A Hallmark Fantasy In the Time of Covid

Several months ago I outed myself on this very platform, and in front of a live audience of about 200 people as a Hallmark Christmas movie watcher. It wasn’t easy to confess something that is so often derided, scorned even, but I felt better, freer after. And I of course know, yes, there are many things these movies could do better in terms of diversity both in terms of LGBTQ representation, and more people of color. I am very hopeful that the new president of the channel will make this a priority, and I will be writing to her to encourage her to do so.

Since I wrote that piece in December a lot has happened. We have a global pandemic running rampant across the country, culture wars breaking out over mask-wearing, and looking out for each other has taken a back seat to selfishness. Paul Krugman puts it very well in the New York Times.

It’s all of this that has sent me back to Evergreen, Mistletoe, and the comfort of “Christmas in July.” on Hallmark. It has been a great escape to a place where everyone is kind and generous and looks out for each other. How, I’ve been asking myself, would a town like those depicted in Hallmark Christmas movies cope with a pandemic? Indulge me, please as I create my fantasy town.

Here we are in beautiful Evergreen, Vermont, a place so charming even those who have sought their fortunes in the big city always return because they just can’t stay away. That, and the inherent kindness of everyone who lives here. Okay, there’s one grumpy person, but they will come around. You’ll see.

It’s March, and things are very quiet. Christmas is long past, and people are still hunkered down for the winter. It’s peaceful as everyone is planning their gardens and anticipating spring.

But then, the news flashes that there is a virus, something new no one has seen before. Some people are saying it’s nothing, and it will, “disappear by April, no problem,” but Evergreen’s family doctor and her team at the small local hospital aren’t convinced. See, Dr. Williams spent time working on Ebola for the Obama administration, and she’s seen pandemics before so she decides to get Evergreen prepared.

They hold a town meeting and Dr. Williams and the Mayor, Val Johnson lay out what they think the town needs to do. They believe shutting down the town is the best way to keep everyone safe. Everyone is in agreement especially when they learn it could be most dangerous to the older members of the community and those with pre-existing conditions, like dear Mr. Harris only six months out from his heart attack. Well, everyone is on board except the owner of the local resort, Green Springs, Mr. Turner. He thinks everyone is being foolish and overreacting. “We’re going to lose our entire spring tourist season!” he exclaims. “This is ridiculous and I won’t do it!” He storms out of the meeting while the rest of them start planning.

The local hardware store and market make sure to get in plenty of supplies. Dr. Williams had explained how important cleanliness would be so they made sure to get lots of hand sanitizer, gloves, and household cleaners. Everyone knew there would only be so much to go around, so no one hoarded anything, and were quick to give a neighbor anything they needed.

All of the regulars who met to knit and sew for various charities got to work making sure every single resident had at least two masks. Wearing your Evergreen mask becomes a badge of honor. The only person you’d ever see without one was Mr. Turner who scoffed at them and said they were useless. No one cared, they just kept wearing theirs and listening to Dr. Williams, the medical expert, not the person who only cared about money. Speaking of money — when it got tight for people the town dipped into its reserves and made sure everyone was taken care of.

As the country began to get hit hard with the virus they all stayed in. Val’s Diner provided meals for folks and those with means donated so those with less didn’t go hungry. As weeks turned into months, gardens began producing a wonderful bounty of fresh produce that was shared — safely with everyone. Loaves of homemade sourdough bread appeared mysteriously on neighbors’ doorsteps and everyone stuck together. And you know, not one person in Evergreen caught the virus!

But then, one day Mr. Turner showed up in town. He didn’t look good, he didn’t feel good. He’d gone to a party in the next county where people weren’t wearing masks and physically distancing. Donned in her protective gear Dr. Williams gave him a test. After having him name five random objects, she was just messing with him, she gave him an instant virus test, he didn’t have it. Just a cold.

Before they learned the results, the people of Evergreen put together a basket filled with things Mr. Turner might need in case he was sick. On the top of the basket was a mask. As he walked out of the doctor’s office, feeling more relieved than he had ever felt, he saw the basket, and his neighbors all gathered— at a safe distance, to see how he was. He teared up.
“I’ve been very selfish,” he said. “I was only thinking about myself and my business, I’m so sorry.” He bent down, picked up the mask, and put it on. “Thank you. I promise I will always wear this now. I love all of you.” At least that’s what they think he said, it was kind of muffled due to the mask.

Moral of the story? Be kind, wear a mask, be a good neighbor, and create the community you and all your neighbors deserve.

A girl can dream, right?

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