2020 was the first Christmas in my entire life where I wasn’t at home with my parents in Belleville. So it didn’t feel especially Christmassy.
Ellen and I closed on our new house earlier in December. It’s going to be a while before we move in, as there’s significant renovation work ahead. A bunch of my focus over the break was just getting over there and trying to get a feel for what we’ve gotten ourselves into and what needs to be done. In summary: a lot.
Given that Ellen and I just bought each other a house, we didn’t really go in for gifts or anything. Her mom cooked a turkey, which was nice, but didn’t feel much like Christmas dinner. She’d stayed up all night cooking and had to go to bed and left me to carve in the morning. I took a plate over to Ellen later. We’re not really set up for family gathering, even between the three of us.
I have a group of friends (originally from CTRL-A) who, in the before-time, would get together every week at the Princess Cafe for coffee. We’ve managed keep that going via Discord, which has been helpful in maintaining a modicum of sanity in these unprecedented times. We’ve taken to also watching an occasional movie together with voice chat.
We watched Die Hard together for Christmas. And we decided to do another movie night last night as a shallow substitute for our usual New Years Eve party. We watched What We Do in the Shadows, which was pretty great.
Afterwards, Ellen and I rang in the New Year over the phone, Ellen watching a rotation of TV New Years specials and me celebrating Countdown with my Animal Crossing villagers.
So here we are in 2021. New possibilities lie ahead. Our five-year housing search has finally borne fruit. It’s not over, and home-ownership type stresses have replaced previous will-we-find-a-place type stresses. But at least there are new problems for us to deal with, along with a clearer path forward. 2020 was a pretty shitty year in most regards, but it gave us that, at least.
Oh wait. I guess I never actually blogged about doing this. I’ve been putting together a Christmas mixtape every year since 2017.
All my mixtapes are up on Mixcloud. But for the first time, you can listen to this one on Youtube Music! Mixcloud says they pay royalties, but I have a feeling Youtube Music is probably the better one to use if you want to support the artists (even a little bit). They don’t have a nice WordPress widget tho.
I was inspired to do this partly by DJ Riko, but also by the fact that we can access very nearly every song ever recorded now and it seems a waste not to take advantage of that to trawl for ridiculous (and occasionally sublime) Christmas music.
The last couple blog entries were really cathartic and I thought I’d keep doing them, but, well, here we are. A lot’s happened in the last few months. And not happened. But I’m going to elide all that and talk about Animal Crossing.
Animal Crossing: New Horizon came out almost the exact same time everything shut down and I held out a week or so, but seeing as a bunch of my friends were getting into it and I had a switch, I figured why not?
I hadn’t played the previous Animal Crossing games, mostly because I was turned off by the idea that it was a real-time world and the animals would get mad at you if you didn’t show up all the time and clean up the weeds. Buddy, I got a job. Nobody’s got time for your weeds.
I have time for weeds now.
And really, they removed pretty much all of that in New Horizon. There’s pretty much no negative consequence to abandoning your village. This, however, has not been an issue for me. According to my switch profile, I’ve logged something like 700 hours in this game. Mind you, I’ll just kind of leave it running sometimes to have the music playing in the background (the soundtrack is awesome). But I do check it every day. What prices are turnips selling for? Who can I give gifts to? Who’s visiting my island today? How are my hybrid roses coming?
The ridiculous animal neighbours with their cookie-cutter mad lib dialog actually brighten my day. They’ll say funny things. They’ll tell me they appreciate me. They’ll get really excited about things I did. You’ll catch them talking to one another and they’ll ask you for advice. They’ll throw me a birthday party. It’s very sweet.
What’s more, it feels like being part of a society that cares about you. In a way that’s difficult to find in the real world right now. I can do the trivial little jobs it gives me to do and feel better about myself, and make my virtual fantasy island a little bit better along the way, one day at a time.
After a few days of taking things in stride, the anxiety kicked in quite a bit harder this week. I mean… I’m worried about my parents. I’m worried about Ellen’s parents. I’m worried about Ellen.
It sunk in a bit more what a nightmare scenario Ellen in a hospital on a ventilator would be, for reasons I’m not going to go into here. Let’s just say it would be bad.
And I’m worried about the world in general. Because I’m like that.
I made one trip out to my lovely neighbourhood bakery last week. I considered stopping by Onkar for a few things last weekend. Onkar in Lakeshore is usually not busy at all, and I’m kind of amazed they stay in business. But their hand-made samosas are lovely and super-cheap and freeze well. So I wanted to get some of those. But the parking lot was packed and I didn’t want to get near a crowd, even though I imagine the risk was still pretty low.
This weekend, I’m not even contemplating going out anywhere. We have tonnes of food, largely as a by-product of how Ellen’s usual food habits. I’ve got a chest freezer here that’s full. Ellen has a smaller full chest freezer and three fridges with full freezers at her house. I’ll probably have to go out at some point (or, more accurately, I won’t be able to prevent my mother-in-law from going out at some point), but I think we’ll be okay.
Like I kinda hinted last time, this new situation isn’t that far off our usual day-to-day. Especially for Ellen. She can’t just go wherever whenever she wants. It’s more restrictive for me (I can’t hunt for minifigures and I’m desperately short on pokeballs), but I’m normally either at home or at Ellen’s. Or work. And I’m about as introverted as it’s possible to be, so staying at home is fine.
It’s sinking in that this is going to be a while. It still feels a bit like calm before the storm right now, but it’s not going to stay that way. For me, I think the biggest thing is going to be managing anxiety. And not letting myself fall into despair.