Zoom is the answer. That's what we--me, my friends, our families--tell each other when we talk about how we'll be together when we won't be together this Thanksgiving.
But what will we do with Zoom--sit in front of a camera and tell each other Hello and Happy Thanksgiving? Eat our separate dinners together in front of the Zoom lens?
I have made an executive decision for my family--a daughter and her family in Massachusetts; a son and his family in New York; Paterfamilias and me in Maryland--that we'll use Zoom to have a memorable holiday. It won't be like our usual Thanksgivings where we gather at my son's house, pitch in to cook the many dishes that spell turkey, tofurkey and trimmings, and go for a walk before over-indulging on dessert. But we can still do things that we can look back on next year or years from now and say, "Remember the fun we had the year of the pandemic."
I can dream, can't I?
Putting dream into action, I have started on that road by asking my kids and grandkids to contribute ideas. Here's what we've got so far.
Meal Prep: On the morning of Thanksgiving we'll set up our Zoom cams in our respective kitchens and cook together. Right now we're thinking dessert: I'll do my German apple cake; my Massachusetts granddaughter wants to try pecan pie; my son's family will indulge his love of pumpkin pie. Different desserts but we'll be baking together and chatting as we preheat our ovens, grease our pie pans and get our hands full of flour and sugar and shortening. We won't be able to share results or even the heady aromas of each other's kitchens but we'll still be together in the kitchen. It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving and I don't want to give it up.
Drop-Ins: We'll send zoom invites to friends we used to see at Thanksgiving and ask them to drop by to say hello. It will be fun to exchange greetings and see how their families have grown and they can see ours. The drop-in doesn't have to last long, but I feel lighter knowing we'll have visits from people we care about and who care about us.
Drama: As keeper of snapshots from our child-rearing years, I have been asked by my son to pick out a few old photos of him and his sister and scan them to him. He promises to create a slide show with commentary that his children and niece will find amusing--even if he and his sister are the butt of the jokes.
Fun and Games: We will, of course, do our usual routine of asking each one of us to talk about what we are grateful for this year. We might add a second round of something silly we're grateful for. But beyond that, we will play some campfire-style games like Two Truths and a Lie or 20 Questions. Here's a link to more suggestions for online party games.
More Thoughts: I suggested a family sing-along--surely there's an app with music and lyrics we could follow. My children shot that down immediately. We are not a family of singers; some of us are carry-a-tune challenged. But I put it out there for more vocal-oriented families. There are also apps that let you play card games together or watch a movie and chat about it. Both Disney+ and Amazon Prime come with built in watch-partying features.
There's also the great outdoors. A friend whose grown daughters and their families live nearby is avoiding indoor family gatherings of any size. Instead, she is planning to mask up and go on a hike with the willing. If the weather is foul on Thanksgiving day it's bound to be more hospitable at least one day of the weekend. Hike on, Joyce!
Still the Same: In years past the days running up to the holiday were filled with much inter-family texting, emailing and phone calling about details--spatchcock the turkey or not, how many versions of stuffing/dressing to make, which desserts to buy and which bake. This year there is still a lot of messaging back and forth, only this time it's to plan the zoom side of our celebration. Doesn't matter what the details are, the important piece is that we're in touch now and we're looking forward to being together in whatever shape togetherness takes.
painting: Carl Larsson