Many years ago, my youngest sister, Sybil, wrote a holiday-themed piece for the Camden Herald’s Christmas supplement titled, “I could never be an orphan in Camden.”

It recounted her then-recent experience in a community production of Oliver Twist, and how that story line contrasted with everyday life in Camden, where there were friendly faces abound and a stranger was just a friend you hadn’t met yet. It was a touching, positive story.

Sybil’s piece preceded Hillary Clinton popularizing the African proverb about taking a village to raise a child, so in a sense, she was visionary, as that was more or less her conclusion before it was trendy to think so. Still, I teased her mercilessly about it over the years. As karmic payback, I now find myself at a loss for a holiday tale of my own.

For millions of Americans, 2020 will be the first virtual Christmas. It could be argued that celebrating the birth of a man who was, 33 years later, forsaken to an immoral political authority is itself a virtual act.

But to an extent, Christmas and New Year's are about gathering with family and loved ones. This year could be like television which, T.S. Eliot remarked at its advent, “allowed millions of people to laugh at the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonely.”

Over the past quarter century of being “away,” the simplest way I could honor the holidays was crossing the Maine state line. That either meant coming or home or, at the very least, enjoying the 20 minutes of Maine airspace one gets returning from a trans-Atlantic flight.

Invariably, the holidays always entailed a rush like the one that left Macaulay Culkin “Home Alone,” followed by a homecoming. This year, there just doesn’t seem to be a rush. Given the interminable pace of 2020, the idea of rushing almost seems foolhardy.

Two Christmases ago, I nearly lost my mother to a double brain aneurism. I remember spending time in the ICU waiting room at Maine Medical Center, with a friend from high school who ended up losing his half-brother, who was our age. With COVID-19 still in our midst, there will be isolation and death this year, in starker relief than normal.

A study published earlier this year in Social Science & Medicine showed more people die during the holidays than any other time during the year. But these final destinations also cast a light on the power of the season that is, in a way, celebrated best the further north one goes.

Many will not have the luxury of place this holiday season. My son in Virginia sent me a Christmas card with a Currier & Ives print of a gristmill in the wintertime. If we cannot be there, or among the people we’d like to be somewhere with, we imagine it, whether like a page torn from the L.L. Bean catalogue or the likeness of a candle on a windowsill casting its luminescence onto freshly fallen snow.

Since this Christmas will rely more than most on the imagination, perhaps a good way to approach it is with happy thoughts unconnected to wants or desires or expectations, but rather feel good stories of the kind with which they used to close evening news broadcasts. A deployed soldier unexpectedly gets home leave and surprises his family, an old widow is welcomed into a neighbor’s home, or a little girl declares that Camden is the kind of town in which one just couldn’t be an orphan.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.