Vexations and Conundrums

By Katina Pontikes

A Plague Celebration

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The holidays are upon us! All my friends, both the cautious and the cavalier, have accepted that COVID-9 will be with us into the new year. We are lonelier than ever, and long for the closeness we used to take for granted. We miss hugs. We want to sit close to each other. That is verboten.

Thus, the challenge. How are we, older and with underlying health conditions, to enjoy the warmth and joy of the season? Revelry formerly meant getting large groups together to eat too much, drink gaily, and toast endlessly. I have pondered this and decided that the next few months will have to include companions, but in creative and careful ways.

My husband and I are currently residing in a condominium. We have two options for guest visits. 

Option One is to have company come to our unit, where visits are in close quarters and we are breathing the same air. This option would be for persons who basically live in quarantine. For example, one couple we know work from home, doing almost all work on Zoom meetings and computers. If they do have to meet anyone, they exercise extreme safety precautions, such as distancing and masking. This couple follows all guidelines and so we have labeled them as a “safe pod.” Woohoo!  They can come for dinner, which means we still treat them as if they are asymptomatic carriers, but at least they may come inside.

Then there are the cavalier crew. For example, my son and his girlfriend. He once asked me, “So do I have to wait for a vaccine to see you again?” He was perplexed that my husband and I will not go out to eat. “I eat out five times a week, in restaurants!” he bragged. Well, that put a label on him: Corona Hot.

This brings us to Option Two. Our building allows us to have outside guests in an open-air side courtyard. There is a fire pit and soft music. Plenty of spacing is available and we can move chairs around to accommodate the needed precautions of spacing. This area must be reserved, much like a table in a restaurant, to limit how many people are in proximity to each other. Most of our social acquaintances and family are not as careful as we are, so the courtyard is the preferred location for camaraderie.

We have had several pre-holiday practices for outside visits. Mask until seated. Pack a picnic basket with plastic wine glasses (building rule of no glassware), small popcorn bags filled with individual servings, sanitary wipes, and paper napkins. I ordered paper napkins with the slogan “Isolation Insanity” printed on them, hoping this encourages my guests to let their hair down and make good use of the limited time we have to party. They are free to go crazy.

My son and his girlfriend came for the first trial “party at the pit.” She brought flowers, which we placed on a side table. The space looked downright homey. I was so excited! We had placed large beach towels on their chairs to indicate where they were to sit, demonstrating distance. Things were fun, but we noticed we had to yell over background street noise. They moved their chairs in a bit closer, and my inner alarm went off.

I made a mental note that happy hours would need to be moved a tad later so that business travelers honking and engine noise did not eclipse the story I was telling. I knew the evening was a success, even with the outside noises, because I received a text from the girlfriend saying, “…we need more, more!!! Xoxo.”

There won’t be travel for Christmas with family this year. But I think that with the right outdoor table decorations and holiday music playing, we will show this plague that people will party, no matter how toughly nature conspires against us. Happy Holidays!


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