December 24, 2021

Datline – Seattle, Washington

Well, as I am in travel diary mode again and as I am not writing from the UK, it’s pretty obvious that plans have changed. The tour group cancelled the London trip on Wednesday morning, to absolutely no one’s surprise given the omicron numbers coming out of the UK and the Johnson government’s decision to finally begin taking some public health measures before the National Health Service collapsed under the weight. Omicron may be less virulent then delta and vaccines may be well distributed, but the ferocious speed with which it moves through a population means that the absolute number in need of aggressive care at any one time is easily more than most modern health systems can handle. The trip is actually technically ‘postponed’ until later in the new year when hopefully omicron will be less of an issue. We’re looking at late Feburary/early March but a lot will depend on the unknowable machinations of Covid-19 and its intersection with human foibles.

With the UK off the table, I bought a last minute ticket to Seattle for Christmas weekend as a surprise for my family. I know two airplanes and three airports isn’t the wisest of ideas in these days of omicron omnipresence but I’m good in my distancing and hygiene and masking and so fingers and toes crossed. Given all of the headlines regarding canceled flights and travel mayhem due to large numbers of flight crew being laid low and in quarantine, my trip was remarkably smooth and without incident. I spent this evening with my father. The family gathers tomorrow. We’ve all been vaccinated and boosted but I’m still going to keep a measured distance at dinner and mask up when not eating. There was a promise of snow for Christmas here in Seattle, but it has not materialized. All we’ve been subject to is a dreary cold drizzle which is much more a Seattle Christmas than snow. I’m returning to Birmingham on Monday and still have the week off that was supposed to be spent in the UK. I’ll do something with it and have a few ideas. What ends up happening will depend on omicron, weather, and a few other things.

Christmas is a somewhat melancholy time for me these days. It didn’t used to be. Steve and I had our Christmas traditions including choosing just the right tree, decorating it with the ornaments his mother had made in the 50s and 60s, a movie and dinner out on Christmas day. In later years, after my training was over and I had more control over my schedule, we would usually zoom up I-5 from Sacramento to Seattle to spend time with the family. Tommy and I had a different set of traditions built around the Birmingham performing arts community – one or both of us singing the Messiah for the Alabama Symphony, putting together the children’s holiday pageant for church, his getting dozens of wigs ready for Red Mountain Theater’s holiday spectacular, and getting the house and food ready for out traditional open house the Sunday after Christmas. By the time New Year’s came around, we were usually both exhausted.

I haven’t had a normal Christmas since Tommy died. That first year, I couldn’t face the season at all and ran about as far away as I could, spending the holidays in Thailand. I figured physical and cultural distance would help tide me through. I was right. The next year, I was in Birmingham, but I did very little and couldn’t even be bothered to put up a tree. Last year was Covid Christmas and pretty much everything was cancelled. I had lots of time on my hands so I actually did a bunch of holiday things including putting all six of my Christmas trees up and baking and having a little too much spiked cider. Of course, there wasn’t much of anyone around to share it with. This year, I did a holiday show with the Reindeer Monologues but haven’t done much else. I didn’t put up any trees as I wasn’t planning on being around most of the holiday week. There’s always next year. Maybe I’ll take some time off just to do the twelve days of Christmas and figure out a new way to have a holiday open house in a new home and without Tommy in the kitchen for days using every pot in the house and then some.

I’ve noted that something has shifted in me over the last two years. I don’t know if it’s age (I will be sixty in a few months…. how the hell did that happen?), residual grief, or a certain amount of change caused by unrelenting pandemic related stress. This past fall, as delta waned and before omicron reared up, I returned to my usual pre-pandemic pace: 50+ hour work week, a show in rehearsal and performance and another one teed up, a number of professional projects of varying kinds, some writing projects. In 2017, I could have knocked it all out of the park with both hands tied behind my back. In 2021, I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water at times and I am going to have to be more judicious in how I schedule my three careers so as not to overload myself. I’m just feeling physically and spiritually tired in ways that I am not used to. Perhaps it’s been the lack of things that renew my juices due to all of the Covid cancellations of the last few years.

It would be nice if I could say that it was a quiet and still Christmas Eve with a blanket of new fallen snow and a time to reflect on how the entire celebration – this weird amalgam of Jul, Christianity, and Solstice – is a metaphor for hope, something we all could use more of these days. But, alas, outside of my window is continued drizzle with the distant hum of traffic on Interstate 5. But even so, a joyous Christmas Eve to all of you. Hold your loved ones tight and continue to hope. It’s the one thing we always have, even in the darkest times. Just call me Pandora…

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