Covid has kept us away for two years. Away from my family + my home state. But, finally, even as the omicron variant began to spread quickly + fiercely, Lina and I were extra super careful and finally made it home to the mountains of North Carolina to spend a few weeks with my parents and my brother + his partner. And we made it just in time to celebrate Christmas! It may have been a very different, pandemic-influenced kind of holiday, but it was most definitely a dream come true. Three weeks of quality time, long mornings, fresh mountain air, local beer, lots of coffee, and just being together. So very simple. But, just what I wanted and needed.
We started by self-isolating at home a week before we left. Some may think this (and many other things you’ll hear about) was overkill, but we didn’t want to get sick (even with a cold), we wanted to ensure a negative antigen test 24 hours before flying, and of course we didn’t want to bring Covid to my family. Our plan worked – and even though we were still super nervous about the results – we got a negative test and were on our way the day before Christmas Eve!
It was so surreal to be back. It has been such a long time, and it felt like a long time had passed. Yet, it also felt so normal, so comfortable, and as if we’d just be there. After hugs and tears and a local beer to welcome us, it all became a bit more real. And I just settled back into it all. Feeling absolute bliss and gratitude. Gaaaah. My eyes are filled with tears just writing this + looking at the photos.
The first morning, I woke up before everyone else as usual, turned on the coffee, went out on the front porch, and looked up. The trees, the moon, the wind, the air, the birds. I just soaked it all in. I was finally here again.
We immediately got started with holiday celebrations as soon as everyone was up – I mean, it was Christmas Eve! We cooked + baked + ate + ate + ate. We watched “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation” and laughed like crazy, as we always do. We brought up old photos + videos from the basement to see what kinds of old memories we might find. And sat in the living room together, going through them all, trying to play the old videos, and at the end of the day, exchanging gifts with each other.
Christmas Eve + Christmas Day were copies of each other and honestly, it’s all just a blur of bliss. But, it was slow + simple + cozy. And what I think we all wanted for Christmas this year.
The day after Christmas Lina and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. This year we celebrated 12 years of marriage! We spent the day with my parents. Slow in the morning. And then, lunch in Asheville at a favorite restaurant.
Ok. Let me tell you how we did the things we did – even as Omicron began to surge like crazy in the States + Europe. First of all, we were masked up everywhere we went. We also decided to not go out to eat or to breweries like we usually do. When we did, we made sure that we sat outside. And, sadly, we decided not to visit friends in the area either. We just didn’t want to get my parents sick, end up with Covid ourselves, and/or get stuck in the States just before we had to leave. So we really minimized going places + meeting people.
So, when we went to our first restaurant we ended up sitting by an open garage door – the weather was amazingly warm, which allowed places to have open windows + doors, which was awesome.
Oh, and 5 days after landing, on exactly the day we are supposed to test after flying, we finally found some at-home antigen tests. We tested and were negative, so we could relax a bit – until it would be time to return to Sweden.
We stayed close to home during our three weeks, but I’m not complaining about that it all. It made that simple, cozy Christmas holiday that I think I needed. Plus… I mean. The views, the mountains, the nature surrounding my parents’ home. The trees, sun, sky, ground, and moon were my companions. Between the earth and sky and family, I was reminded once again what is really, truly important, where magic is found, and how much I crave a simple, soft life.
It was truly a lazy holiday. As I mentioned, the mornings were long + slow. Filled with coffee + conversation. I often walked a little in the yard or around the area, carrying my coffee with me everywhere I went. I watched some tv – a blend of news + Friends. You know, a good balance. Hehe. Lina puzzled. We took my parents out a few times, visiting their favorite coffeeshop, getting my mom’s phone repaired, doing a super tiny bit of shopping at an outdoor outlet, having dinner with my brother + his partner. Like I said… all very simple + slow.
New Year’s Eve came and my brother + his partner came over. The four of us went to a small, local brewery down the street and kicked off a completely unplanned New Year’s Eve. After a few drinks, we decided to go to a restaurant nearby for dinner. We knew that if we sat at the bar, there’d basically be no one else there. Most people would have made reservations to sit in the dining area. Sure enough, we were just about the only ones at the bar, so we settled in for a delicious dinner, drinks, and my brother + I topped the dinner off with a smooth, neat whiskey.
Still feeling festive, we went back to the brewery, where there were not very many people at all. Like 4 besides us maybe. We played Jenga, laughed, drank, and celebrated the end of 2021. The brewery closed at 10:30 and asked us to leave (hehe!), so we all went home. Lina and I found my parents still awake, so we waited till midnight, popped a champagne bottle, and celebrated the start of 2022 together. It was such a fun little moment!
And that was 2021. It was the absolute best way I could have ever asked to end what was an incredibly topsy turvy, challenging, and sometimes beautiful year. I am not the same I was at the beginning of 2021. I’m not the same I was the last time I’d seen my family on New Year’s 2019/2020. And, yet, I am exactly the same. My soul, my family, and the love that we share. That all remains.