Our traditional Thanksgiving isn’t happening this year—just like it didn’t happen for anyone else in the United States. The state governors’ mandates for quarantining, the pleas to “just stay home” and the urging to “gather only with your immediate households” don’t set well, even if they are necessary.
Since we couldn’t have our “normal” day, I wondered how to make it a “better” holiday.
My oh-so-original idea is the same one that probably your family had: why not organize a Zoom meeting?
I opted for Wednesday night before Thanksgiving (because I figured that Thanksgiving day itself would be very busy on Zoom). For about 90 minutes, our extended family “gathered” from the states of Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi, Colorado, Indiana, Vermont and Massachusetts. Only three family members couldn’t make the call (this included the one serving in Guam, which won the “best excuse”).
As could be expected, everyone had a different experience level with getting onto the platform. Many of the younger relatives go to school online now, and they helped set up the technology. After a few minutes of squawking microphones and people readjusting their cameras, we could begin our catch-up in earnest.
One cousin told us about her climbs on 14,000 feet mountains, swapping Zoom backgrounds as she talked. The teachers in the group explained how they now “go” to work. Two of group introduced new family members to everyone else by going screen by screen, putting names to faces with waves and smiles into the cameras. One cousin gave us all a wedding “save the date” announcement. A soon-to-be college graduate updated everyone on the job offer he had just accepted.
Our family has only traveled out to Illinois for Thanksgiving once in the past thirty or so years. For us, that seventeen-hour, one-way trip is infinitely easy to handle when driving with summer’s long daylight hours. It is a hard slog of a trip in the end of November when the sun takes forever to appear and hides itself earlier every evening. The one time we did it we were away from home for eight days—and four of them were spent in the car, two days out and two days back.
So, no, Thanksgiving day feasts with this particular group of relatives is not a “family tradition” that has suddenly been spoiled by a pandemic.
This year, it’s just a silver lining brought about by a simple desire to reconnect with each other, spurred by technology that has now become mainstream.