Christmas Card 2020

Nga Julika Prifti

I am writing my Christmas Card with more satisfaction than I previously anticipated. I can say with certainty that the year 2020 was exceptional beyond the framework of one family, community, city, or country. The exceptionalism of 2020 is a commonality that encapsulates the whole world. In America it brought to the surface some deep issues from its past and it further deepened the present gaps in poverty, race, inequality, corruption, and even death. During the spring months New Yorkers were dying from the coronavirus in numbers too big to be properly handled by the funeral homes and burial services. We saw roadways with no cars, sidewalks without people as the city that never sleeps went into lockdown. Its usually bustling streets went quiet. The hushed air was only pierced by the sirens rushing the patients to the hospitals. We learned to be home dwellers and go out only to buy food enough to last a few days. We learned to work from home and see each other more on electronic screens and devices when possible. We wore facial masks when we had to go shopping. We learned not to touch or hug family members. We learned to wait 6 ft. apart on lines in and out of the stores. Day by day, I managed to get used to the new way of living. Only one thing I could not get used to and still tremble even today: the ambulance sirens taking the sick to the hospitals. My immediate hope was that they got to help someone in need on time. Just as quickly, I’d wonder when will it come for me. Yet we managed…the months of summer and fall rolled out and now in the middle of December I am writing my wishes for a Merry Christmas!

Perhaps the 2020 will not be remembered only for its horrors but also for finding solutions to make the world a better place. At least now we know that many things are not right, and a lot must be changed. And we are still here to do it.

Here are some of 2020 moments for me:
In January, it was my sister’s 65 birthday and my 60th birthday. I decided I would celebrate the anniversary all year around in a nod to my 55th anniversary. A yearlong birthday is as much fun as it sounds. To me, it was a license to enjoy and indulge myself as someone who had earned that right by virtue of her years.
My niece, Rea, plays the trombone with the UNIS Brass Band at Carnegie Hall.

In February, there was a Williamsburg trip as part of a social birthday celebration. A wonderful way of going way back into the colonial time while being in the present company of some of my very dear friends.

In March, my father was honored by the Ruben Diaz Jr, President of the Borough of the Bronx: “In recognition of the Albanian-American community of New York and around the world, we honor Prof. Naum Prifti; a prominent writer, novelist, playwright, publicist and accomplished translator of English, French and Italian; whose timeless works have captured the beauty of Albanian culture.” There was a charming event at the Bronx Library that coincided with my dad’s 88th birthday. (Yes, there is definitely a birthday theme up to here!)
A few weeks later, schools closed as the coronavirus takes hold of New York city. Shortly after, schooling switched to remote methods.
On the plus side, I got in touch with some old friends and reminisced about the days of our youth.

In April, my colleague from a previous school passed away from corona virus just a few days shy of turning 55. I was devastated.
The principal, David Velasquez, called me to check how I was doing. I cried on Meet. I have known a few principal in these past years to appreciate that act of caring even more. I was deeply touched.

In May, I had mailed a birthday card to our dear and closest friend, Barry Farber. The mail came back with a note from his oldest daughter. The radio host of the Barry Farber show for 60 years, who jokingly said that he was an adopted member of the Prifti’s clan, had passed away. It felt like losing a family member.
In June, my niece Rea graduated from high school. There was an online school ceremony. For a more personalized experience, my oldest sister adjusted her living room into a made shift auditorium all decked for a graduation event.
Black Live Matters was written in big yellow letters on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.
In July, I received sad news about the passing of one of my closest friends, Prof. Dr. Grigor Zoraqi in Tirana. No known cause was announced.
Mom had been loosing weight and feeling frail. We worried about her condition.

In August, Rea was getting ready to move to Boston to begin college studies at Northeastern University. Her High School gave the Sports awards to us since the ceremony was cancelled.

In September, Rea got settled on campus for the academic year with some in-person and online classes.
I got appointed to a new school. I had dropped into a pit of despair and anxiety.

In October, it was mom’s 85 birthday. By then she had made a recovery. And I joined my friends on a planned trip to Lancaster, Philadelphia. For the most part, the election climate was very present and intense.

In November, the much anticipated general election saw record numbers of voters and Biden wins.
Later in the month, the virus had surged nationwide and schools go remote again in New York.
It was around Thanksgiving that I did more reading to find out that the Pilgrims did not come to America for religious freedom. They had religion freedom in The Netherlands. I experienced a sense of betrayal and gave up sending Thanksgiving wishes.

In December, the scientists and researches announce that the Covid -19 vaccines will be are ready for distribution. British were the first to start the inoculation program.

As far as readings, the most impactful of the year include: The Next Great Migration, The Story of Movement on a Changing Planet by Sonia Shah, Hiking with Nietzsche, On Becoming Who You Are by John Kaag, the Reith Lecture of Dr. Mark Carney, the former- Governor of the Bank of England (2013 -2020), about Credit, Covid and Climate.
I feel hopeful for our future.

The idiom “The devil is not as dark as he seems” that my mentor used to tell me in Albanian when I studied the Italian language comes to mind again. I feel that I really understand its meaning now. I am optimistic that out of darkness we, as people, as humanity, as citizens of the world, will find better solutions for the numerous problems we are facing. I am happy to have gotten to know more of the black history, their culture, their great philosophers, scientists, artists, who as a people overcame more than I had previously known. Their culture is as much part of our human culture, as the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese or others that are studied in school.

Having lived through the 2020 experiences, I wish to all my friends to look forward to a better world! We are still here! Merry Christmas!