Trans-Continental Christmas

If I pay extra, will USPS deliver a hug?

What does it cost to deliver this much love from coast to coast? You don’t want to know.

On our daughter’s second Christmas morning, she opened a toy house handmade by her grandmother. Constructed of stiff cardboard covered with fabric, it was lovingly decorated with tiny furniture and a photo of our little girl on the wall.

Her next gift, from us, was a Fisher Price farm. Barn doors opened to reveal a plastic sheep, cow and chicken. The tiny farmer and his wife were perfect for the house Grammy had made.

Our toddler turned her sweet face from one treasure to the other, eyes wide with wonder, and finally announced, “I have a house and a farm. I have everything.”

That was some 30 Christmases ago. Traditions have been born and matured. Each child gets a new ornament, something to symbolize the year’s events. There’s a tiny drum set, miniature ballet slippers, a blown glass Mario, karate belt, pewter dragon, two skylines — Atlanta and Seattle — and dozens more meaningful trinkets.

Everyone gets new pajamas for Christmas Eve. Wouldn’t want to greet Santa in last year’s pjs, now would we?

I suspected late last summer that the flight from Seattle to Atlanta might get a thumbs-down from the youngsters. Nothing was said because neither child wanted to disappoint mother. So, in late October, I asked.

They gave the answer one would expect from two bright and careful children. A text from our 29-year-old son said it all: “I’d feel awful for the rest of my life if my coming back for the holidays led to one or both of you contracting Covid.”

So there it was. Obviously, I can mail this year’s ornaments and pajamas to the west coast, but what about the rest of our traditions?

For the past several Christmas Eves, we have each made an appetizer and enjoyed four delicious creations for dinner. This year it will be a fancy drink and Zoom happy hour, sure to be made fun by our almost-son-in-law, who loves to create in the kitchen. But it won’t be the same.

We’re a big game-playing family and Hearts has always been a favorite. In December, it is “awards season”, with trophies and speeches and very silly fanfare. Instead, we’ll play online and bestow the honors remotely. We’ll have fun but, of course, it won’t be the same.

Then there is Moe the penguin. He was originally a package decoration I tried to throw away. The kids rescued Moe and we went on from there, with me pretending to victimize this character and them exalting him.

Moe has a tiny cage and coffin as well as a star and top hat. Our little friend is missing a foot and most of his feathers. He could be tortured and revered online, of course, but maybe Moe gets a well-earned break this year because — you guessed it — it just isn’t the same.

I usually buy each child a board game but, hearing about the popularity of jigsaw puzzles this year, decided to go with that. Besides, it’s too sad to have a new game and nobody to play with. I even got them a puzzle mat, a nifty little gadget that allows you to roll up your project when the only table in your 700-square-foot place needs to be used for cooking, eating and remote work.

Stockings? I bought a couple cheapies, filled them with little toys and necessities (we’re big believers in zinc for colds and who doesn’t need a nose flute?) I sewed the top closed and shipped those off as well.

But what will we do without kids home at Christmas for the first time in 30 years? I’ve bought us a couple new two-player games. We’ll take long hikes and continue to work on our ping pong game. Maybe we will learn to play something together on the piano.

Holiday plans for two are in the works and no, it won’t be at all the same. Still, looking at the current state of affairs, I can’t help being reminded of that Christmas morning so long ago.

I have my family and my health. I have everything.

Love to you and yours this holiday season. Stay well and, if you’re bored, check out some of my other stories on – I can be found under Cindy Shore Smith : )