In a Plague-Time, a Very Different Holiday Letter
Fourteenth in an ongoing series, Notes from a Plague’Time
Dear Family and Friends,
Some things never change: Even in a year altered beyond anything we could imagine — by the coronavirus pandemic — the Seaquists get to their Holiday letter the weekend before the Holiday. But this custom allows us to read the mail in a different way: By this point in a normal year, we are in receipt of 7–8 dozen Christmas cards, most with fulsome letters detailing family doings, travel, thoughts. But this year, no: The intake is half, with only a half-dozen letters. Instead, the mode this year seems to be: On one side, a photo of the family as we know them; on the other, the same grouping — in masks. That says so much: Family over pandemic.
I can’t tell you how much I admire that stoicism. Especially the card that reads: “It’s fine. We’re fine. Everything is fine.” Which translates: Everything is not fine, not at all, but this family’s policy is, we are. If anxiety seeps into the few sentences added, it is concern for children, especially those with health issues, and for grandchildren. Some confess to walking the floor at night anxious for the world their grandchildren will inherit: Will it be end-on-end pandemic, political gridlock, breakdown? Photos of grandchildren’s weddings are featured, with “no moaning” (as Katharine Hepburn would say) about grandparents unable to attend, just best wishes for the young couple. Admirable.
In his novel “The Plague,” Albert Camus wrote that plague is “everybody’s business”; this pandemic, being “pan,” concerns everyone on the planet. We are all in the same ward together, so to speak, “going to school with suffering,” as Camus also wrote. My big hope for 2021 is that, out of our struggle, we learn the right lessons and act on them. That the cause of reason and decency finds new muscle and stronger appeal, to counter the anger, unreason, cynicism. While the recent presidential election went the way Larry and I wished, no clear mandate was delivered. So: We all of us must deliver that mandate, in the myriad actions we take every day. I write a lot about the Dark Ages giving way to the Renaissance: It wasn’t a natural evolution, though, but conscious and purposeful action. To purpose! For the grandchildren!
Hmmm, this Holiday letter is unlike any I have written before….
As to learning the right lessons: I salute what my friend Karin captured in a message to our book group. She wrote, “One good thing coming out of this political and health miasma: It made us more aware of how little we need and what is most important” (my italics). What little I need — actually it’s a lot but simply stated — is love and work, Freud’s formula for a full life. In addition to celebrating our 43rd wedding anniversary with my compagno di vita, I doubled my pace as a commentator, trying to keep up with fast-breaking History — American Democracy under siege, everybody under siege by the virus. Which touches on two things so important: American Democracy and health. Happily, there is hope for both, with Team Biden and the vaccines coming.
As to defending American Democracy, I am exceedingly proud Larry threw his hat in the ring and ran for County Executive. While he lost, he made a respectable showing (46%), a “narrow victory” for the incumbent, per the local newspaper. My hero. And you, too, can run for office….
Heroic, of course, are the medical personnel working the COVID-19 cases and the “essential” workers delivering our food and other necessities. We will remember. We also remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John le Carre, and George Floyd, whose killing demands, finally, reckoning on racial justice.
While we regret not hosting our family Christmas, as we have for 20 years, this year we fall quiet and ponder. We wish everyone, everywhere, the strength they need to carry on. To the Renaissance!