Christmas with Covid brought the best Christmas gift I have ever received

Unopened presents, Christmas Day 2021.

4.45 pm on Christmas Eve. We are all gathered in the kitchen. 

We are staring fixedly, anxiously at the Antigen test card. I think it’s called a lateral flow test.

I have set the timer on my mobile phone for 15 minutes. 

I am waiting. But I’m not cool. I’m sneaking glances at the card anyway.

The kids are telling me that I have to wait. Give it time. They should know. 

They are well informed, professional. 

They have been taking Antigen tests for weeks. 

Lisa is a primary school teacher. 

Rebecca has a PhD and has spent the last two years in the Max Planck biophysical laboratory in Göttingen, Germany. 

Patrick is a Masters student, is well informed and clued in and had just taken his own Antigen test.

Not me. This is my first. I’m an Antigen test virgin.

But I am less concerned about myself than my wife, Sally. 

She has been testing for the last few days as she had a little cough, and was a close contact with a number of people who have tested positive for Covid. Colleagues have been contacting her with their own results and it will be a miracle if she avoids a positive test.

Mine came up clear. A sigh of relief.

But Sally’s?

‘There is a line, she seems to be positive’

‘I don’t see any line’

‘Yeah, it’s there alright, it’s very faint’

‘Jesus, I can’t see it’

I had to admit it. It appeared to be a positive test.

What then?

Self isolation. It’s now 5 pm on Christmas Eve and we are making arrangements for my wife to go to her bedroom for 10 days.

All the spuds and vegetables are sitting on the cooker, ready to go. The turkey is ready to be put in the oven.

I have to message my brother who was coming over for the annual Christmas Eve visit with his wife and kids. ‘Don’t come, Sally’s positive’

And she, who has been the ‘founder of the feast’, for 31 years is going to our bedroom. And I have to move out.

Practical questions begin to arise. What about all the presents under the tree and our decades old tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve.

Can’t be done.

And the youngest of the family, who was to come home this evening, cannot do so. If she does she cannot go back to work as she may become a close contact.

So, we are down a body for the first time since we became a family.

This appears to be the greatest catastrophe you could imagine. Christmas 2021 in the Gorry household is cancelled. What could be worse?

But it only appears that way.

Soon, the positives begin to emerge. 

The biggest positive that I take from it is the response of the kids. They took charge. They could have felt sorry for themselves and got angry. Crestfallen. Negative.

But they all stepped up to the plate and took responsibility. The various little tasks that go to make up Christmas day were divided up and taken on with enthusiasm.

Breakfast. Dinner preparations. Picking up Emily.

We are putting a laptop at the head of the table and Zooming Sally in. She will be eating her dinner in our bedroom. 

The rest of us will be at the table.

Next year might be better. I think it will.

Meanwhile, I am proud of how our children have adapted to the circumstances. With a positive, can do attitude.

No feeling sorry for ourselves in Garrisker at Christmas 2021. Next year will be better. 

I think the realisation that we have done a pretty good job with rearing the kids has been the best Christmas gift I have ever received.

From a shitstorm to a sense of pride and gratitude. 

These are strange times. But the human spirit is capable of great things.

And how you choose to respond to your circumstances is one of them.

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