(This week, with our esteemed Publisher’s permission, I’m taking you back to my Musing on that first pandemic Thanksgiving, 2019. Thank goodness; how times have changed!)
Thanksgiving—the holiday now more formally known as Black Friday Eve—is almost upon us. This year, however, a traditional Thanksgiving celebration would likely make even Norman Rockwell cringe. No grandparents or hardly any family gathered around a groaning board, just a tiny frozen turkey and only a sorry side or two. Sigh. I imagine that my wife and I will be dining entre nous on simple fare while contemplating how to legally loot our local box store. Virtually, of course, unless we get really crazy and opt for contactless curbside pickup.
Back in the day (What day was that? Tuesday? Saturday? Who can tell the difference anymore?), Thanksgiving was a big deal. It was warm and friendly and relatively uncommercial. There was some touch football and turkey, then the real thing—the NFL: the Detroit Lions playing somebody better than them. (Author’s insert: but not this year—the Lions are roaring!) That was a far cry from the first Thanksgiving, that fairytale feast when John and Goodwife Priscilla invited Squanto and his mates over for a gala dinner. (Author’s insert: given the history of the white settlement of this continent, I’ve grown so skeptical of this version of the story that I’m almost loathe to perpetuate it here; think of it as but a momentary literary device.) As the years rolled on, our Thanksgiving fantasies gathered strength, so much so that in 1947, President Truman started a new Thanksgiving tradition by pardoning a turkey. His successors have since pardoned some other turkeys, but, just like Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.
But I digress. This year, there’s an uninvited guest at our tables, one who looks like Shrek and acts even worse. Institutions as august as the CDC are pleading with us not to invite Uncle Ned, Aunt Polly and our cousins from Winnetka, and, instead, stay within our own impermeable little family bubbles. For my wife who has eight siblings and countless nieces, nephews, and in-laws, the CDC guidelines almost amount to a death sentence which is exactly what it would be if we followed tradition and went to someone’s house with forty-three of our closest relatives. Sorry, honey, maybe next year.
So the question now becomes, “How should we celebrate Thanksgiving this year?” I have a friend in town, a gracious restauranteur who annually provides a free feast at his fine dining establishment to those in need, who must be asking himself that very question. It’s a conundrum, for sure. Celebrating family and friends without either present poses a problem that even the most altruistic among us finds difficult to solve. It’s hard to pass the dinner rolls to one’s self.
Well, as the saying goes, we’ll get through this, but honestly, that’s pretty thin gruel on this year’s Thanksgiving table. Still, if we really are to slay the COVID beast, we must respect it enough to practice delaying the gratification of even our most hallowed traditions. I’m not suggesting that we dispense with Thanksgiving all together this year, let’s just Zoom it. And when Uncle Ned spills gravy down the front of his shirt, politely look away and make the best of it, the way you always do.
I’ll be right back.
(Author’s insert: Happy 2023 Thanksgiving to all!)
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.