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On finding ways to appreciate what we have this holiday season.

Good afternoon.

Marielle Argueza here, remembering back to a few weeks before another major holiday, when Prunedale resident Safferina Maluki approached me and two of my coworkers at Babaloo Cuban Cafe in Seaside, just before Thanksgiving. She thanked me and the Weekly team for weathering the pandemic and went on about how Thanksgiving was her holiday. 

Maluki likes Thanksgiving over Christmas because it’s all about the food. She’d plan an elaborate meal complete with appetizers, sides, mains and “lots of good wine.” The most memorable part for her was that everyone got to cook. “There’s lots of participation in Thanksgiving. I believe in divide and conquer.”

During Christmas however, she’d leave most of the cooking to her friend, who is also a caterer. “I’m not really into Christmas, but she is with all the decorating and the food. She has an open-house style thing going on,” she says. “If you come by you’ll get a stocking and some presents.”

But of course, this is 2020. When I first met Maluki before Thanksgiving, she was going to ditch the big meal to visit her friend who was all alone. I checked in with her weeks later, and she told me she canceled even that pared-down holiday plan. 

She’s been canceling everything, including any possible Christmas gathering. “Drinks with friends? Nope. It’s also too cold to be standing six feet apart with drinks,” she says. “It’s just going to be me, my sister and my nephew.” Miles away from the images of Christmas past and definitely not in Maluki’s usual style of big gatherings, rubbing elbows with family and friends.

She knows she’s one of the luckier households. While she has a big family spread out across Canada, Kenya and New York, some of her friends will be spending the holiday entirely by themselves. 

“People are wondering how they’re going to be putting food on the table and how they’re going to make the holidays happen,” she says. She thinks about the first responders, the nurses and doctors who won’t be able to celebrate Christmas because their focus is on Covid, and adds, “There are people experiencing this pandemic at a higher level of sadness from me.”

Instead of giving up hope this holiday season, Maluki is finding reasons to appreciate and be grateful for what she does have, pared down as it will be. She’s made a menu, bought a bottle of bubbly for her household’s Christmas brunch and is even queuing up some shows on Netflix in anticipation of the Christmas morning food coma. 

“Everyone just wants to forget this year ever happened,” she says. “But next year has to be a year of hope and optimism, you know? There’s a vaccine coming. It will be better. Christmas will look different, but there’s so much to look forward to next year.”

-Marielle Argueza, staff writer, marielle@mcweekly.com

Marielle Argueza is a staff writer and calendar editor for the Weekly. She covers education, immigration and culture. Additionally, she covers the areas of Marina and South County. She occasionally writes about food and runs the internship program.

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