It’s that time of year; the leaves are starting to change, it’s dark by dinner time and chilly mornings give way to sunny, warm afternoons here in northern CA. We survived pandemic Halloween with socially distanced candy chutes for trick or treating, backyard treasure hunts or easy pleasures like carving pumpkins and roasting seeds. In simpler times, this is when we’d start ordering our turkeys, planning our Thanksgiving menus and in many cases finalizing our travel plans. Not so much this year.
As I write this, COVID cases are spiking again. The US recently hit 10 million confirmed cases, making ours the first country to hit that grim milestone. According to Johns Hopkins, the average number of infections has topped 100,000 every day for a week, and at least 15 states just broke records for new daily infections. It’s not a pretty picture. Many health experts are urging Americans not to travel or gather. For those of us used to celebrating the holidays with relatives near and far, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Do we go anyway? And if we do, should we quarantine after returning home to keep the virus from potentially spreading to our local community? The answer to that last question, is scientifically simple: Yes. A solution to salvaging a holiday that by its nature brings people together? Well, that’s a little less clear. Lucky for you, I’ve whipped up a few ideas that might take some of the load off your plate if you’re staying put.
Gather extended family on a zoom call and “Meal Prep.” Just because you won’t be eating together, doesn’t mean you can’t plan together. Have the kids brainstorm the menu, share recipes, pick their “project” and then, on the big day, cook and show off their handiwork, virtually.
Bust out a gratitude bowl. Everyone in your home adds one short thought a day for the 7 days leading up to Thanksgiving. Your distant relatives do the same. On Thanksgiving, before dinner, zoom a round robin read-a-thon. Show your kids that 2020 has some redeeming qualities after all.
Reach out to the isolated. There are no doubt seniors right in your neighborhood that haven’t been able to see their friends or families. Have your kids make a basket of muffins - or maybe practice their holiday cooking project - and drop it off on their porch with a knock and a nice card. Or, find an assisted living home or nursing home with residents craving attention and drop off hand written notes or cards. They’re sure to be a welcome distraction.
Sponsor a family at a local shelter. Check on COVID protocols. If gift baskets are allowed, work together as a family to decide what foods to buy and then wrap it like it’s for your mother-in-law. A nice presentation goes a long way toward making the recipient feel special. Food baskets not allowed? Times are tough and some families are in dire straights. Although not personal, a check or basket of gift cards would certainly be just as appreciated. Include the kids in picking out the cards and/or the delivery and ask them if they’d like to donate their allowance money toward the purchases.
Create a time capsule. While 2020 has been very challenging in many ways, this is a historic year and one kids will someday want to and need to remember. Include newspapers, a mask, and if you can spare it, hand sanitizer and a roll of TP. And don’t forget a few photos so you can remember what everyone looked like with their extra-long hair, unpolished nails and stay at home attire.
Zoom your coronavirus gratitude, zoom your goodies for the time capsule, zoom your kids’ cooking wonders, zoom their random acts of kindness for hard-hit seniors and those struggling to make ends meet. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that with a little effort, love and warmth translate pretty darn well over the internet.
While for many, the spirit of Thanksgiving is about old traditions, sharing a meal and giving thanks, it can also be about starting new traditions and focusing on the silver linings of 2020. Your children’s laughter when they hear their grandparents voice or their pride when they give back to their community. And you’ll feel good about how you’ve led your family through this pandemic with grace. And, at least for me, wine. Lots and lots of wine.
Mallary Alcheck is a former corporate media and marketing director turned SAHM. While focusing on raising her three kids, ages 5, 7 and 9 she became a serial volunteer at her children's school and several community organizations including the OFJCC. She holds a degree in communications from Syracuse University and has been dipping her toe back into the workforce with consulting projects. In her spare time she loves live music, travel and shaking it with her moms hip hop dance group.