My friend Jo planned her virtual Thanksgiving with her three children, who live in three different time zones, around cocktails. She offered each child a time slot--5:00 their time zone on one of the days of the Thanksgiving weekend. She did not aim to bring everyone together--not with one child in Copenhagen, one near her on the east coast and another in San Francisco. Her aim was to ease the alone time of the holiday and add a few hours of family joy with a mock/cocktail hour with each of her children (and any spouses and grandchildren in residence).
How did that go? Her report:
I pulled off being the "host" on a zoom mock/cocktail party by going to "zoom school" a week before my "test." I set up my son's family in San Francisco (all of whom are technically savvy, so I wanted to "shine") for 5 pm their time, 8 pm my time. I sent them a box of snacks; they furnished their own drinks. There's a 40 minute limit on zoom meetings if you're doing it for free. My grandchildren could tolerate that amount of time.
My daughter and granddaughter live in Denmark and usually host a Thanksgiving meal for their friends and assorted Americans they know, but not this year. Demark isn't playing around with the Pandemic. So no partying for them. We talk once a week on Facetime, and - as Thanksgiving isn't a holiday in Denmark - it wasn't anything special.
For my son who lives near me, we Facetimed at an agreed on time for dessert on Thanksgiving day, including my son's family's two college-age daughters who were home for Thanksgiving, me in my apartment and my son's father (my ex) and his wife in Cambridge. Oh, and their dogs! It went well.
My family zoomed its way through an elaborate day. Here's how it went for three households living in three different cities but--lucky us--all in the same time zone.
I had spent the week obsessing about having a memorable holiday and that obsession meant pre-planning. It was worth the time and effort, especially since others picked up on the cues and added their own magic. We started with a noon-time 3-kitchen zoom where each kitchen (cooks and advisers) baked together, muting our mics when running the mixer, asking for advice on unexpected problems (I cut my apples too soon; granddaughter advised cinammon to keep them from turning brown) and showing each other our pre-baked efforts. Easy to pull off if everyone is on board and has recipe and ingredients on hand. It was more fun than you might think.
The best part of our zoomsgiving, though, was the late afternoon, pre-dinner get together for a family quiz based on photos of family members when they were younger than they are today. I had photo-texted a dozen to my son, my daughter sent a few and my son found some. He put together a slide show of the photos and posed "challenging" questions designed to encourage everyone to come up with over-the-top answers--the more outrageous the better. We laughed a lot and, key to it all, everyone participated. The chat function got a workout. I'm still giggling over some of the answers.
We turned off the zoom, took a break and ate our dinners without screentime or being together.
Later in the evening we zoomed again to eat the desserts we had baked together. We were all pretty tired by then. One of us (he shall be unnamed) dozed off on his living room floor. I rate the dessert-zoom as modified bliss. Maybe one event too many. But overall the three-way Thanksgiving "visit" was upbeat, comforting and memorable.
With the Christmas-New Years holidays ahead--and no clear sign that the pandemic will allow for safe travel and visits before the end of the year--I wanted to share what worked at Thanksgiving so we can build on that if we're still stuck in the same pandemic rut.
Love to hear from you about your Thanksgiving accommodations to the current realities.
photo: Maia Lemov