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The radiant chili pepper lights hang around the yellow painted living room as the pumpkin spice candle fills the house with a subtle, but sweet, smell. Just two minutes away downtown, people in scarves and coats walk in and out of local cafes. All of these symbols of the holidays, yet pleasant for a brief moment, hang over my head like a deadly black veil.

“What’s the point,” I blurt.

“Family, love, and gratefulness,” my mom replies.

I picture myself, two years ago, running across the moving walkways as I wait for my plane’s departure. A croissant and a Starbucks coffee are in hand as I head back to the terminal to give my mother a little holiday surprise. Galloping through the airport, I await hugs from my cousins, aunts, and uncles in their Michigan homes. I become eager to play competitive board games that last until midnight as I eat my aunt’s homemade broccoli cheddar soup. This is what comes to mind when I think of family, love, and gratefulness.

This year, instead, I lay on my stiff and squeaky bed as I continue my days of isolation and loneliness. Ignoring any of my mother’s attempts to instill any sense of joy, I lay veiled in by a pandemic. I know that I should “Do what you have to do to make the most of a situation,” but sometimes it is easier to let go of a false joy and accept reality.