, and I put the gifts she gave us under our tree.
My kids promptly pulled them out and said we open Grandma’s presents on Christmas eve. So, we did. We all received new socks and a pair of new gloves. It brought a smile to our faces, for all the years we have celebrated, there have always been new socks and gloves.
Some of the same traditions were the same, yet not the same at all. Our hearts knew the difference between opening gifts in our own home versus sharing the season with family.
I know I am deeply grateful we could spend even a small amount of time with her with all of this. We all needed it. I know not everyone has the same ability.
Some live too far away to have a few stolen moments in a garage. Others lost their parents, this year or a prior year. We lost my father-in-law a few years ago. His absence is still deeply felt.
My heart goes out to you for all who can not do even a drive-by Christmas this year.
The loss of our families, friends, and traditions is hard. I don’t have answers, just the hope and prayers we take what we learned through these hardships and live a better life. One where the small moments, standing in a garage, are just as meaningful as the moments we typically spend the month of December preparing for.
Be well & Merry Christmas –