FEATURE — My middle boy hopped out of our little truck, a jolly red sleigh of sorts with a weathered bed, slightly crumpled front end and a pleasant whir in first gear. In his hands, he carried our neighbor gifts for the year: a box of tissues.
Attached to the box was our family’s Christmas card. On the front it reads: “We laughed. We cried. We remote learned. And then we cried some more.” Which is all completely true. Even if the crying was mostly done by me.
On the back, we listed each family member’s favorite coping mechanisms for 2020 (you know, besides all the crying). My husband said turning the third bay of our garage into a makeshift art studio helped him. Also, going to church out of doors, drumming on his new hand drum and growing a fantastically long beard.
The beard brought him great joy for a solid five months. He was only mistaken once in a photo by one of our oldest son’s friends for being homeless. That was in the early period of beard growth, before he’d learned you need not only grow, but also shape your beard for it to look good.
Then, in August, his employer asked him to shave it. Bye, bye beard and coping.
My oldest said working at the gelato shop in our neighborhood really helped him survive. It was one of the only places he got to socially interact with anyone, considering school has been remote for him – and all my boys – since March. Drives up the canyon, where he could scream and cry in private, lifting weights and skateboarding rounded out his list.
Mountain biking, ceramics class and watching YouTube topped my middle boy’s list. But only after dressing up our dog Albus in costumes. That has been an almost daily occurrence. Albus as a jedi. Albus as Oscar the Grouch. Albus in a green morph suit, with a scarf, or wearing a hot, itchy beanie. Albus should really get an award for long suffering.
But Albus probably knows what it meant to my boy, who remarked dreamily at bedtime one night this fall, “having a dog in a pandemic is the best. I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
My youngest found a new love for anime somewhere in the middle of all of this. Binge watching the subtitled stories on streaming sites like Hulu and Crunchyroll have been his saving grace. Well, that, and sleepovers with a single quarantine buddy (we didn’t allow sleepovers before), riding his bike all over and daily masked trips to our local convenience store – the glorious Dave’s Shop & Go.
Dave’s is like Cheers, except for kids and with chips, candy and soda.
Dave’s helped me cope, too. My daily Coke Zero habit wouldn’t have survived the pandemic without it.
I also ate a lot of Drumstick ice cream cones. Not at Dave’s, but everywhere else. And often while I was watching Netflix’s Schitt’s Creek. Laughing at and crying with the fictional Rose Family was cathartic.
I probably ate the Drumsticks while I was reading, which was one of my favorite coping mechanisms. “The Dutch House” by Anne Patchet, “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, “Talking to Strangers” by Malcom Gladwell and “The Overstory” by Richard Powers all saved me.
But most of all, I loved hiking with Albus.
When he wasn’t being dressed up by my middle, Albus was in the foothills and mountains of Salt Lake with me.
In the spring, we tromped through the late snow and watched buds form on trees. In the summer, we woke early and stumbled on rattlesnakes making their way back in their burrows for the day. In the fall, we climbed shade-less mountains that had been too exposed in the summer and watched the leaves turn crimson, coral and mauve.
We hiked and breathed and felt lucky to be alive. In the midst of it all.
“For everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4)
Merry Christmas from my family to yours. Tissues and tears included.
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