Christmas Day is a bittersweet time for me. I’ve long loved the Christmas season and spirit, a trait I inherited from my mother who also savored the festive holiday. Christmas Day was particularly special for my mom despite being Jewish. She and Jesus shared a common birthday.

My mother would have turned 96 today. What’s worrisome is I didn’t know that. It’s a measure of the toll the isolation from the pandemic has taken on me that I’ve so lost track of time I confused a major holiday.

I celebrated Christmas yesterday!

That’s why I called my Christian friends Wednesday night to wish them a Merry Christmas and stocked up on food thinking the stores would be closed on Thursday. I thought it odd that Whole Foods wasn’t particularly busy the afternoon before the one holiday when the chain closes all its stores.

When I got home, I tuned in to New York’s Lite FM, as has been my Christmas Eve tradition for more than 20 years. The station has long played a great selection of carols commercial free beginning Christmas Eve and until midnight Christmas Day. I was disappointed the station had interrupted a longstanding practice and was continuing with its normal programming.  I tuned into a Christmas station on Pandora instead and listened for the following 24 hours.

Understandably, I grew concerned about my older sister’s wellbeing when she sent an email this morning noting that our mother would have turned 96 today. The email was dated today, making it unlikely it was delayed reaching me. I responded that our mother’s birthday was yesterday, but she was steadfast that our mother’s birthday was today. I checked the calendar and saw that my sister was correct.

I took great comfort quickly discovering that losing track of the days is a widespread hazard of the pandemic. Academic papers have been published on the subject, and the media has written extensively about the issue, particularly the Canadian press. Still, I find it alarming that I could be so removed from society that I confused my favorite holiday.

I’ll have to endure the isolation for quite a bit longer.  Los Angeles is among the hardest hit Covid areas in the country, so much so the county’s health department has advised doctors not to send fragile patients to the ER because hospitals are already at capacity. Christina Ghaly, director of L.A. County’s director of Department of Health Services, is on record as saying, “the worst is yet to come.” 

Typically, listening to Christmas carols for nearly 24 hours gives me my fill for another year. But it’s my Christmas tradition to listen to carols on the holiday so I’m going another round. Suffice to say, Christmas 2020 is one I’ll never forget, as I imagine is true for everyone who celebrates the holiday.

For those who do, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And to my mother, Happy Birthday!