Being a non-traditionalist has its perks during a pandemic

From texting to Facetime, holidays look a bit different this year (for the traditionalist).
From texting to Facetime, holidays look a bit different this year (for the traditionalist).

COVID is the perfect cover for people like me: no kids, small family (getting smaller) and an inner circle stretched across time zones. An iconoclast, I usually give gifts when I feel like it, not when the calendar decrees. And I'm happy to putter at home. Alone. (Thankful I'm not stuck in any number of past relationships.)

But to travel or get together in large groups? Not likely; not this year, although I wasn't always this way.

Coast-to-coast on the redeye into snowstorms that shut down the Eastern Seaboard in December, midnight Mass and Polish pierogi for dinner, or my aunt and uncle's basement for her lasagna and meatballs regardless of the date: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Been there, done that.

Roasted chestnuts at Rockefeller Center and Times Square when the ball drops, but also sledding on the farm and off-the-grid holidays at a friend's lake cabin. Festive parties from high heels and black velvet to dive bars and whatever I wore to work that day. Gift exchanges. Friendsgiving potlucks. Volunteering to serve food. Did all that.

For many years, I made everything: gift cards, ornaments, house decorations, huge meals for other people's families. I stayed busy avoiding the discomfort that holidays increasingly engendered, all those forced intimacies and focus on material abundance — a rebuke to my cactus-like persona.

All told, I've rarely done holidays the same year-to-year, the consumption of turkey dinner notwithstanding. My tradition, if you can call it that, is to be untraditional.

This year, I'll call/text/email/Facetime/Skype/Zoom loved ones, using the cover of COVID to bypass banal topics for substantive things that need to be said "just in case." I'll give gifts from local artists and businesses, a win-win that appeals to my pragmatic side. And I'll spend time in the studio, my gift to myself.

This year, however, I won't have to hedge when someone asks my plans. I don't have to go anywhere, couldn't if I wanted to, and can't (won't) feel bad about it. Besides, I'm not alone this year; I'm in good company with much of humanity hunkering down, hoping for better tidings next year, and looking to improve things in our respective arenas.

United by hope, facing fears head on, spreading kindness (not COVID) in whatever small way we can. Sounds like a good tradition to me. ♦

Warren Miller's Winter Starts Now @ Bing Crosby Theater

Sat., Oct. 30, 4 & 7 p.m.
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