The Day we put a Christmas Tree in the Bird Bath: A COVID Christmas

COVID Stats December 19, 2020: Tennessee-527,000 cases/6,316 deaths *

Walking around the wet, muddy grass on a dreary, chilly December day, my husband and I were hunting for ways to turn our back yard into a place that would illicit warm fuzzy feelings of holiday cheer.

We were not looking to create a holiday display to impress the neighbors or provide pleasure for passers-by but to have our family gather for Christmas outside in our backyard during a global pandemic.

In the weeks prior, there was much discussion about whether we should gather and if we did, how to ensure we would be safe from COVID-19. If we open doors and windows is that safe enough? If we stay on our screened-in back porch would that be ok? We have all become amateur contact tracers. Who has been where? Who has seen who? Who do we all know that has it? Have we been exposed? If we stayed outside, would the two babies in our family just crawl on the cold ground, I asked. My two sons and I had a conference call at one point. I said, I do not want to sit in the yard for Christmas. Mom, the important thing is we are together, they responded.

We finally did settle on everyone staying in the backyard. We will build a fire, we said. It will be fun, we told ourselves and each other.

My father called to say we should not do it. You can skip this one and have many Christmases in the future in the warm house with your family or you can do this and die from the virus, he said. I was struck once again by all the odd, “alternative universe-like” topics of conversation that COVID has brought with it.

That morning of the family gathering, my husband tried to pull our small trailer in the yard to stack all the presents on to keep them off the ground. He nearly got stuck in the mud and it left big ruts in our family gathering space.

It was then that I saw the ugly, tilting concrete bird bath that sits on the property line between our house and the neighbor. It is over 30 years old and neither we nor the neighbor knows who it belongs to so it continues to stay there. We could put our small tree in the bird bath with a tree skirt and small gifts around it, I said. It is at least something. We placed a small decorated tree in the tilting bird bath, leveled it and placed a tree skirt around. We put some small gifts under it. We wrapped a garland around “the sun” – an orange-yellow metal sun in our yard purchased at a flea market a few years back. I put our holiday table cloths on folding tables and placed festive centerpieces on top. We placed a large paint canvas cloth, only thing we could find that was big enough, under the tables so the chairs would not sink in the mud.

Our family arrived and we were happy to see one another and exchange elbow hugs. We built a fire and ate our Christmas lunch on our “good dishes” that we use on the major holidays. Our grandchildren read aloud the birth of Jesus and acted it out with our Melissa & Doug Nativity figures. The babies did fine. We opened presents around the fire and enjoyed dessert.

Not the Christmas I envisioned, but I am thankful for these unique memories, togetherness, and our good health.

If you were not able to see your family this holiday season, keep the faith that 2021 will be better. I wrote about this as a way to show small ways life has changed but there have been many very big ways as well this year. We have all been overcomers in ways we could never have imagined.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. – Desmond Tutu

I have hope for the new year and will welcome 2021 like no new year that has come before it.

Blessings! Donna

*COVID Stats-New York Times