The sun is shining brilliantly through the office windows. After a morning thick with heavy fog, it seems almost a miracle. Maybe that is what we need. A miracle to come after the difficulties of the day before this one. We need some sunlight to shine on us. On all of us. Some optimism, a reason to hope for a better year ahead. I have struggled with trying to write this post. It is easy to write about travels and camping trips, fish and chips at the coast, rain on the roof of the MoHo. It is easy to be in the moment when traveling, maybe that is why we love it so much.
It isn’t so easy to write about family gatherings, holidays that have been quite different than past years. December darkness, more days of deep fog and dark skies than I remember even in Grants Pass. We wake in the morning and it is dark, with light penetrating the fog only after 7:30 or so. By 3:30 we are surprised to see the darkness descending again and by 5:15 it is pitch dark.
This is actually a bit better than it was two weeks ago when it was pitch dark at 5. Solstice has come and gone and the days are getting longer, miniscule second by second. I guess that is why a day like this, when the sun bursts through illuminating every tiny green blade of grass with a golden halo it seems like a miracle.
The Christmas season for us started even before Thanksgiving when I put up the outside Christmas lights. Once again, we had help from Grandson Matthew, young and agile enough to climb our tall roof and line the edges of the gutters and the roof shingles all the way around the house. Even though our home is just one story, the western side of the house is more than 18 feet off the ground, thanks to our sloping lot. I know I wouldn’t manage to get up on the roof and even though Mo was a famed roof climber not so long ago, she isn’t about to climb up there either. If Matthew moves away we are in big trouble.
Here in Southern Oregon our restaurants opened enough that one of our favorites, The Twisted Cork, advertised a special Sunday brunch, reservations only, limited indoor seating. We were excited, made reservations for a birthday celebration downtown with friends Maryruth and Gerald, who celebrate December birthdays, and Daughter Deborah and Grandson Matthew to join us for the party limited to six guests. Sadly that all fell apart when the numbers in our county began rising and once again dining was limited to outdoor seating only. The Twisted Cork decided that with the cold and very wet weather, it was too much, and cancelled the party.
Mo and I decided the heck with that and I called Deborah and said, “Let’s do our own brunch for Maryruth and Gerald!” Daughter Melody also drove south from Eugene for a Christmas time visit. Her honey Robert had to travel for two weeks, returning before Christmas so she decided to quarantine at home for Christmas Day rather than taking a chance on Robert carrying the virus with him from Texas on an airplane. We had our little bubble of six and Deborah and I had fun trying to make the Sunday brunch as decadent as possible.
We made real eggs benedict, and had lots of fruit and fruit dip choices, and Deborah made homemade pastries and we had lots of very cold champagne to wash it down. It was such a simple but lovely way to spend a day with our friends. In fact, we all decided that it was much more fun that it would have been in the restaurant.
The next week before Christmas we made a date with Maryruth and Gerald to drive around town to see all the Christmas lights. It was great fun, and there were some truly fabulous light shows to enjoy. I must say that the winner, a computerized laser light show with music to match, left me unmoved. It wasn’t very Christmasy, and while quite loud and glitzy, it didn’t feel right.
We discovered that the people in cars piling up all around in the tiny cul de sac where the lights were blaring didn’t agree with us. It was incredibly popular. We tried to follow the newspaper printed maps, tried to use google, but the four of us wore out before we could see all the various neighborhoods that were recommended.
Grants Pass isn’t very big, but it was too big for us to cover it all that night. Maryruth and I both grew up in Southern California, with amazing memories of Christmas Tree Lane and Story Book Lane in Pasadena, and the most amazing Christmas light neighborhood ever in a high end housing development that at the time was called Hastings Ranch. Every single street was decorated with a matching theme for each one, It was something to see and one of my best kid memories. Maryruth felt exactly the same way. Still, we loved our lighted evening in Grants Pass and topped it off with hot chocolate from the downtown Dutch Brothers, just a block from where the chain was first established.
When Christmas actually came, Mo and I were perfectly content to enjoy Christmas Eve with just the two of us and probably the very best clam chowder I have ever made. It’s a tradition for us, the closest I am willing to get to my childhood Christmas Eve oyster stew, which thank goodness I was never forced to eat. We topped off our evening with another drive around Grants Pass, finding the neighborhoods that we had previously missed and noticing with surprise how many homes were surrounded by many cars as people were gathering for the holiday in spite of the warnings.
On Christmas Day I invited Maryruth and Gerald and Deborah again for Christmas ham, another tradition that we seem to repeat each year. I buy ham once a year, either Christmas or Easter, and the leftovers in the freezer are enough for some bean soup and scalloped potatoes and ham throughout the year. We sat around in the living room together with whatever YouTube channel was Christmasy and enjoyed the company until early evening when Deborah decided to brave the heavy rain to drive the hour long trip back to Shady Cove and Maryruth and Gerald retreated the short mile back to their home.
The day after Christmas, with no more company to come for a meal, we pulled out another great puzzle. The Paint the Town series by Eric Dowdle is great fun, and he even has a PBS show about each town that he visits. It only took us a bit less than 3 days to find all the little people and figure out the many high rise buildings in the beautiful Portland puzzle.
New Years Eve was even more quiet than Christmas, with no visits and no real celebrations except for the local fireworks and gunshots that in our somewhat rural neighborhood started up around 9 and kept going until long after midnight. I think I woke up for a minute or two at 12, and thought about the New Year to come. The calendar is such a man made thing, and the days just shift as they will do. Who knows if the energy of a year changes just because a man made number has changed, but this afternoon in the sunlight I can feel a bit of hope. Vaccines are coming…eventually.
Our travels for the coming year have already shifted in spite of the hope of 2021 being a bit more free than 2020 was. We had planned to travel south to California for our annual desert trip toward the end of January, but have put that plan on hold. I just can’t get really excited about traveling through California yet. I called Catalina Spa and learned that the pools are open but the spa and showers are closed as are most of the other amenities. With restaurants and movies and such being closed in Southern California, and COVID numbers off the charts, the trip just didn’t seem very smart. We will wait, and maybe travel south in March. If things in California haven’t improved by then, we may slide south through Nevada into wild places in the desert where we can boondock without worrying much about running into too many people.
Our other big travel plans included a May cruise to Scotland, cancelled last year but still on the books to depart from London on May 22. We will wait for Oceania to cancel this one before we make any big decisions about it, but something tells me our cruise to Scotland will not happen again this year. It takes a long time for cruise ships to get going again, if they ever do. I spoke with my doctor this week during a virtual checkup and was told that I shouldn’t expect to get a vaccination for weeks and possibly months in this part of Oregon. Each state has their own priorities, and for Oregon it is health care workers with folks over 75 a bit farther down on the list. I guess, just like 2020, 2021 is still a wait and see year.