It’s Christmas Eve, and I can count the number of stores I have physically entered on one hand since March.
Working through feelings of isolation, the lack of any real Christmas plans, and not having seen many human faces in real life for awhile, I have taken on a new way to cope. I have become obsessed with Facebook Marketplace to decorate our new home. The perfect way to shop: outside, supporting the community, meeting your neighbors, picking up their trash. A win-win.
A couple weeks back, my husband and I walked in the rain for 28 minutes each way to pick up two small lidded trash cans for 4 euros total from a student-looking girl named Marlou. Our masks and clothing soaked, glasses full of water and steam when we arrived, I was so excited to see her. I wanted to be Marlou’s best friend. This happens often now, when I interact with strangers: the mailman, the lady with a dog, a neighbor who gives me a courteous wave. I am so desperate for human interaction that I thank them endlessly, wanting to profess my love and invite them into my life forever.
This past weekend, we picked up a new lamp from a man who was clearing out his garage. We stood outside, the lamp between us on a trash can, exchanging pleasantries while I tried to pay on my phone. Except mine were not pleasantries. They were calls for human connectedness, in celebration of being able to buy an appliance from another human being when all stores are closed and all human contact is discouraged.
I can not stop with these endeavors. Every day I look online for new things we could get.
“Do we need an ugly end table?”
“But it’s free…”
Luckily, my husband is still a good sport about these adventures I secretly sign us up for. It doesn’t help that in The Netherlands, during this time of year, it is always raining and mostly cold when we walk towards our free bedroom mirror 30 minutes away.
When I was young, we used to vacation in Maine in February (cost savings!) and my mom loved taking my sister and me on walks along the coast. What grew into a yearly tradition also inspired my dad to give them a title: Blizzard Walks. When I first met my husband’s parents, during our first Christmas together in The Netherlands, his parents took us to the beach. It was a blizzard walk I’d never experienced. The sand whipped into my face so hard and so strong that it stung. Mark and I gripped onto one another over four layers of clothing, trying to stay upright as we walked towards the water. That’s when I realized we were a match. I had found another family who willingly went on these types of trips for fun. The whole time we were walking for those trash cans a couple weeks back, sopping wet in the pouring rain, my husband and I kept shaking our heads, “another blizzard walk.”
It feels actually appropriate that in the last two months, this has become our new hobby. This year, my grandma’s Christmas gifts didn’t make it here, mysteriously returned to sender. This year, I managed some cards, but no gifts for my family and friends. This year, I expect no gifts in return. It is empty under our tree; we have no Christmas plans. But, this year, strange unexpected connections were made. I took up new hobbies. I started this blog. And I remind myself still that there are more walks to be had, more plans to be made, another year to try it all again. And in the meantime, I have given myself many gifts, from people all over this fine land, after a good and hearty walk in the blizzard.