It's a Very Covid Thanksgiving - and we're very thankful!
Hands down - no doubt about it - Thanksgiving has almost always been my favorite holiday - I say almost always, as I’m sure that as a kid I looked forward to all of the gifts that came with Christmas, but by my teens I had settled on Thanksgiving as my favorite. What’s not to like about Thanksgiving? It’s not a religious holiday per se, there are no gifts required, the central theme is gratitude and the big event is good food. Yes - Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday.
My dad came from a family of five boys and by the late 1950s three of them had migrated to the greater Puget Sound country in Washington State. Our families took turns hosting the holiday and I have such vivid memories of those gatherings - cooking the bird was a man’s job and I can still hear my dad and my uncles debating best practices for getting the perfect skin, cooking the dark meat thoroughly without drying out the breast, and just generally thinking that they were doing all the heavy lifting and ruling the kitchen. Of course it was really my mom and my aunts who had to do all the side dishes, make the desserts, entertain the children, and clean up all the messes. They were glorious celebrations and we continued the tradition until sometime in my early high school years.
In college I always made a beeline home for Thanksgiving, or a few times I joined a girlfriend’s family for the festivities. When I was living in Idaho I intruded for several years on my friends Roger and Sherry and their young family - felt like home to me and they were so wonderfully gracious to include me year after year. My Idaho family that I dearly love!
When Betsy and I began to establish our own family rituals it still revolved around family, friends, lots of good food, and a celebration of our good fortunes. As the kids joined our universe, and because we almost always lived a few states away from other family, it became a day that truly celebrated the nuclear family, our many lucky breaks, and our love of good food. I will miss having my dear daughter in the kitchen as my sous chef extraordinaire this year or my son who can dazzle you with his unique brand of brilliance (aka bullshit), while putting away prodigious amounts of food - but I am thankful knowing that both of them will be safe, warm, and well-fed.
Covid is requiring us to pretty drastically alter our “normal” Thanksgiving but we are still very thankful and full of gratitude for all of the good things that continue to come our way. It’s not the first time that we have been solo at Thanksgiving - after all we’ve been empty nesters for more than a decade. A couple of times in recent years we’ve gone out to dinner but that’s not a good option for us this year - one of the local restaurants where we enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago did not survive the initial Covid shut-down and I notice in this week’s paper there are no advertisements from restaurants for Thanksgiving other than the barbecue place. As much as I like a slab of ribs and a bowl of mac & cheese or maybe cowboy beans, it just doesn’t scream Thanksgiving to me. Even if every restaurant in town was serving dinner we would not choose to dine out this year.
Like everyone else, Covid has smacked us in the face - no kids coming home and we’re not traveling anywhere - not getting together with any friends. Not trying to preach a similar approach for anyone else - it’s just what makes sense for us. We will still have a wonderful dinner - we will still have each other’s company - and we will still be filled with gratitude, we will still have a very good Thanksgiving. We would far rather spend a Thanksgiving in quarantine than risk a Christmas in the ICU.
Dinner will be very different - gone will be the ritual of starting on the homemade stock about three days out. I’ll be making one type of cranberry relish - not three different ones. Even the smallest hen turkeys available at our butcher shop was more than we wanted lest we be eating left-overs until Christmas - seriously, we are years past that last push of a couple of gallons of turkey soup. So we’ll go with a turkey breast and I’ll hope the butcher has a random thigh or drumstick available since I like dark meat. There will still be taters and gravy but not by the vat - same with stuffing, a single batch instead of the double or triple batches from years past. The three pounds of roasted Brussel sprouts in a balsamic/cranberry glaze will be cut back to one pound. Probably won’t even have a relish tray of that stuff like olives, tiny corn and pickles, etc. - they are generally more work than they are worth and besides, I’ve pretty much outgrown sticking olives on the end of all of my fingers and thinking it’s funny. Yes - it will be a very different dinner but we will be very thankful to have it.
We are thankful to have a safe and warm house - as do both of our kids. With the magic of Zoom we’ll spend some dandy tryptophan-induced grogginess sharing time with the family. We’ll have holiday music playing in the background and we’ll be snug in our little nest.
We are thankful that given our age and list of ailments that we are doing pretty darn good. I’m just back from my quarterly visit to the cancer hospital and seven years after being diagnosed with stage four inoperable cancer I am still responding well to treatment and after two days of scans, pokes, and probes there is no evidence of disease - the best holiday music we could ask for and we are very grateful.
I can tell you one thing that we won’t be missing this year and that’s any Black Friday shopping. Other than online I don’t think either of us has ever been to a shopping mall or a big box store or really any store on Black Friday. I never saw the point in risking being trampled to death just to get that fabulous deal on a toaster oven or a tv - nope, never participated and throw a virus into the mix and you can be guarantee we’ll not be starting this year.
The traditions may change but the sentiments won’t - we will still spend a lovely long weekend being thankful for our many blessings and enjoying each other’s company. I will state unequivocally that what we will not be doing is giving up our freedom, cowering in the basement, or somehow being brainwashed sheep. It works for us to follow the science of Covid and to listen to the medical experts rather than listening to conspiracy theories and following politicians. In our particular case it means we’re observing, actually exceeding, the governmental mandates that are in effect. We feel very good about that, you may well have a different approach that works for you. We’re all wonderfully different in this societal mosaic that we inhabit, and we wish you nothing but good cheer and safe times, however it is that you celebrate your holiday.
Here’s wishing you a most wonderful Thanksgiving. Gobble, Gobble!
peace be with you - Hendo