December 8, 2020, by Charli

This year, I will have two Christmases.

It’s been a hard year.

We’re at the point where we barely need to say it anymore. We all know this year has been hard on us, on everyone. But something I don’t think has been talked about enough is how it feels to miss huge family changes because you’ve not been able to travel home until Christmas.

Who knew, when we celebrated the beginning of a new decade twelve months ago, that this virus would hit us this hard? Certainly not me.

But something else I didn’t know would happen? That this year, I will have two Christmases.

Sounds great, right?

Last year, our family and a bunch of extended relatives squeezed into one household to celebrate the festive season together. Nine people, two dogs, and one baby.

This year, I’ll be celebrating the holidays with one parent at a time, in two separate houses. My sister and I will spend the holiday travelling back and forth between them both. At my dad’s, I’ll be painting and decorating an unfamiliar room, in an unfamiliar house, in an unfamiliar city, that has suddenly become ‘mine’. And at my mum’s, we’ll be unpacking both Christmas decorations and everyday belongings alike from the moving van, which has been booked to move our entire lives into a new house on Christmas Eve.

I’m only really coming to terms with this in the last few weeks of 2020.

Why? Because I’ve been at university.

I’ve stayed here during every holiday period. I’ve weathered two lockdowns here. I spent my August bank holiday birthday away from family for the first time in twenty-one years.

I’ve been in the house I grew up in for a total of maybe two full weeks since the start of the year, always socially distant, always careful. I don’t think I’ve hugged my mum since January.

I’ve missed everything.

I’ve missed a year’s worth of arguments, of silences, of decisions, of plans. I knew what was happening, of course, but when you don’t see it, don’t experience it, don’t live it day to day, it’s like it’s not real. And I’ve missed other things too. I couldn’t go to my granddad’s funeral, and when I watched the online livestream, the audio didn’t work. I couldn’t hug my mum when she needed it most. Instead, I watched a silent, grainy video of the back of her head while my sister held her hand.

I’ve not properly gone home for a year. And now everything is different.

I’ll leave university on the 16th of December and come back to a house emptied of everything that once made it my home. There won’t even be a Christmas tree, because it’ll be in a box, ready for that moving van.

I’m lucky in many ways. I love my parents, and they love me, and this new era, whilst raw and sensitive now, will one day make us thankful. Both my parents will keep a room for me, will forever greet me with a hug, will be on the other end of the phone for me if ever I need it.

But for the entirety of 2020, I’ve been so far away from the earthquake going on in a bungalow in East Anglia, that I may as well have been on the other side of the world.

But I know I’m not the only one.

And if you’re out there, wondering how you could have blinked and missed such enormous changes; wondering why it feels like you don’t understand even though you do; wondering how it’s possible for the pandemic to have had such an impact on something that shouldn’t have anything to do with it? You’re not alone.

And I’ll tell you what I keep telling myself. It will get better. You’ll be with your family again. It hurts now. It feels surreal now. But it won’t do forever.

Changes are inevitable, but they don’t have to be insurmountable.

Posted in Charli