Skip to main content

Omicron Christmas: COVID in the basement and a live bird in the tree


Omicron is in the basement, we’re all wearing masks around the house, and it is more than likely that a live bird is cowering in our Christmas tree at the moment.

Welcome, Christmas 2021.

There are days to go before the holiday, but the past 48 hours have been so dizzying, I’m kind of concerned about what those next hours might hold.

And still no sign of that bird, beyond the first sighting by two of the kids.

The past 48 hours have held lessons:

  • A son can test negative enough to fly home, only to test positive as soon as he has taken up residence in the basement.
  • Finding an at-home COVID test is like finding Wonka’s golden ticket. 
  • A 22-year-old is still young enough to see a pediatrician and — bonus — he can drive himself there and back.
  • And the door doesn’t need to be open very wide to admit an opportunistic bird.

At Thanksgiving, things looked so very promising, with plans hatching for a return to a Christmas Eve tradition: a blowout of a dinner at our friends’ home. They have moved from Sleepy Hollow to Ossining, but promised the same spirit of warmth and welcome we had missed terribly last COVID Christmas.

Now, another COVID Christmas. And the only thing that has hatched is the bird that has apparently taken up residence in the tree.

This tree has had issues. It has been dropping needles like crazy and it timbered a couple of weeks back, fully decorated, and cost us a few treasured ornaments. The angel suffered a fracture of the porcelain C-2 and C-4 vertebrae in the crash, making her droop forward in surrender.

I know how she feels.

But the glass was swept up, the tree righted and lashed to the wall, the angel replaced by a big red bow. 

The tree is so very inviting now. Perhaps too inviting.

And still nothing from the bird.

It all happened so fast: Son No. 1 arrives home late Monday, masked and COVID negative. Within 12 hours, the symptoms, the daylong search for the test, the last-appointment dash to the pediatrician, the positive rapid test with a PCR result to come.

He confines himself to the basement. The masks go on upstairs. There will be no trip to Ossining as his is the latest of several positive cases among the families that were to gather. The trip to the supermarket is canceled, an order to Instacart at 11 p.m. for 9 a.m. delivery.

At 8:25 a.m., I move the cars to clear the driveway for the Instacart guy, Jonathan, because it’s raining and delivering for Instacart is hard enough without having to schlep around parked cars. I leave the door open, thinking Son No. 2 is right behind me, off to school.

He is not. The bird sees its opening.

“You left the door open. There’s a bird in the tree.”

We shake the tree, gingerly. (See note above, regarding spinal-injury angel.) Nothing.

We get down low. Nothing.

We poke at the tree. Nothing.

We open the windows, hoping the bird might just return to nature on its own. 

Daughter leaves for work; Son No. 2 leaves for school; Instacart guy arrives, pulling my focus from the tree.

The open windows worry me. Maybe the bird — silent till now — will call his buddies for backup. Besides, now there’s a DPW crew with chainsaws out front and no bird in its right mind would head in the direction of that racket.

I’ll wait for proof of life.

Speaking of proof of life, Son. No. 1 rises to shower, but his plans to shop at the mall are scuttled.

So I wait, one eye on the laptop, another on the tree for the slightest movement. My ears are trained on the tree. But a live bird inside the house would be struggling to get out, right? Has my mission turned from rescue to recover?

My editor says the bird is a metaphor: the unwelcome guest at Christmas.

I don't think it's a metaphor. I suspect it’s a finch.

When we find it, if we find it, we'll chalk it up to yet another weird, wild, first-time thing in this forgettable, too familiar, second COVID Christmas.

Reach Peter D. Kramer, a 33-year staffer, at [email protected] or on Twitter at @PeterKramer. Read his latest stories. Local reporting like Pete's only works if subscribers support it, which you can do at www.lohud.com/subscribe.