I feel like every time I sit down to write one of these, my head ends up going to the same place - though I suppose I’m always in that same pseudo-dark place these days. November saw the worst impact of the virus yet in Iowa, and although our numbers seem to have improved over the past week, COVID is still surging around the country and we are entering what experts say could be the worst public health months we’ve experienced in generations.
With seemingly everything canceled this year, there can be a tremendous feeling of loss. Concerts and honor bands are canceled. Even schools have moved online. But in spite of all that, December is still a special time for our students and our programs, rich with traditions. Whether it’s the holiday music or special decorations, our traditions connect us to our past and to our future. Whether it’s exchanging gifts of baking cookies, our traditions connect us to our friends and family, to our students and colleagues. And whether it’s ugly Christmas sweaters or silly Santa hats, our traditions connect us to ourselves, to the child we once were and aspire to still be. Yes, many of our traditions are being put on hold this year, but that doesn’t mean that they are gone forever. Nor does it mean that their memory cannot provide a respite in the middle of a very hard time.
For my wife, Phaedra, and I, going to Midwest has become a wonderful tradition. We were married fourteen years ago on December 22, and despite warnings from Tony and others that a December 22nd anniversary would spell the end of my Midwest days, it has become a part of our Anniversary celebration. For the past several years, I have caught a midweek ride out to Chicago in time for the conference. Then on Friday, Phaedra would drive out so we could wander the Christkindlmarket with Jen and Jayson, or have dinner at the Berghoff with Brad and Andy (and search for the elusive pickle!) before spending the weekend in Chicago. It’s a great anniversary tradition! And though I will miss everything about that week terribly this year, the memories I have from years past can’t help but make me smile.
So whatever your traditions are for this time of year, hold tight to them, for they are the things that can make a difficult year not seem quite so hard and make a dark time seem just a little bit brighter. Have a great holiday season, a happy new year, and for the love of everything holy, let 2021 be better than 2020!