Christmas 2020 gifting abundant share of changes

“Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes.” — David Bowie

One thing you learn as a parent is how much things change each holiday season as your kids (or kid, in my case) get older.

One Christmas you’re lending Santa a hand assembling the Barbie Dreamhouse he delivered for your 5-year-old. Before you know it, her Christmas wish list includes a laptop and headphones for gaming and “merch” from her favorite YouTuber, YaBoiAction.

For several years you enjoy gathering as a family to watch all the Christmas holiday specials you loved as a kid. Then one year you’re outvoted, 2-1, and the evening’s viewing is yet another episode of “Mandalorian.”

More than nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, change has been an even bigger part of the holiday season this year.

Our December calendar typically is filled with a list of things we need to do and places we need to be. Band, orchestra and choir concerts at school. Christmas pageant rehearsals and performances at church. Illumination at the Morton Arboretum. Breakfast downtown Chicago on Christmas Eve morning. The living nativity service at Hinsdale Covenant Church later that day. Family and friends at our house for Christmas dinner.

The calendar isn’t as bare as it was in late March and early April, but our holiday plans certainly look different this year.

Ainsley’s band and orchestra concerts were converted into solo nights, presented virtually last week. With the performances on Zoom, we were able to invite my newly found birth family to watch. Ainsley wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the calls and texts from her grandparents and aunt and uncle telling her what a great job she did and how proud everyone was. We could all feel the love.

And I have to admit it was pretty fun exchanging text compliments on the kids’ performances while catching up with neighbors. And seeing one of their dogs on camera!

Instead of dressing up to go to church Sunday morning to see the kids’ Christmas pageant, we watched their virtual choir performance on our living room couch in our pj’s.

On Christmas Eve, we will not have to arrive early to find a seat for the live nativity service at Hinsdale Covenant Church. We’ve already reserved our time to attend the outdoor live nativity experience. We always love watching a kid dressed as Mary ride a donkey up the center aisle of the sanctuary, but we’re confident the pastoral team will make this an event to remember. That first nativity in Bethlehem was noisy and chaotic, they remind us each Christmas Eve as the geese are honking and the sheep are pooping. I’m sure this year they will emphasize that it also was outdoors.

When we gather around the table for dinner on Christmas Day, seats will be empty at our house as will many others across the country. We will miss not only my mom, who passed away last month from cancer, but my father-in-law, my mom’s sweetheart (who has become part of our family) and our next-door neighbor, who will stay away to stay safe. Maybe the hope that this will be the last holiday we can’t be together will cheer our spirits. So will the chocolate peppermint ice cream cake that we’re making — instead of the traditional toffee cheesecake — in the spirit of embracing change.

Perhaps by then Dan and Ainsley will have finished their “12 Days of COVID” lyrics (“On the first day of COVID, my true love sneezed on me ...”) and posted their performance on You Tube, with Ainsley donning a new YaBoiAction T-shirt. Ahh, the holidays.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean