By Rich Eisenberg
Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 may have been a fairly typical pandemic day for you. But for my family and me, it was Thanksgiving, COVID-style.
For the last 10 months, my wife, Liz, and I have been heartbroken, unable to see our sons Aaron, 31, and Will, 30, in person. They live in Los Angeles, where they’re screenwriting partners; we live in the suburban New Jersey home where we raised them. Liz and I last saw them while on the set of the Hulu horror-comedy movie they wrote, “Good Boy.”
We all agreed that Aaron and Will shouldn’t fly here around Thanksgiving, nor should we travel to see them then, because the airports and planes would be too crowded and potential COVID-19 superspreaders in what might be The Second Wave of the pandemic. But our sons felt that flying home in early October, wearing masks and shields and ensuring an open middle JetBlue seat between them, would be a calculated risk.
So, they got COVID-19 tests (negative, thankfully), kissed their wives Leigh Anne and Jen and their dogs Francine and Arlo goodbye, and hopped on their plane for “Thanksgiving.” I met them, masked, outside the Newark airport doors. We did not hug.
Before I tell you how it went on October 9 (actual holiday: Leif Erikson Day), I want to say that we are hardly alone in celebrating Thanksgiving much differently than usual in 2020.
Some 68% of Americans surveyed by the consumer research firm Numerator said that’ll be the case for them — either gathering only with immediate family or members of their household or with smaller groups; not traveling; not gathering with ”elderly friends or relatives” or celebrating virtually instead of in person. A Hopper travel site survey found that 21% of people said they don’t plan to travel this holiday season, although they would in a typical year.
And check out these poignant posts on Next Avenue’s Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -0.76% page:
Jean Leo Moore of Erie, Pa.: “We, my children and their families will probably not get together at Thanksgiving or Christmas…It makes me sad, but it’s not worth the risk. There is a teacher and three nurses in the family, so we’re well aware of what’s at stake. We’ll enjoy the holidays next year.”
Julie Pigott Robinson: “We’ll miss the big family gatherings at Thanksgiving but it’s more important to stay safe. I care for my [88-year-old] mom and am not taking chances. Not too many in the family are tech savvy, so phone calls will have to do.”
Paulette Green : “Normally I go to my daughter’s for both Thanksgiving and xmas but we had a falling out over COVID mask wearing and social distancing so I doubt I will even be invited.”
Margaret Reilly Mason : “We let our guard down and after an afternoon visiting some good friends, found out we had been exposed to COVID and had to get a test. We were negative, thank God. That was a wake up call. I think we’re going to have to reframe the holidays, which for us, include 20 or more family members and are always wonderful, but just not worth the risk this year.”
Suzanne Claffey : “Won’t be doing anything. My kids will have Thanksgiving without us and the situation has broken our heart.”
Nancy Vickers : “We’ll be here at home, thanks. No traveling, just Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. Doctor’s orders.”
Deb Tomsky : “ Will schedule holiday visits with zoom. Safety first!”
Susan Zent James : “Squashed.”
Breanne Heldman, a New York City senior editor at People (and friend of my wife), told me that her family came up with a novel way to hold their holidays together this year. She and her husband and her brother in Denver flew to see Heldman’s 70-something parents in Del Ray Beach, Fla., for five days in September and…
“My mom decided we would celebrate all the holidays through the year during that time, which was awesome!” Heldman said. As part of the surprise, her mother would do all the cooking.
Night one: Thanksgiving. “Her sweet potatoes were the most amazing thing I ever tasted in my life,” said Heldman. “That kicked it off.”
Nights two and three: Hanukkah, celebrated for two nights because: leftovers. “Brisket and potato pancakes,” said Heldman.
Night four: New Year’s Eve. “She went all out, with steak and champagne,” Heldman said.
Night five: Passover. “We haven’t done Passover as a family in easily a decade.”
All in all, Heldman — who noted that she had her husband tested negative for COVID-19 before the trip and quarantined after returning home — said, “it was an epic way to spend that time together, to have memories and eat the foods that were such a part of our lives together as a family.”