It’s time we all had “the talk.”
The time to do it is now, before people book flights they shouldn’t be taking, before people get their hopes up so high, they will be crushed under an avalanche of disappointment.
Thanksgiving will not be the same this year.
It isn’t canceled. It’s just going to be different.
It has to be for all of us to survive and thrive to be here next year.
I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. It’s the day my daughter met the man she married when James walked into our home for the first time.
It’s the day my parents always opened our table to college friends who weren’t going home, to friends from broken homes, to friends from Bombay and Central America who shared in our traditions and blue collar abundance.
It’s the day we’ve always hosted and celebrated with nearly two dozen extended family seated around tables that spilled into the living room.
Throughout this pandemic, I’m blessed to have sheltered in place in a bubble big enough to hold my spouse, our daughter, her husband and their three kids. Everyone else has been placed 6 feet away behind a mask.
I’m sad that our bubble can’t include all those regulars who show up every year at our Thanksgiving table, including my brother-in-law from Miami.
At least we still have him with us. He got COVID and was terribly sick for weeks. We’re so grateful he survived. That is gift enough this year. It has to be.
We all have to err on the side of survival.
We’re all going to feel some sadness over what we will miss: The person who always carves the turkey or makes the gravy or brings the sweet potato pie. The crowd that gathers for the football game or Turkey Trot or Macy’s Parade.
We will miss aging parents and young grandkids, dear siblings and cherished friends. We can feel sad and angry, and we can still count our blessings.
We are all missing out on people we love. I missed my niece’s wedding and my nephew’s funeral. The wedding shrunk from our giant family to an intimate gathering we watched online. We couldn’t even gather to have a funeral for my nephew.
It’s been hard to grieve alone and it’s been hard to celebrate apart.
It’s hard, but we can do hard. Our ancestors did harder.
They survived the Great Depression and World War II and being apart for years and not knowing if Hitler would win the world. They survived the horror of the Holocaust. They survived passages on slave ships and Jim Crow laws that bent and broke them. They survived the rough waters of immigrant ships. They survived so we could thrive. Survival comes first.
The numbers don’t lie. COVID cases are climbing. People are dying.
Health experts suggest no more than three households gather for holidays, that we keep gatherings outdoors if possible and to two hours or less.
We’ve got to be creative, so we’re exploring our options:
A drive-by Thanksgiving: You set a two-hour time slot. Start a small campfire or light your fire pit or open the garage door. Set up a sanitizing station. Use paper plates and paper cups. Make masks mandatory. Set up chairs outside 6 feet apart. Serve simple single servings of cider and pumpkin pie. Or cornbread muffins with mashed potatoes and gravy on top. No hugs, no singing, just air hugs, prayer and some gratitude shared.
Give Thanksgiving in a box: Create a Thanksgiving joy kit. Send recipe cards, photos of past Thanksgivings, artwork and a jar full of what you’re thankful for about the receiver. Put in a few decorated masks, a scented candle, cookies or muffins.
Gather on screen: Meet each other on What’sApp for appetizers. Skype over cocktails. Feed your faces on FaceTime. Hold a best-looking dessert contest on Zoom.
We can do this. We just have to do it differently.
Some anonymous soul wrote a beautiful message called “What Cancer Cannot Do.” I think it applies to COVID as well:
What COVID cannot do:
COVID is so limited ...
“It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.”
And it cannot ruin Thanksgiving.
We can still give thanks.
So stay home. Stay safe. Stay grateful.