Stephen and I are just back from getting our second covid shots. We have a few moments before I need to be off upstairs to get on Zoom for my writing group. He's going to head out into the studio to get to work, but I make him wait and I run from the room, coming back with two Christmas crackers, one gold foil paper, one silver. I hand them both out to him and he laughs. I tell him to take his pick.
It will be two weeks before we're fully vaccinated, but I feel like we should celebrate, just a little. With as precious as these shots are, with as difficult as it has been for many to get appointments—and more so in other places in the world—I've tried to think of the vaccination wait as one, long, rolling Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever big holiday people would wait for, all year, when they were kids. Something to try to anticipate with excitement rather than impatience. I used to think about erecting a tree in the house with lights and putting names underneath it, a new name each time someone I loved got vaccinated.
But who puts up a Christmas tree in the spring? So these will have to do.
We each take the ends of our Christmas crackers in our hands. These ones are the kind that don't make a pop sound when you open them, but still, Nicholas runs from the room. We count one, two, three. Yank our crackers open. The loot falls on the floor. The paper crown, the slip of paper with a joke on it, and for each of us, a little prize like from a Crackerjack box. Wait. Is that why they call them Crackerjacks?
My prize is a weird, little keychain with a bottle opener shaped like a dead fish.
We put the paper crowns on our heads. Shiny gold foil. We ask each other Christmas jokes.
What do you call Santa Claus when he goes down the chimney and the fire is lit?
"That's kind of violent," I say when Stephen reads me the answer.
When I turn to go off to writing group, my paper crown falls off my head and floats to the floor. I pick it up. Put it back on. Head upstairs.