As I was thinking of writing this, my mind turned to the recent election and how different this Christmas season will be to that of four years ago. Four years ago, I was determined to visit Washington DC before Trump entered the White House and Mattie, who had particularly wanted a cold Christmas that year, joined me. I remember with fondness our few days there, including our first glimpse of the capitol the first evening and the huge, lit Christmas tree before it; my sipping gluhwein whilst watching Mattie skating in the falling snow on the rink by the National Gallery, visiting the marvellous museums and seeing the helicopters taking off and landing in the grounds of the White House as we walked towards the Lincoln monument – I am forever glad that the White House was not occupied by the new president at the time.
This Christmas, of course, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its impact on all of our lives, often tragically, will be very much on our minds. I am sure that many of us have been thinking of the future in ways that we might not have done so before.
In the US, we may also look back on the year as the worst yet for climate change, with all the wild fires on the west coast and the spate of hurricanes along the Gulf. My thoughts often turn to the tiny towns of Cameron and Creole in Louisiana that Mike and I visited on our road trip last November: both were struck by the hurricanes this summer, they were in fact hit twice.
Cameron wouldn’t normally have been a place where we’d want to spend the night (the former fishing village having once been destroyed by a hurricane and with an oil installation right on the shore and the faint smell of petroleum as we drove up) but it was already dusk when we arrived, and looking at the map there didn’t appear to be any other prospect of accommodation for miles. I remember how we were greeted at the bright orange motel by three sweet little kittens and how the Indian motel owner’s father, a spry, trim man in his seventies, liked to chat and told us he practised yoga every day. I remember the spectacular sunset on the way to the ramshackle restaurant in nearby Creole as we drove along fields of cotton tinged with pink.
And now my thoughts turn to a place closer to home, Corpus Christi, Texas, and in particular to Mustang Island State Park with its pristine stretch of sand. I used to look out at the sea there and see only brown pelicans and other shore birds flying over but now due to an overturned regulation (one of many) of the Trump years the view is blotted by several offshore rigs.
Unfortunately we will also look back on 2020 as the year the Republican party attempted to overthrow the election – almost as incredible to me as the election of Trump in 2016.
But with our new president soon to take office we can only be more confident of a better future. And this Christmas I will still enjoy some of the simpler things that I did four years ago: I will read my favourite short story – Nabokov’s Christmas – from an anthology of short fiction that my mother sent me during our first Christmas in San Antonio, and I’ll listen to Renee Fleming’s Christmas in New York CD. There will of course by the Christmas tree to decorate with all the baubles that bring back so many memories. And on Christmas Eve there will be a walk in one of our lovely parks with our dog Leia in tow (and Mattie, who has been living with us again since the start of the pandemic, will no doubt enjoy dressing Leia in her new coat with little reindeer antlers if the cold weather we are currently experiencing keeps up). And we will eat Mexican tamales that evening and watch a Christmas movie on TV. And who knows, later we may look back on the coming new year of 2021 as one of the best ever.