Tis the season to be normalish

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Christmas is on the horizon. Such a wonderful time of year! The holiday season brings joy for many reasons, but first and foremost is that it involves a certain sense of indulgence that would simply not be practical year round. For the span of a few joyous weeks, we eat grandiose meals, see family we may not have seen in a while, buy gifts for others and receive gifts ourselves, and 60% of our calories come from chocolate (don’t quote me on the stats!). For those lucky enough to have at least some time off from the daily grind during the holiday season, Christmas is a much-needed vacation from work and stress, and reminds us of what makes life so wonderful. Even for those who don’t get any real time off, Christmas is still a time filled with a certain magic that comes from knowing that the whole world is celebrating life, family, and generosity at the same time. 

After two “pandemic Christmases”, I can’t help but wonder if this year, we are all looking forward to having the ability to be “normalish”. For those wondering, no, normalish is not a word, but I think my intended meaning is clear. To say “normal” would not be fair to those who have valid COVID-19 concerns stemming from chronic illnesses and the like, and “normal” does not adequately represent the current state of things. Who can honestly say they wore a mask during Christmas shopping in 2019? Well, some people are still wearing them during shopping excursions in 2022, and these lingering effects of pandemic life are not likely to go away for many years. To say “a normal Christmas” is therefore not as accurate as labelling it “normalish”.

Important to note is that a person wearing a mask does not harm you, whether you choose to mask or not. I don’t mask, and neither do my wife or kids. Through anecdotal observation, I would say that about 75% of people don’t bother masking in stores anymore. The idea of wearing a mask to protect others is therefore dead and gone – with so many unmasked, one more won’t make a difference. People mask now to protect themselves, and that’s fair. For my family, it’s a cost benefit analysis. The cost of wearing a hot, itchy, smelly mask does not justify the benefit of being less likely to get sick. We can handle getting sick, but we can’t handle giving up life like it used to be, filled with smiling faces. The return to unmasked life has been amazing, as I’m sure many can attest. That being said, people who do mask have their reasons. A colleague of mine recently told me that he masks because he is the only child of an elderly father who doesn’t drive. If my colleague got sick, there would be no one to take his father to medical appointments. Another common reason is travel plans. No one wants to lose thousands of dollars on plane tickets and hotel bookings simply because a member of the family caught a cold, and masking in the weeks before a trip is one way to add peace of mind. Some who mask may be immunocompromised, or may be genuinely trying to protect you since they have a mild cold but needed to step out to get a few essentials. 

The reason masking is on my mind is because of a recent social media post, in which a local woman reported that a grown man was harassing her 9-year-old child in a Kemptville grocery store for wearing a mask, and calling the woman a child abuser for masking her child. I could get into all of the reasons why this is so totally unacceptable, but instead I will invite readers to “see above” for the many valid reasons people choose to mask. We don’t know the mother’s and child’s reasons for masking, but we sure as heck know these reasons are none of our business. I have met, in my professional life, children who choose to mask. Their parents don’t force them, and their siblings choose not to mask, but one child in the family simply prefers to have it on. Some kids may even choose to mask because they prefer masks as a way to keep their face warm instead of wearing a scarf. The point is… who cares! The mask issue is deep in the realm of “none of your business”, so stay out of it. Don’t assume a parent violently crammed a mask on their child’s face just because the child is wearing one. And even if the parent is making them wear it, is it not their right to do so? I don’t suppose anyone thinks it’s abuse when a child is made to wear a jacket in the winter. I boldly declare that the only person abusing that poor child in the grocery store was the belligerent stranger. 

This year, we have something truly special to look forward to. In a few short days, we will have Christmas with no gathering limits to worry about, likely far less debate going on regarding vaccines, and a triumphant sigh of relief knowing the worst of the pandemic is far behind us thanks to progressively weakening mutations. Nothing could ever kill or cancel Christmas, but for the first time in three years, Christmas is actually going to feel like Christmas for a lot of families. 

As this will be the last issue of the Times until the new year, I would like to take the time to extend my well wishes. Thanks for another great year of allowing us to serve the community. This Christmas, eat more than you should, relax more than you think you deserve, hug and kiss more than you did all year, and don’t be afraid to get into the spirit of giving. It’s true what they say – Christmas is fun as a kid, but it’s even more fun to make it magical for your own kids. Tis the season! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

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