So 2020, huh? Ugh. Santana and I had started the year amazingly, with Tyler turning a year old and me kind of setting up a schedule that let me go on assignment more than I had in his first year—though, so much less than I had before I had a wife and a son to want to be home with. Things were good...and then they weren't. But obviously everyone can relate, you know, it didn't happen in a bubble or anything.
I was in Sweden when Santana called me utterly freaking out. Because I was always pretty isolated from the news when I was traveling and she hadn't seemed especially worried about COVID until shit hit the fan, I was taken almost entirely by surprise. She told me that it looked like everything was going to shut down, she didn't know what was going to happen with the borders and she wanted me to come home as soon as possible. Honestly, in hindsight I should have had her bring Tyler to Sweden where there was actually a competent federal government, but obviously that's not what happened.
I called my boss immediately and within hours, I'd abandoned my shoot and was on a plane bound for New York. Nothing else really mattered to me except getting home to them and since everyone was in a collective state of what the fuck, no one even argued with me about it. Two days later, Discover pulled all of their foreign correspondents anyway, so I pretty much got out just in time. We figured it would be two weeks, a month maybe, and then things would get back to normal. Little did we know how wrong we were.
Back in New York, things were...weird. People packed up and left the city in droves, everything looked abandoned and I immediately wished that we had a place in the mountains that we could go to. We probably could have bought something, that was true, but Santana had her practice and we both knew she wouldn't abandon that, she'd worked too hard for it.
Yeah, so speaking of that. Tyler's daycare shut down with everything else, I was home indefinitely, but my wife, my beautiful, amazing wife, still had to go to work every day. That was the scariest thing for us, knowing that she could be exposed at any given moment, knowing that she could bring it home to Tyler and I. We knew she was as safe as could be, she stockpiled PPE on a regular basis because she dealt with disease anyway and was super precautious about protection, but we couldn't help but wonder if it would be enough. For two days, we discussed whether she should go stay with Unique and isolate from us, but Tyler was still nursing and we thought it would really mess him up if she was gone. We had no idea if we were making the right choice, but it was a choice we had to make.
Everything was a major adjustment. Tyler and I had to learn a new routine during the day where I pulled ideas from Pinterest to do with him and ordered about a zillion boxes from Amazon full of activities. I took him out on walks in the early morning before people were outside, letting him breathe the fresh air when it was safe and taking pictures of the empty city, figuring at some point Discover might want them for a series and quite honestly, missing being behind the lens of a camera. I learned to bake bread, I made elaborate dinners and I fought so much boredom, remembering every day that it was better to be bored than dead.
It was different for Santana though. Though she wasn't working with diagnosed COVID patients, she never knew what was walking through her door. Each night, she came home with marks under her eyes from her N-95, a band indent around her head from her face shield, and her face just so tired from doing the best she could to provide her patients with care in the midst of everything else. So I held her tight, I told her how much I loved her, how proud of her I was, but that didn't help on the nights she heard that a patient had died, that didn't help when she heard from contact tracers that someone had been to her office who tested positive and she shut herself up in the guest bedroom away from Tyler and me and waited anxiously for her latest round of test results.
But onto the more positive, our boy absolutely thrived. Turns out I was kinda good at the whole stay at home mom thing and I was glad that I found fulfillment in that. Plus, I wasn't halfway around the world when he took his first steps, didn't miss him say "mama" for the first time and all of that good stuff. We FaceTimed with my parents and Santana's all the time, made sure they got to see him grow. When things got a little better in the summer, Tina would join us on our walks with her son and the two boys would babble away to each other from their respective strollers. And most importantly, we learned to look for the good, we tried to ignore the worst in people and see the best because it was really the only way we could get through it.
Christmas was three days away and though we wouldn't do our customary dinner with Santana's parents, she and I were still really excited that our boy was in love with the lights on the tree, that he was big enough to sit on the counter with us while we made Christmas cookies, could sit through half of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer before he got fussy. Maybe Christmas was really different then it had ever been before—and Christmas was obviously so important to Santana and I—but that didn't mean that it couldn't still be magical.
"Office is officially closed until December 27th." Santana burst into the house that evening, her red scarf wrapped around her neck and the biggest grin on her face as soon as she pulled off her mask. "Let me shower and change and then I'm going to give you two the biggest kisses."
Like she did every day when she came home from work, Santana immediately stripped off her clothes and put them in the washing machine and jumped right in the shower. I missed being able to kiss her as soon as she walked in the door, but we both knew it was much safer to wait twenty minutes until any surface germs were off of her. Tyler didn't exactly get it, he still whined and waited outside the bathroom door, but he was always the first one she kissed, our sweet little boy.
"Come on, Ty, let's make Mama an espresso so she can sit down and relax with us when she gets out."
I took the baby into the kitchen with me and made Santana's afternoon drink, sprinkling a little cinnamon on top, because it was almost Christmas after all and I wanted it to be special for her. When she came out of the shower, she took Tyler from my arms and kissed him all over his face, laughing right along with him and his sweet little giggles. Then she sandwiched him between us and kissed my lips, smiling as she did. I knew that her job was more stressful than ever and the five days off would do her some real good.
"What's on the Christmas agenda tonight, Britt?" She asked, putting Tyler on her hip and taking her cup from me.
"My parents want to FaceTime, if that's okay with you."
"Obviously, we haven't talked to them since last week."
"Yeah, well, you know how my mom is." I shrugged, thinking that she was probably a little pissed that we told her not to come for Christmas and Ty's birthday, but it was what it was. "It probably won't be long, who knows?"
"Are you okay, babe?"
"Yeah I guess I'm just aggravated with her. She's asked me like four hundred times if we changed our minds about her coming. This is like Thanksgiving all over again."
"I mean, I get it, it sucks. Everyone wants to be with their families and I can't wait until this is over so we can take Ty to Colorado, but we're just not there yet."
"Can I tell you a secret?"
"Obviously, Britt, you tell me all your secrets. You couldn't even hang onto my birthday gift for more than a day after you got it this year."
"I love Christmas Eve with your parents, it would have been nice to have mine here, but I kind of selfishly am looking forward to this year being just the three of us. Last year poor Tyler was so tired when we got home from your parents', Christmas Day will be better with him on his regular routine."
"I agree, and I honestly am looking forward to just relaxing with you guys, no stress, no drama, no dealing with my grandmother who can't even bring herself to look at our son." She shook her head. "Plus, it's our anniversary, I do love the idea of not having your parents in the apartment that night."
"Oh really?" I smirked and she laughed, before Tyler pat her face and shouted 'Mama!'
"I know, baby boy, Mommy and I are totally ignoring you. "Let's go play for a little while before we have to start dinner."
So I was obsessed with watching Santana on the floor with Tyler. It started when he was a baby and she'd lay beside him got tummy time. I could never resist taking out my camera and getting a few shots of them together, especially because he was the spitting image of her and they just looked absolutely beautiful together. Santana always teased me about how many pictures I had, but I couldn't help myself ever. They were too much and I loved them with everything in me.
Santana got so involved with playing with Tyler that I assured her I'd make dinner and slipped off into the kitchen, leaving them on the floor playing with his ball tower. It was hard to believe that our kid was almost two, that it had been so long since she and I reunited on Christmas Eve in the grocery store. But it was perfect. It really was, even in the midst of 2020, I had nothing to complain about in my life. We were healthy, we were happy and though we'd really been isolated from everyone else, we knew how loved we were.
We had barely finished eating dinner when my phone rang and I sighed a little when I looked down and saw that it was my mother. I really didn't want another fight with her and as much as I wanted her to see Tyler, even through the screen, it had been hard. She was a hippie at heart and she didn't do well with feeling like the government was controlling her, so I had to explain only about a thousand times that it was for her safety and everyone else's.
"Hi Grandma." I held the phone in front of Tyler and he grinned and waved.
"It's my little Ty! Oh how I want to kiss your face and squeeze you!"
"Here we go." I mouthed to Santana who rolled her eyes.
"Don't you think Grandma should come for Christmas? I promise, I'll bring lots of presents."
"Mom!" I turned the phone away from him and toward me. "Not cool."
"It's just me and your father, Brittany, it's not like we're bringing the whole world to see you."
"We said no. We're not seeing Santana's parents, we're not seeing our friends. The case count is rising and it's only going to get worse after Christmas. We refuse to put anyone at risk."
"Whitney, listen." Santana took the phone from me, sensing my frustration. "I promise the first thing that we'll do when this is over is come to Colorado, okay?"
"But it's been a year since I've seen my grandson, your parents have at least seen him outside."
"I know, and if you lived closer, we would see you outside too, but that's just not what's going on."
"It just doesn't feel like the holiday season."
"It's one year, Mom." I took the phone back. "That's it. And I've told you this more times than I can count. You calling and harassing us and trying to bribe Tyler isn't going to change that."
"I think dinner's ready, I have to go."
She hung up the call before I could say anything else and Santana came behind me and squeezed my shoulders. I relaxed into her body and she kissed my neck, knowing that always got my mind off of anything else. But then, Tyler started crying and I kind of wanted to punch my mom since he enjoyed talking to her so much and I didn't think it was fair that she was taking out her frustrations on him.
"C'mere, baby." I lifted him out of his high chair and gave him a squeeze. "It's bath time!"
It was kind of funny how after Tyler was born, I became so much less awkward around people. Whenever I was able to stay put in New York, I had taken him to his Music Together class, to the park, wherever I could, you know, back when those things were still open and having him almost made me have some kind of common ground with other human beings so I didn't just blurt out whatever was on my mind as often. Not to say it didn't still happen, I was still me, after all, but I think Santana and I both really changed once he came along, in the best way possible.
The next day, we FaceTimed with the Changs, Kurt and Dave who had been working from home and isolating outside of the city since March and Mercedes, who had been pulling a real Taylor Swift and writing album after album in quarantine. While Tyler napped, Santana and I finished wrapping the last of his presents and got them all situated to put under the tree for the next night. I was beyond excited for the non-traditional Christmas, just ready to watch Christmas movies and drink hot cocoa in our pajamas and I knew Santana was too.
The next morning, Tyler woke us up before six and I told Santana to stay in bed while I went across the hall to get him. He completely beamed up at me, though his eyes were still tired, and I lifted him into my arms to bring him into our bedroom. Once he was in the bed, he crawled around, pawing at Santana's face and she finally sat up with a laugh, kissing him all over his face.
"Merry Christmas Eve, little dude." She told him. "You know Santa's coming tonight."
"Santa! Santa!" He clapped, though neither of us were really sure he even knew what that meant.
"What do you want to do today, babe?" Santana asked me and I shrugged.
"I mean, we're doing the Christmas movie marathon tomorrow and you know, we ate all the fudge your mom dropped off..."
"So you want to make fudge?"
"I mean, you're the keeper of Maribel Lopez's secret fudge recipe, it only seems right."
"If you want fudge, you get fudge." She smiled and I did a little happy dance in the bed. The fudge was honestly so good that sometimes, when I was gone for longer than I'd like and I was hitting that homesickness point, Santana would send it in a care package. Yeah, my wife was cute like that, she didn't stop sending me care packages just because we had rings on our fingers. The best, seriously.
So we made the fudge. Then we went for a walk in the park, where there were thankfully not too many people to have to dodge and we looked up at the sky, thinking it really looked like snow was coming. A white Christmas would be nice and probably the most un-2020 thing to happen so I really kind of was looking forward to it. Once Tyler was asleep in his stroller, we went home and Santana carried him upstairs to his bed and we went to do one last double check on the gifts.
"You're sure you're cool with being Santa tonight?" She asked me.
"We couldn't take him to Macy's and he needs to have a picture with Santa, of course I'm cool with being Santa. We got the suit and the pillows and the beard, I'm so ready."
"You're really the best mom, you know that right?"
"Please...you're like super mom or something."
"Just let me give you a compliment, Britt." She rolled her eyes. "I hate that everything has sucked pretty bad in the world, but him having you around every day, and me not having to freak out about if he was safe while I went to work is definitely the best thing that ever could have happened."
"It feels really good to be able to do it. I don't know, looking at the map in his nursery showing me in New York for the past nine months has been really good, I feel like I miss a lot when I'm gone."
"Do you not want to do it anymore?"
"No, I do, I'm just grateful for the time. And to be honest, I don't think my job is ever going to go back to looking like what it used to, so maybe that means a lot more time with you both."
"We're so lucky, you know? I thought about it a lot this year, like what if I would have been single when this happened and isolated from my parents and my friends. It's hard enough some days, but going through it alone..."
"Yeah, I know. I totally do. Even in the shittiest year, the world is a whole lot better with you and Tyler in it."
After another hour or so, Tyler woke up and was ready to play. We pulled over his learning tower in the kitchen and he stood at the counter with us as we cooked our Christmas Eve feast. Just because it was the three of us didn't mean we weren't going to do tamales and a pork shoulder like we did every year at Santana's parents—although luckily, we'd prepared the tamales ahead of time—and even though it was a little early, Santana poured bourbon into our eggnog and we started celebrating.
After dinner, I went upstairs and changed into my Santa suit. Maybe people would think it said something about gender roles or what the fuck ever that I was the one to dress up as Santa, but it wasn't like that. I just thought it would be really fun and figured we could get our Christmas picture of Tyler. While Santana had him in his bedroom, I slipped out of the door to our apartment and waited with my mask in the hallway for Santana to open up to my knocks. When the door swung open, she held Tyler in her arms and I gave my best 'ho ho ho' carrying two gifts for him.
"Mommy!" He shouted, clapping his hands and giggling. "Mommy!"
"That's not Mommy, silly boy." Santana laughed, eyes sparkling. "It's Santa Claus."
"Alright." I chuckled, taking off my beard and hat so as not to confuse him. "You're right. C'mere, buddy."
Santana just laughed and laughed as I took him into my arms and handed her the gifts. He was a smart one, that was for sure, and he patted my cheeks as I carried him over to the Lord Tubbington proof Christmas tree and sat down on the floor with him.
"You're right Ty, Santa isn't coming until after you're asleep, I was just being silly. But look, we have some presents for you."
We sat with him as he took his time opening his gifts, a new pair of Christmas pajamas and a copy of Olive the Other Reindeer to read at bedtime. He was really excited about the book and roughly turned the pages, trying to see all the pictures. Then, we took him up for his bath and got him settled into his new pajamas and into his bed. Santana read to him and I sat back and watched, just so in love with the two of them. I didn't even bother to take pictures though, I just wanted to be in the moment and Santana occasionally looked over at me and smiled. Even with the shit year we'd had, it really was the perfect Christmas Eve and once Tyler's eyes slipped closed, I leaned over and kissed Santana on the lips.
"Merry Christmas, my love." She smiled.
"The merriest yet."