We Need a Little Christmas

We set out for our pre-Christmas weekend a little earlier than usual, due to the fact that our power tongue jack lost power during our last outing and we knew hitching up would require some extra time to deploy the hand crank. We’re constantly amazed at the high demand for RV repairs and service. When we tried to get an appointment at one shop, we were told there was no availability until February. At another, it was March. Two-and-a-half months is a shorter wait time than the typical three, but still. Fortunately, we were referred to a mobile repair service and were able to schedule an appointment for Christmas Eve.

Soon after arriving at camp, we began decorating our tiny home for the holidays. We’ve collected a few treasured objects over the years, so we set them out along with our holly garland and classic ceramic tree. Every item enhanced our cozy environs with the warmth and nostalgia of the season.

It so happens that Date Night was also the 16th anniversary of our wedding, so Chef Cliff prepared a very special surf-and-turf menu that included beef tenderloin and lobster tail, baked potato and grilled asparagus. We ended the evening with a glass of port wine to toast our love, and a viewing of one of our favorite holiday movies, the 1971 made-for-TV classic, “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.” It’s the heartwarming story of a family struggling through the Great Depression while celebrating the simple things — and it seemed especially poignant during a pandemic.

On Saturday, we enjoyed a crackling campfire while observing the approaching conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Chef Cliff prepared grilled pork ribs, peppers and onions, ranch-style beans, and macaroni and cheese. Dropping temperatures forced us indoors, where we enjoyed another excellent performance at the Grand Ole Opry, this time featuring sets by Lauren Alaina, Kelsea Ballerini, and Lady A.

In addition to our Sunday routines, we found time for a long afternoon walk, beckoned by warm temperatures and sunny skies. Along the way, we made a new acquaintance, a gay realtor from Rockwall. Had these been different times, we might have invited him and his husband to join us at the campfire for cocktails, but we’re maintaining our bubble. Again, we observed Jupiter and Saturn drawing closer to conjunction. The Great Conjunction itself will occur on Monday night, and we will have a front-row seat! Chef Cliff crowned the night with grilled chicken, seared green beans, and wild rice.

Unfortunately, we got into a silly argument over washing the dishes.

As the pandemic has left us locked down for months, forcing us to live in the unremitting intensity of togetherness, we sometimes find ourselves at odds.

To be sure, there is a place for disagreement and argument in a healthy relationship. While marriages that are already faltering may be cracking under the strain, fighting in lockdown isn’t necessarily about deep structural problems. It can also be about unremitting, unceasing togetherness.

Our fight wasn’t about washing the dishes. It was about how we interact with each other, especially when we’re stressed. After all, the human brain is conditioned more for conflict than for love. In order to survive, our species developed more threat centers in the brain than anything else. It’s part of the human condition, and it’s part of the problem in all relationships. That’s what the isolation of the pandemic has produced: A feeling of being at war even when we’re not.

Additionally, fighting in close quarters intensifies its physiological aspect. Anger activates the cardiovascular system, so it raises our blood pressure and increases our heart rate. And the fear that the fight might lead to separation or abandonment — both psychological issues we’ve contended with since childhood — only makes matters worse. The bottom line: Fighting is not an effective way to communicate a position.

But it is the inevitable price we pay for intimacy.

After the crisis, we eventually found some quiet calm to safely discuss what had happened before finally drifting off to sleep, a little bruised but not broken. Like so many, we need a little Christmas.