2021 is almost over. I’d like to say I thought things would be back to normal by now, but I always thought this pandemic would be longer and more troublesome than our little results-oriented minds could fathom. I remember doubting that the initial estimates of death would ever reach as high as they originally predicted. I thought that was a little alarmist. But we’ve more than doubled that number now. And that doesn’t even include the suicides and overdose deaths that are surely related to all we’ve been through. While I didn’t believe the death toll would ever get that hight – or at least hoped they were wrong – I wondered how we’d ever gather again and if normalcy might never be in reach. It just seemed like a big damn deal.
My house has gotten very small. My kitchen is being used much more than it ever has been in the past. I just bought a new dishwasher to replace the relatively new one. I’m sick of my sofa but I don’t dare try to buy a new one until the prices go down. I’d love to remodel my kitchen, but that’s another thing I should probably wait to do until either I have a full-time job or the supply chain gets back to normal. I even thought about selling my house, but there are literally no houses on the market in my price range, and everything is priced so much higher than it was two years ago. It’s lucrative as a seller but I’ll have to go somewhere. My gut is just telling me to chill until all of this shakes itself out or until something presents itself that means I need to make some changes.
Yesterday morning I woke up too early, and I was so antsy to get out of the house. The weather was rotten and threatening icy rain. So, I didn’t want to go outdoors. But I wanted to get out for a drive and do something. I thought about going to Chicago and visiting my favorite bakery, but I thought that was a little silly. I ran a few more options through my head and none of them seemed any sillier than going to Chicago and stocking up on Eggplant Parmesan, cannoli and Christmas Stollen. So, I packed up Ashok in the dark and we headed west to the big city.
The top of the skyline disappeared into the cloudy sky. Traffic was light that early, and I arrived just as D’amato’s Bakery was opening its doors. I told the salesperson that I drove from Michigan, and they got a big kick out of that. I got some Eggplant Parmesan for freezing, Artichoke Focaccia, Christmas cookies, marinara sauce, cannoli and my favorite Peppers and Egg sandwich on their wonderful French Bread. I ate it right there at the counter and decided I’d head over to Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston for Christmas Stollen. I mean if I’m there, I should stock up for the holiday.
My haul from D’amato’s Bakery…
Bennison’s wasn’t very crowded either. When I arrive mid-morning, there is a line out the door. Their donuts are a big draw, but I’m not a huge fan of donuts. I love their beautifully wrapped Stollen. That was a must have for Christmas morning. A digital ad above the counter sung the praises of their hot chocolate so I decided to get one of those for the ride home. It was delicious and was made special by the addition of their house-made marshmallows. I literally licked the cup when I was done.
I thought I might go to LL Bean, but they weren’t opening for another hour and a half, and I knew I could be home by then. A nap was starting to sound good after all those carbs and hot chocolate. So, we headed back in the drizzle with a trunk full of baked goods and treats for the holiday week.
It’s odd to think that two years ago we had absolutely no idea what was about to happen. We were just beginning to hear about an outbreak in Wuhan that was bad, but I’m not sure anybody knew what that might mean. I bought a new car the week after Christmas, and my friend Autumn and I loaded up our dogs and went to the Hotel Monaco in Chicago for our holiday celebration. I had no way of knowing that I’d end up without a job the next year or that a visit to the Hotel Monaco would not the be same for many years. I just saw on Twitter that Ashok’s favorite bellman is now a filmmaker in Los Angeles. He won’t be coming back. The world will be different on the other side. I’ll be different on the other side.
I’m not making any assumptions that next Christmas will be different. I hope that we can come out of this in 2022. But if you look back at other infectious diseases and pandemics, they didn’t go on and off like a switch either. This kind of thing takes time and takes a lot of other stuff down with it. “Normal” seems like a lifetime ago. I remember the first time I heard the term social distancing. We joked around about it and about washing our hands. “Don’t touch your face!” was the sign-off of every text exchange. It was funny then. We thought we’d be back to work in six weeks. One of my direct reports made us all masks, and we delivered toilet paper and supplies to each other’s front doors. I binge-watched Schitt’s Creek and sat in meetings where the Tiger King was the most-discussed agenda item. That all seems so long ago. It’s not as funny anymore.
I hope that you have a good Christmas and holiday season no matter how you choose to spend it. Make the best of it by enjoying some good food and your favorite holiday traditions – pre and post-pandemic style. The one thing I know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure. Life is short, and not everybody gets to stick around to see what happens next. Burn the candles. Drive to town. Eat dessert. Walk the dog. Say what you need to say. It’s all important. Be happy that you woke up on this side of heaven this morning. We aren’t promised tomorrow.