OK, so it’s a longish title, but it’s a holiday so I’m going to allow it. I haven’t written much about life during this time of social distancing, mostly because I haven’t much felt like it and I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in reading it, but I feel somewhat inspired as I wait for the next series of things I need to do in the kitchen.
I’ve often felt that holidays have their own memory, especially the big ones. Thanksgiving and Christmas have always felt to me like “Every [insert holiday name here] is last [aforementioned holiday name]. What I mean by that is that every Christmas is last Christmas, and all the ones before that. Same with Thanksgiving, in a positive way. It’s the same for me with New Years Eve, but those tend to get a little dark for me. They’ve been fine for many years, but there are a few that linger negatively in my memory, but my Christmases and Thanksgivings of years past are pretty pleasant to look back upon.
This year, as I’m sure everyone will agree, has been a little different than its predecessors. There are few things that, at least to me, have felt normal as the world has faced the specter of the pandemic, not to mention all the other stress, turmoil, and divisiveness that have permeated pretty much everything and everyone. Even without Covid, this would have been a year deeply rooted in challenge, I think.
So, as my turkey roasts and my house begins to smell like it always does in my memories of holidays past, it’s interesting to consider how this year is unlike all the others.
For one, I’ve never cooked for this small a group before. The five people in my household represent the smallest, by a large margin, that I’ve ever cooked for on Thanksgiving. I started hosting the meal right after we got married, so it’s been mine for twenty-one years running. I’ve prepared it in Jersey, in Virginia, in Hawaii, in South Carolina. I’ve prepared it while working half shifts at the Inn, leaving copious instructions for the wife, and I’ve spent upwards of three days prepping and chopping and doing all the things you do when you host. I like doing it, truly, but there were some years that were more challenging than others from a kitchen-warrior perspective. This year, so far, is wildly simple, by comparison.
But, when we all sit down for dinner later, we won’t have to bring more chairs in. We won’t have to set up a smaller table in the living room. We won’t need a case of wine or beer and we won’t be using every single plate and fork in the arsenal. In its own way, it will look very much like every dinner the five of us have had since forever. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, of course. The wife and I work pretty hard to make sure we all have dinner together every night and I’m proud of that.
But, as you may know, gentle reader, I’m a bit of an extrovert. I like being around people. I like entertaining. A lot. I spend the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving making certain that everyone we know has somewhere to go. I’ve invited people weeks ahead and hours ahead, and I’m pretty unapologetic about it. I just don’t like the idea of people we care about not having somewhere to go on the day. I think that’s in large part a result of the kindness that my wife embodies on a daily basis and my own memories of the Thanksgivings in the first few years after my father passed away. After the first year, where we went to the Nassau Inn in Princeton, we spent a few with family friends until the wife and I were dating and serious and we started doing the meal with her family.
I like entertaining. I like to host parties. We’ve done a few in our years here in Virginia, just like we did in Hawaii, where our friends would take turns hosting the big holidays. It was fun. The last event I hosted was in early March, and it was stripped down and socially distant, as we were just beginning to understand that the virus was a serious problem. Thinking about that evening now, it was glorious, just having a few friends around before everything went bananas.
It seems like a lifetime ago.
So today, when we sit down together as a family, I will be thankful for many things:
I’ll be thankful that my family is together and safe and healthy. I’ll be thankful that our friends and family, wherever and however they are spending the day are much the same. I’ll be grateful that for the first time in a long time, there appears to be some hope about the manner in which we will be able to move forward through this pandemic. I’ll be grateful for the extra time I’ve been able to spend with my family. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worthwhile.
I’ll be thankful that my wife’s job has remained steadfast throughout all of this. While both my business and my “side-hustle” have been deeply impacted, her ministry has been consistent. She’s faced numerous new challenges like everyone else, but I’m grateful that she’s been able to provide for our family, as she always has.
I’m deeply thankful that people have had some interest in my books. I won a little award recently and am about to launch the series finale before moving onto other writings, among other things. I’m grateful that I’ve had some opportunities.
I often hear people say, “when things go back to normal,” as they talk about coming through all of this. I don’t really think things ever really will go back to “normal,” so to speak. I think whatever reality we create on the other side of this will, and should, be a different one. I’d like to think that maybe we’ll be a bit kinder to one another and more appreciative of things like time together and the feeling of safety while out and about.
I’d like to think that we’ll be more thoughtful of one another when we are sick. I’d like to think that we’ll all be more likely to stay home when ill and that our employers will be understanding and supportive of that. I’d like to think that parents will keep their kids home when they’ve popped a fever or “only puked a little and it was last night…they’re fine today and I need to work.” I’d like to think that we will continue to check in with our neighbors more often and wave and say hello to the folks walking through our neighborhood. I’m still not opening the door for solicitors, but that’s nothing new for me. I don’t yell at them anymore, so that’s growth, right?
I remember in the days after September 11, 2001, everyone you spoke to asked you if all of your people were accounted for. People were generally kinder and there really was s sense of national unity that lasted a while. I wonder if our country is a little too polarized now to hope for that to occur on a large scale, but it’s a thought. Moments of shared crisis have a way of bringing people together, even briefly, but that can fade over time. It did after September 11, and it likely will again. I mean, you can still rent an inflatable water slide based on the Titanic for your next (post Covid) birthday party and that tragedy killed 1,517 people. Seriously.
But I hope that people will be kinder longer. I hope that employers begin to understand the effectiveness of tele-work and the ways that it can really be of benefit to the environment, the family, and the health and wellness of both the company and the employee.
I do miss gathering with loads of people. I really do. When it becomes safe to do so, I’ll likely be throwing a rager. Well, as much of a rager as an almost-middle-aged gentleman might throw. Until then, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, safe, and spending the day in the finest manner you can.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. If it’s not something you celebrate, have a great Thursday!
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