A Very COVID Thanksgiving

To the year that has given the middle finger to pretty much each and every tradition I’ve held, I am inclined to give the finger right back. It’d be easy to itemize all that has gone wrong in 2020, but this is a blog post, not a tale voluminous along the lines of War and Peace. Most of you are sheltering in your bunker, waving at the outside world through your window these days. It’s in peculiar circumstances I find myself: I simultaneously crave connection and want to be left alone.

We intend to honor small group, social distance protocol for the holiday, gobbling up our turkey as a foursome rather than our usual twenty-foursome. How very cozy and 2020 a holiday we will have.

Since my son’s diagnosis in 2015, I’ve written an annual post of Fourth Thursday in November gratitude, but COVID renders me at something of a loss to create a list of what’s gone right this year. Scratch that–COVID has rendered me at something of a loss to create. Period. Full stop.

But I’m gonna try. ‘Cause tradition.

  1. I’m grateful no one in my family has been horribly affected by COVID. The extended family has not escaped unscathed, but its effects seem neither to have been critical nor debilitating in the long term.
  2. I’m grateful my son with muscular dystrophy has not complained that his physical condition has deteriorated this year.
  3. In a related revelation, I’m grateful I’ve instituted a “You plan and cook one meal a week” night with each of my sons. It’s been both joyous (mostly) and exasperating (a little) watching them work really hard at kitchen skills that seem so obvious to an old woman like me. Watching my number one son physically struggle in his kitchen maneuvers has been eye-opening, but *sigh* it’s provided insight into some accommodations he may need. Forewarned is forearmed and all that. . .
  4. I’m grateful that my sons have their own bedrooms and desks therein. You cannot fathom the noise levels I hear in the homes of some of my students. There is a level of privilege in having quiet work space and reliable Wi-Fi, which allows for, in my estimation, fewer distractions from learning. Despite never having set foot in his high school building, my number two son is crushing his freshman year. Number one son misses what he loves about school–playing music on the radio station, making music with mallets, and the company of classmates–a great deal, and though they both desperately want to be in school, they almost never complain. And they certainly could.
  5. I’m grateful my younger child has that one friend he can see, and I’m grateful for his mom. Each of our sons is the other’s person, best friends from the first day they met at age four.
  6. In a rare 2020 highlight, my favorite singer played my request on his Facebook live performance FOR ME and said I was awesome. Out LOUD! And if you don’t know how indescribably bonkers it made me, you’ve really not been paying attention here. And even if he was totally BS-ing I don’t even care. Damn, do I miss live music with my Ladies and my Ladies Ladies though.
  7. I’m grateful for the new perspectives new people in my life have provided this year.
  8. I superlove the birthday messages our children write for us. To have read “there is no other human being on planet Earth that I’d want to be my father, and I’m incredibly grateful for that” would melt even the iciest of hearts.
  9. I’m grateful for the sliver of time in 2020 when elective surgeries were a thing. My husband had some facial reconstruction done a few months back. He’s not before-accident pretty, and his disappointment in that breaks my heart, but there’s improvement. And when dead seemed like the most likely outcome, anything not dead is pretty good.
  10. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work from home. I do have to go in periodically, for my employer mandates certain activities be completed live and in-person, so I go. But mostly I work from my basement or dining room–it cuts both ways, because home/work boundaries are more difficult to establish and maintain when your commute is ten feet–and I like when my children visit me between their classes.
  11. Working from home created the opportunity for my family to see the work I do. Literally, they can see and hear the work I do, and that helped deepen their understanding of what I do and why my work matters to me. And, frankly, why I’m nuts sometimes.
  12. I’m grateful I’m in good enough physical condition to walk up and down a cliff. I visit a secret beach not too far from my home, and spied this rainbow leaf on my way down.

I know that many view Thanksgiving as a day of mourning, and I recognize that history is written by the side who wins. For me, Thanksgiving is synonymous with family. Though our 2020 Thanksgiving table will feature only four faces, faces extremely familiar to the others, I’m an above-average cook who will prepare an above-average, much-too-big dinner for my family, an event I’m anticipating happily. I am steadfast in my Christmas music can be played only after Thanksgiving Day practice, but I didn’t say the Christmas tree couldn’t go up earlier than ever. It’s 2020 after all.

9 thoughts on “A Very COVID Thanksgiving

    • You’re so kind to think that’s even possible. I don’t have the kind of creative mind to piece together a whole book or even a short story, but it’s an incredible compliment I’ll gratefully accept.

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  1. This is just wonderful, Wendy — exactly what I needed to read, and exactly the Thanksgiving tradition we should all be observing this year. I especially loved No. 11.

    This isn’t my blog, so I won’t share a list of all the specific things I’m thankful for this year, but let me say this: 2020 has unequivocally made me a more patient and compassionate person, and it has also made me an objectively better blogger and author. The pandemic catalyzed a tremendous degree of self-reflection — more than I’ve ever undergone, and I plumb the depths of my psyche for a living! — that has made me a better, more thoughtful human being and writer.

    And that I got through this year without ever missing a meal or dealing directly with the coronavirus (my immediate family has also been spared) is not something I take for granted. Before all this, I considered myself a person who never took things for granted, but I see now how many things I considered God-given absolutes — from meeting friends for drinks to walking through a city park at 1:00 a.m. without ever getting harassed by police — were privileges. Knowing that now, I am certain I will practice gratitude for those privileges when they return, and work the rest of my days to help ensure they return for everyone in equal measure.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Wendy!

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    • 2020 demands patience and compassion, doesn’t it? It should anyway! What a revelation to have discovered how the year’s events (or lack thereof) made you a more thoughtful person and writer—I’m looking forward to continued reading. To recognize that kind of personal growth amidst the noise of division and sides-taking 2020 has to be a beacon. I’m so glad there is light, some glimmer for hope as we head into the dark of winter (well, here in the Midwest it’s dark and cold!). Thank you, as always, for your support, Sean. I hope your Thanksgiving was extra-special!

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  2. Happy Thanksgiving! We already had ours in October and I had the wonderful experience of my daughter, at the dinner table, spontaneously telling us how thankful she is for our family. I’m grateful for so many things I can’t count, and your list is awesome. I’m also stealing that one day a week thing–although it will probably be plain pasta or canned stew, I think Kate will rise to the challenge!

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    • It’s come to a point already where my older son is planning his next meals a few days out, which pastes a huge smile on my face. Kate will rise to it, I am sure! I’m so happy she shared her thankful thoughts with you—there is nothing like that, nothing like your child’s recognition of the love (and work?) you put into their raising. I’m not sure I’m saying that quite right, but I know how I glow when either of mine tell me they appreciate me or something I’ve done for them.

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