Treena Mielke

Treena Mielke

Family: Another Christmas during pandemic

With October passing us by in a tangle of the faded colours of burnt orange and old copper, it seems we have already unwittingly stepped across the threshold of another season.

Christmas! It’s just weird.

My sister came to visit me the other day.

As always, when she arrives, she likes to prowl around my house, just checking things out like she’s never been here before.

Finally, she finds the history books, Hoofprints to Highways, that I have placed on an old table, the one that was given to my parents as a wedding gift. I’m not sure how I was fortunate enough to have that particular table in my possession, but I do. I am also the proud owner of a rocking chair that belonged to my grandparents which, coincidentally, sits beside the table and the history books.

I smile as I observe her reading the history books.

This is us. Our history.

So, I bring her a cup of coffee and settle in beside her and we regale ourselves with stories of the past. Memories. Remember when our brother called your dog fat, and you were so mad? Remember when our other brother told you to meet him at The Park. He meant The Park Hotel and you thought he meant the park as in the city park. The two of you never did get together that day.

And so, we reminisce about our dear brothers who have long ago left this world and then we move on.

Raising her head from the history books and the cobwebs of the past, my sister notices my placemats. In keeping with the season, I had picked up placemats from the dollar store that shout about pumpkins and fall and are lavishly coloured with lots of tangerine, gold, and crimson.

“These are so beautiful,” she murmured.

“I laughed.”

“I just got these at the dollar store,” I said, more than a little smug about my purchase which was, at least in my sister’s eyes, quite amazing. “I will take you there and you can get some for yourself.”

And so, it came to be that my sister and I set out on a great adventure to the dollar store, driving past a restless blue lake, relentlessly splashing angry waves against an unforgiving shoreline.

“Winter’s coming,” I mumble, grateful for my wonderful new (new to me) 2015 Hyundai Sonata with its heated seats that warms not only my derriere, but the very cockles of my heart.

When we arrive at the dollar store it was like we had walked into another season.

Christmas.

“Oh, my goodness. Already,” I mutter to no one in particular.

It is true. Even as the little ghosts and goblins of Halloween 2021 pack up their scary costumes and unwrap the very last of their candy treasures, Christmas is lurking in the shadows ready to come forward in a dazzle of red and green splendor.

In fact, my husband and I even saw some guy putting up his Christmas lights last week.

“Look at that,” my husband said. “The show-off. Who puts up their lights when it’s not forty below and blizzarding outside?”

“Smart people,” I replied wryly.

And so, it seems we are, once again, looking at another Christmas in the middle of a pandemic.

As I ponder the coming season, optimistic and pessimistic thoughts tumble about in my mind, clashing and colliding like clothes in a dryer.

I remember last year. “We will get together,” I told myself.

We didn’t.

“My kids and their kids will all be here to collect their presents and there will be peace and good will and lots of hugging,” I said naively.

My kids weren’t here.

It seems the numbers of people who have tested positive for COVID are going down, but slowly.

And I’m grateful.

And hopeful, as always.

But still reality does dictate it is wise to keep one’s expectations low, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

And just keep smiling!

It wouldn’t hurt to think about putting up your Christmas lights, either, but not yet, for goodness sake.

It’s barely November.

Treena Mielke is a Central Alberta writer. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.