It’s beginning to look a lot like normal

As we continue rushing back to normal I wonder if we are experiencing buyer’s remorse while second guessing what we wished for.

During the first pandemic holiday season we wondered if we would ever see our family and friends again, bemoaning lost time and opportunities for connection with loved ones. The fear of catching a deadly virus and passing it along to someone we loved prompted many of us to postpone gatherings until things got better. We dutifully waited.

The second year when better arrived in the form of vaccines we rushed back into the routine of family gatherings. We were so overcome with gratitude for having survived the pandemic we hugged and laughed and carried on while basking in the glow of togetherness. We vowed not to take each other for granted.

Even as the pandemic carried on and wave after wave of variants claimed more lives and continued making us sick, we continued on with our reunions and homecomings, still filling that longing to make up for lost time.

Lately, however, I started to wonder if that glow is fading.

In a big box store recently I saw a woman repeatedly explain to her crying young daughter the toys they were buying were not for her but for someone else because that’s what people do at Christmas time—even if they don’t want to. Elsewhere a woman chastised two boys under 7 years old for beating each other with hangers and getting in the way.
A dutiful boyfriend trudged along next to a shopping cart as his companion told a story he seemed to have heard before.

On another occasion I heard a young woman tell whoever was on the other end of the call to “just tell him you’re sick…it doesn’t have to be COVID” while outside a bar one night a woman yelled at her boyfriend “We always go to your family’s for Christmas!”

I had a close acquaintance tell me of a disastrous visit by a cross-country relative because of all the pressure that was on everyone to make the most the short time they had with one another.

Secretly, I think, a lot of people can’t wait for the holidays to be over and to take with them through the exit the expectations of holiday cheer and forced appreciation for family and friends they have not seen in ages.

Just like in normal times.