Michelle Martin


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

I had hoped this column would be about a whirlwind trip to New York, about the pleasures of one-on-one time with one of my kids, about how it’s fun to see new places and have new experiences, but people are the same pretty much everywhere.

That, obviously, didn’t happen.

Instead of going to New York to see “Hamilton” on Broadway, a trip Teresa has been looking forward to since she was maybe 8 years old, I spent the week sequestered in the upstairs of our house with COVID-19. Even that wasn’t a novel experience; it’s how I spent Easter weekend in the spring.

Tony spent a day or so sequestered up here before me after his positive COVID-19 test; he moved back downstairs and masked to take care of Teresa after a doctor assured him that given his history of symptoms, he’d had the virus for over a week and was most likely no longer contagious.

He was upstairs when Teresa and I took our home tests, she to make sure it was safe to return to school the next day, me to reassure myself that the sore throat and fatigue that had been weighing on me more and more heavily as the day progressed was only the pressure of having to take care of her, and cook and clean and work, and walk the dog and prepare for the trip, which we could still go on as long as we tested negative and Tony was continuing to feel better …

When the positive line on my test popped up within seconds, I knew all that had changed. It was like the split second before impact in car crash, when you know it’s coming, know you can’t stop it, but for that one suspended moment, it hasn’t happened yet.

I knew that telling her was going to dash her hopes, expected the moment of fear and confusion when she sobbed and told me to get upstairs, so as not to get her sick.

That’s the way it happens when our hopes are disappointed. We’re angry that what we wanted — what we believed would happen — has not come to pass, and fearful of what might still be coming. We want to scream and cry and stomp our feet, like spoiled children who do not get the toy they dreamed of for Christmas.

Of course, we can’t do that. Or at least, we can’t do that for long. It doesn’t do any good. What we have to do is look around, take stock of where we are and what resources we have, and take the next step on our journey.

We’ve always taught our children that we give and receive gifts at Christmas to remember that Jesus is the greatest gift, and Jesus was given to us. To make the point, we always make sure baby Jesus arrives in the manger in our creche between Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning. I think it’s a pretty common tradition among Catholic families. But how many kids rush into the living room and head right for the candy in the stockings and the gifts under the tree before even looking for the baby?

I know one year, when I was a child, we didn’t notice baby Jesus was missing for hours. We did notice, eventually, and were reminded that maybe we had missed the point, and missed the hope that Christmas is supposed to bring.

This year, I hope Teresa — the only person in the house who has not so far tested positive for COVID-19 — and I will make our trip, and it doesn’t look like “Hamilton” is closing any time soon, and we undoubtedly will find unexpected blessings along the way.


  • family life