In keeping with the rest of the year, Thanksgiving 2020 is unusual in a lot of ways.
Admittedly, some things are the same as always. We’re in Texas, so the weather is mild, and the windows are open. A turkey breast is in the oven, and we’ll have a last minute flurry of activity as we heat stuffing, veggies, sweet potatoes, and gravy. I will open our can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce and feel momentarily guilty that I don’t channel my mother and make it from scratch. And we will sit down to a feast and follow up by washing dishes and the annual viewing of “Miracle on 34th Street.” So all of that is firmly in place.
A lot is different, though. For starters, it’s just Mark and I this year. When I was a kid, the Thanksgiving meal was held at our house, complete with grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my cousin. My mother was a nervous hostess, so we had turkey and gravy with a side of anxiety, but there was always a crowd. The best part for me was cooking the day before with Mom. We’d sing “Harvest Home” and “We Gather Together” as a nod to the holiday and then start in on the Christmas carols. Later on, Mark and I would still have Thanksgiving at my parents’ table, schlepping the kids five hours from Austin to Beaumont. After Mom died, we began hosting at our home. We’d gather our nuclear family, my sister and brother, my niece and nephew, assorted cousins, and friends. Those were big, jolly tables, groaning with food and buzzing with conversation. But this year Jane is working, and Mary made the hard but wise decision not to come to Texas. Given that I tested positive for COVID a couple of hours after she canceled her flight, that was an especially good call – made even better by Mark’s getting sick a couple of days later.
It is tempting to slide into self-pity here. We have no boisterous crowd to entertain. We are both are still coughing and feeling very tired from COVID. I’ve lost my sense of smell, so food has almost no taste. We found out this week that a friend here in Austin died from COVID, and we’re grieving that loss. Around the globe, people are sick and hungry and afraid. Many have empty places at tables that will not be filled again.
But even in the midst of change and sadness, we have much to be thankful for. We have each other. Our children are doing well, and with luck we will see them on Zoom this afternoon and in person at Christmas. We have food to eat, books to read, and a peaceful house in which to recover. More friends than I can count have volunteered to bring us food and run our errands. And yesterday a flock of robins stopped on our property on their way south for the winter. It’s a sight to behold, that clan of determined, red-breasted birds. Not everyone gets to see that in their lifetimes, and I’m grateful.
So we recognize the gladness and the grief and give our thanks today. I’ll leave you with the words of Tennyson’s aging Ulysses, musing by the seashore in Ithaca. He sums up what I feel today:
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are….
I’m grateful to you for reading my post. Happy Thanksgiving.