Every year when I write our Christmas letter, I’m aware of how much it seems like bragging: Oh yes, here are our photos from Venice or Florence or the Amalfi Coast, and here are pictures of our brilliant and beautiful children, and Becky and I looking happy and prosperous. Isn’t our life wonderful and idyllic? This year, of course, there wasn’t any of that. Not only was there no trip to Italy, but there were virtually no trips anywhere to speak of, apart from a journey to Florida in March, just as the terrible reality of COVID-19 was starting to hit (here’s a link to a blog post I’ve been updating periodically since the pandemic began). To be honest, even writing the words “there was no trip to Italy” sounds ridiculous, like I’m a prince of some nameless country whose citizens are all dying of the plague, and I’m complaining that I can’t go stag hunting because of the quarantine. Any lingering sadness about not being able to see Italy in the spring was quickly overtaken by gratitude that we were all healthy. Memories of all the lovely churches in Italy were replaced with images of them filling up with coffins because people were dying faster than they could be buried.
The trips that we did make this year, to see friends and family, or to move Becky’s mom out of her condo after the death of her husband Ron, were fraught with anxiety: Should we go inside? Will everyone be wearing masks, or do some not want to do that, and if so then what do we do? How long do we stay? Can we eat outside, and if not, then what? Should we wash all the food with hand soap, and all the door handles, and the boxes and bags everything came in? This year was like trying to navigate a ship through iceberg-infested waters, except all the icebergs were invisible and the throttle was stuck wide open, and everyone was blindfolded. Every day, there was a terrible new milestone: A record number of cases, a record number of deaths, a record shortage of ICU beds. Amid all this, we have been very lucky: we moved out of Toronto last year, and are sharing a large house (really two houses put together) just north of Peterborough. We have about a hundred acres of fields and forest to wander around in, and friends next door to have dinners with. We can go months without going anywhere, other than the odd trip to the grocery store (and the liquor store, of course).
I’ve been reading a series of newsletter entries over the past few months called “The Last Normal Day,” and it got me thinking about our last normal day, sometime in early March. Becky and I went to Florida with her brother Dave and his wife Jennifer, where we had rented a condo complex near Siesta Key. When we flew down, there were warnings about washing your hands so as not to get this new flu, etc., but it seemed like mostly a nuisance. With each passing day, however, it got more real, and more frightening. One day we were kayaking through the mangroves, and the next we were frantically trying to book new return flights for Becky’s mom and stepfather because Canada was closing the border. Our last meal there, we joked half-heartedly about taking a photo with empty tables beside us, so our daughter Caitlin and her husband Wade (both of whom are nurses), wouldn’t be mad at us for breaching COVID rules. And then not long after we came back, Meaghan had to take our cat Shadow to the vet, and we all got on a video call as she passed away in Meaghan’s arms (little did we know that most of 2020 would be spent on video calls).Continue reading “The Ingram Christmas letter, in which we say goodbye and good riddance to 2020”