Dreaming of a Red Christmas

14 days to Christmas. All but one gift remains on my shopping list. All of those presents except one that I had made and await shipment, done in person including a multi-hour trip through 4 levels of vintage awesomeness at the Hamilton Antique Mall on Ottawa Street where two gifts and a new kitchen light made their way home with me. It’s the longest I have worn a mask, second only to watching my youngest play hockey back in the good ‘ol days of Yellow-Protect.

It will have been four weeks this coming Monday since Hamilton moved into Red-Control which means today, the Province will either announce that we will remain at this level, or move to Grey-Lockdown. Most expected last week as COVID-19 numbers steadily increased, that we were headed into the most restrictive level under the ministries colour-coded system. We escaped that fate once, however today, breaths are being held as the government prepares to make an announcement on this very subject and once again, many expect us not to escape a Christmas both apart from our families, and with nowhere to go but for essential services.

I am happy I have had a chance to Christmas shop in person – including continuing our yearly tradition of buying a real tree, and that my youngest has been able to at least practice hockey every other week and ramble on about how much fun she had on the car ride home and text me from her mom’s asking when her next practice is (a large feat as mentioned in my last article). I am also grateful that those whose livelihood depends on staying open like my friends in Crown Point, downtown, Ward 5, Winona, Concession Street, etc., have been able to push on and make the best of these trying circumstances in an effort to get through these difficult economic times.

I want what is best for us all, taking into account how something as severe as a lockdown over the Christmas holidays and not being able to spend it with our parents, grandparents, and others we would normally spend this very special time with, will affect our mental health these next few weeks. I can only imagine how hard it’s already been for businesses and organizations trying to make a go of their stores and the services they offer, attempting to follow the changing rules and going from one colour zone to another, never mind finding ourselves back where we were when all of this started – locked in our homes with our immediate families, staring at our mother’s eyebrows and our father’s left shoulder via Zoom.

Although Christmas always looks different for our family depending on whether or not I have my girls overnight Christmas Eve or at noon/for dinner Christmas day, I can count the number of times I have missed having dinner with my folks over 47 years on one hand. It’s actually been so long I don’t even remember any of those times, but with my mom having Lupus and my parents being close to and over 70, not to mention the fear of hefty fines, we won’t gather with family and friends at my parents this year which for certain, is the first time my girls have missed dinner with their grandparents.

Our family is not alone of course. Worldwide I am sure millions of families are in similar situations, and these are sacrifices we are all making to get us through what we hope are the final months as vaccinations and spring hopefully brings new light and hope.

Although it won’t be the same without Christmas trees and holiday music filling the air, my hope is that soon we will all be able to have dinner again as an extended family. Although maybe I can find an already decorated pop up tree and dust off the Frank Sinatra and Snoopy CD’s in July? Regardless of colour zones, it’s been a long time since we have all shared space considering that before COVID, we were at my parents at least once a week for dinner.

As I reflect on this past year and look ahead with hope as Ontario prepares to rollout the first round of vaccinations, I see a Facebook feed divided. It’s a battle ground shared by those who question masks, who are dead set against a COVID vaccine, and those wearing masks in their own car already virtually lined up for that needle anticipating their cohorts turn to be inoculated and I think to myself, what I want most is for the anger to stop this Christmas.

At this Wednesday’s General Issues Committee in Hamilton, there didn’t seem to be a concern about the status of our critical care beds and that although they were monitoring the rise in numbers, they were also in constant discussion with regards to ways to mitigate overcrowding should the need for urgent hospital beds arise. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board also announced again this week that they are offering up vacant schools to the City for emergency shelters as has already been done with the former Cathedral Boys school. So the biggest concern with rising COVID cases and the worry of stretching our health system thinner than they already are each flu season,  seems to have some viable solutions?

Of course, none of us would be shocked if we found ourselves in grey as we watch our numbers rise and outbreaks in long-term care homes including my grandfather’s final home, Grace Villa, escalate. Red was already a tough pill to swallow for a city that I believe for the most part, has done really well. We have been precautious and wearing masks everywhere. Other than the other day when someone burst past us all waiting patiently at our six feet stickers at a coffee shop, to get in line with their buddy followed by a quick exit to light up a smoke in the non-smoking area of the exterior of the building, I have not seen anyone not wearing a mask in a store.

Although I may disagree with my Facebook cohort on the effectiveness of masks, whether vaccinations should be mandatory or whether it’s safe to get one, I respect other’s opinions and feel those conversations and similar differentiating points of view from politics to parenting and a hundred other things, are what has helped me learn and grow and see differing opinions more clearly and with a more open mind over the years.

For this Christmas and into the coming months as we move into what we all hope are the final months of any sort of COVID controls, it is my hope for peace between opinions.  That we no longer co-exist side by side as sheep or covididiots, but rather humans with families all trying to make a living, stay physically and mentally healthy, and with some times polar opposite views on how we achieve these goals during a time that has often created severe division including the loss of friends and family because of these differing points of view.

To me, at least remaining in Red-Control through the holidays is one way we can ease the anger, if we feel this can be done with the greater safety of all in mind.

Either way, it’s important to remember as our children anticipate a break from school and Santa bringing lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh, that many won’t be seeing their families these holidays. More are hungry and/or homeless. Stockings will be empty, and the bases of many Christmas trees bare. Or, (insert your higher being here), there may be some who may have to say goodbye to a loved one over the internet, or parents and siblings who have had to needlessly and suddenly say goodbye to a child, leaving an empty seat at the dinner table not only this season, but forever.

There are those who live scared every day when they leave the house or even worse, those who haven’t left who are either immunocompromised themselves, or have those in their lives who they worry about being exposed to COVID. We served some of these very families during our Easter and Halloween events this year.

Differing opinions are critical to a healthy democracy, but please think of how your actions affect others both physically and emotionally as we find our way out of worry in 2021.

Whatever it is you celebrate this time of year, even if it’s just a few extra days off to relax and rejuvenate, I wish everyone peace and good health. For those that have lived in fear, and those who believe this is all a hoax, I hear you, I feel your words, and it is my hope that the coming months will bring resolution to these extreme emotions that 2020 has brought into all of our lives. In the meantime, I hope we can find common ground in the mutual understanding that each of us is suffering in different and in many cases significant ways.

One thing that is clear to me as we look further ahead, is that our response to a similar future global crisis should be a permanent topic of all of our elected bodies conversations beyond COVID-19, so that when we find ourselves faced with another outbreak of some sort of virus, that there is no question or confusion on how the various entities within their purview function – minus any anomaly  associated with different viruses. We were warned as a global entity and should have been much better prepared given past threats and outbreaks over the course of our history.

We’d love to hear from you over the holidays and beyond. Your stories, your viewpoints, photos, videos, and overall conversation are not only critical this time of year, but something that is valued and needed every day (especially now), to make this site richer, more diverse, and filled with content to keep our viewers stopping by each and every day. We want to make sure that all those that make their way to The Point, see themselves and their opinions valued and recognized.

That would be another Christmas wish of mine – to hear from you this holiday season and throughout 2021, and that we might share some of those thoughts or images with our Crown Point neighbours and partners throughout Hamilton and beyond.

What are you dreaming of?

From all of our families to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and happy whatever it is you choose to celebrate or cherish this time of year. Stay safe.

And that’s The Point.

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