"What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!" Shakespeare
With the waning daylight, crisper nights, and the smell of autumn in the air—I feel the beginning of the end to a tumultuous year. The smoky embers in my fireplace bring me back to another time, the smell of roasting chestnuts in Spain last December.
My husband and I had left the medieval town of Casares and arrived in Seville early in the evening. We were tired and hungry, and could not find our hotel. It was located in the Jewish quarter of town, an area filled with much history and architectural beauty. We could not believe the crowds that night and as we slowly inched our car in between narrow crooked streets, my husband navigated over to a police officer directing the swarms of people, asking him why it was so crowded.
The disgruntled officer, yelling in Spanish, asked my husband to put the backside of our car back in line. He then, looking at us as if we were morons, answered that they were there for the lighting of the Christmas angels, before brusquely waving us away.
Realizing that we were not going to find our hotel with the crowds anytime soon, we decided to go with the flow. We ditched our car on a side street and followed the crowds.
The sounds, sights, lights and smells were incredible. Chestnuts were roasting everywhere and oranges hanging on the trees scented the dark, starless night.
We had never been so close to so many people. Elbow to elbow, we crawled through the crowds, buying hot, sticky, sweet Turrón, hot chestnuts, and guzzling Spanish beer to quell our hunger pangs.
We jumped and danced with a group of Spaniards who were singing popular American songs. I remember feeling the energy and warmth of the crowd, strangers on a dark Spanish night and it was magical.
We watched the giant Christmas Angels light up one by one as "Hark the Herald the Angels Sing," the famous Christmas carol, blasted throughout the square. We went to bed that night having finally found our hotel, feeling happy that we let go of expectations. The wooden shutters were left wide open to hear the singing that went on till dawn.
I am saddened at this memory. The new reality of the upcoming COVID holiday season looms ahead with new social distancing rules and I am pained at the world's new reality. I relish the memory of being in that joyful, happy crowd, singing with love and exuberance, enjoying the holiday spirit .
I miss the feeling of freedom, of no fear of catching a fatal disease. I miss the world before COVID took the lives of so many innocent people.
I dream of that world opening up again, and I am resolved to continue to live my life cautiously and without fear. I think of the words of Elie Wiesel:
“Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and loving and dreaming. At night everything is more intense, more true."