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Jerome Christenson: The joy of negativity

Jerome Christenson: The joy of negativity

From the COLLECTION: Recent Jerome Christenson columns in the Daily News series
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The test came back negative. I could roast my turkey.

Jerome Christenson

Jerome Christenson

The Spirit of 2020 has a way of seeping into things. For years we’ve been warned against ptomaine at careless family gatherings, but this year it was the holiday gathering itself that the threatened life and health of the thoughtless. Like so many, my family retrenched, downsized, recalibrated.

The size of the guest list shrunk faster than the size of the bird until a call from a concerned friend put the whole holiday on hold and left me standing in a line in the mall parking lot, waiting my turn to spit in a tube in order to discern my fate.

From the looks of the turnout, it was a popular pre-holiday activity — sort of a Grim Wednesday, a nervous prelude to what, for some, would be a truly black Friday. So we shuffled, masked and socially distanced, into an echoing, vacant retail space to participate in the mass expectoration that would winnow the infected from the merely unnerved. We deposited our barcoded mini-spittoons at the exit; went home to wait in isolation for the emailed diagnosis.

The response was quick enough. By dinnertime on Thanksgiving, I had one more thing to be thankful for. My Thanksgiving hamburger was improved immensely.

But still, there was the not so small matter of a turkey thawing on the bottom shelf of my fridge.

Fortunately, we are members of species that seeks to eat every day, and as appetites were anticipated to be as keen Sunday as on the fourth Thursday, the bird was kept cold and the meal rescheduled. Thanks, we agreed, were appropriately given at any time.

So we gathered. Not the traditional houseful of family, but just three of us, long since accepting that if the virus were to strike, like the Musketeers, it would be “all for one, one for all.” The spread, of course, was bountiful — if the bird were equally divided we faced down a daunting five pounds of turkey apiece, flanked by potatoes, stuffing and the obligatory green beans and mushroom soup. We were just working our way through the pumpkin pie and whipped cream when a “ka-ding” from my phone announced the receipt of a text message and photo.

When you’re 3, the whole world is new … and wonderful. Her eyes glittered with excitement and anticipation at the first lit candle in the first Advent wreath she is likely to remember years and decades to come. Captured and shared in a photo, the joy of an old tradition passed to a new generation.

There was no wreath nor candle on our table — just an abundance of leftovers and the detritus of a meal well enjoyed. Still, the confluence of holidays in my kitchen couldn’t have been more appropriate — especially this year.

Advent is our season of anticipation. It’s the image of my 3-year-old granddaughter eagerly looking forward to all the good things she knows are coming, even if she has no idea of what those good things might be. Every year it comes when we need it the most — coming on the bleakest, darkest days on the calendar, yet carrying our brightest promise, our brightest hopes.

And here, on the cusp of a new year, we may be thankful — if not for blessings received in a year that, for many, brought very little to be thankful for — then for the promise and prospects of better days to come.

At last, we have reasons to be hopeful, and to be reasonably confident that those hopes may be fulfilled, and these dark days will, in time, be behind us and that there is indeed a happier new year soon to be coming.

And you don’t have to be 3 to believe that.

Christenson, former reporter and editor of the Winona Daily News, grew up in Caledonia, Minn.

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