As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
LIKE every Mammy in the country I’ve been dying to see my kids over Christmas. They are far from kids actually, they are three grown men, but strangely enough it doesn’t make a whit of difference… I still want to see them.
So I’ve devised a cunning plan and have spent the last few weeks trying to implement it. I will host Christmas alright, but everything will be outdoors.
Now I’m very keen on the advice from NPHET about how to stay safe. There’s no need to rehash it here, but I’ve taken it all on board for many reasons. My sons are the very same and they wouldn’t dream of setting foot inside the house. We haven’t even hugged since the first lockdown, which is torture for this huggy Mammy.
So I have a Plan A, the weather will be bright and sunny and so we will have a BBQ in the garden. Plan B the weather will be terrible so we will have a BBQ under a tarpaulin stretched out between the porch and a tree.
Plan C is that the weather is so bad that it has to be cancelled until another day. OK. I accept even that. Sure there are 365 other days to choose from. Let there be no panic.
‘So in spite of an awful 2020, or maybe because of it, I was determined to have both a celebration and a fire’
We have had our fair share of wintery times in 2020. Our family lost two people both in the most traumatic of circumstances. First my Step Mum to Coronavirus in March and recently my beautiful 17-year-old cousin died in tragic circumstances. It’s been dark.
But one thing I know about winter, is that while it is the darkest time of the year it is also the time to hope for a brighter future. It’s something our ancestors understood very well. It was they who invented the winter feast after all. A time to down tools, roast a beast and spend time around a fire.
Darkest, deepest winter was always a time for renewal and immersing ourselves in the cycles of nature. This year I didn’t have to call to mind the big questions about life and death. It seemed these questions accompanied me all through 2020.
Darkness is not just being without light or hope. It has its own qualities. Is there anything quite as magical as a starry sky on cold winter’s night? Or a cosy evening at home with a candle and a hot drink? How about seeking out a cool cave on a hot sunny day?
Darkness can envelop us in a special safety and womb like comfort like nothing else. But here, in the darkest days of the year, there is grief. I can’t deny it although I want to. It’s a very sad Christmas for many of us this year.
Am I the only one shedding a tear at Christmas ads where people are kind and families are together? Or are you finding yourself standing still when certain music wafts up from the radio and memories come flooding back? So in spite of an awful 2020, or maybe because of it, I was determined to have both a celebration and a fire.
At the winter solstice I paused at what TS Elliott called “the still point of the year.” It was a grey, damp day. In Tramore the tide was full and waves spread their sparkly drops of sea water all over the shiny wet Prom.
After this darkest time, the light will return. Not a moment too soon, says you! By the end of January we will see the sunsets pull back into the west, and the sun will rise that little bit sooner in the morning. We will have at least six vaccines to choose from to immunise the whole community. Hopefully by next summer we will have some kind of normality. Because that’s all any of us are really hoping for now. The normality we once took for granted.
So my outdoor Christmas and New Year celebrations will consist of bar-b-ques, flickering fires, grilled food on a skewer, hot mulled wine and blankets around our knees if necessary. Turns out we are all really looking forward to it now. We even ordered ski suits for all the family so that we can be outside no matter how cold it gets!
I admire how we in Ireland have handled the pandemic. As Angela Merkel said it’s a once in a century event. A century ago, my Grand Uncle died in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. He didn’t die from his WW1 injuries. Instead just after the Armistice, like so many others, it was the Flu pandemic that killed him.
Look to the sky. There will be light after all this darkness. It’s called 2021!