My brother posted a photo of us with my dad this morning from Christmas eve in 2018. That was 3 years ago. It feels so much longer than that. The last time my family was complete was 14 years ago. Whenever the holidays roll around, I’ve always felt a push and pull of emotions, teetering between happy and sad and mostly in between. I find momentary joy in the merriment and my heart swells when I’m in the presence of my 8-year-old niece. There’s still so much to be happy about, so how can I ever stay sad all the time?
I’ve kept mostly to my bubble in the last two years, but have slowly started venturing out again. I’ve forgotten how good it feels to talk to someone in person. No one saying “you’re on mute” or worse, not talking, for fear of talking over someone else. Because interrupting each other face-to-face is so much better.
Last week, our team met for the first time in person. It felt like old times once our results had come back negative and we removed our masks. It was a struggle to follow conversations but not because of bad internet. There were so many happening at the same time, you couldn’t choose which one to listen to. It made me hopeful for a world where we’re exchanging ideas across the table from each other, possibly traveling together and experiencing new things again. Maybe, just maybe.
Earlier this week, I visited friends to give them gifts instead of booking a rider, the modern-day Santa, to ferry presents from one house to another. What was supposed to be a drop-off became an hour and a half-long catchup; another an impromptu coffee chikahan in the garden; and yet another a 30-minute chat by the gate. I loved all of it and instantly felt a surge of energy despite being so tired from going around the city and sitting in traffic. How good it feels to laugh with someone again.
It’s been two Christmases of just us 3, my two younger brothers and me, at the stroke of midnight. We have photos by the black tree to remind me that we used to be 4, 5, 6. We’ll always be 6 in my heart, always not being able to wait for midnight to eat Noche Buena and open presents. And that makes me feel like everything will be alright.
The less we have, the more I’m reminded what’s most valuable to me. That’s time spent with the people who feel like home, and I feel like that will never ever change.