Since 2020 is moving us right along into our first and hopefully only pandemic holiday season, I have been doing quite a bit of reflecting. How do I make these upcoming celebrations special, yet safe? What traditions are the most important?
This landed me on November of last year and, let me tell you, the perfect storm of events surrounding Thanksgiving 2019 promise to make even a COVID Thanksgiving happy and calm in comparison.
So, journey back with me to those pre-COVID days when we could run around sans masks and buy plane tickets and plan group holiday get-togethers with abandon. It was approximately 100 years ago; do you remember?
Lauren was barely two months old, and my side of the family had been planning to spend Thanksgiving with us in Sacramento for months. I was absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t wait to show off our house and new baby; to have my parents, brothers, sister-in-law, and grandmother sitting around my living room; to go for walks together and enjoy the bright fall colors that Northern California bursts into each November.
I even had the Del Taco location picked out for our annual Thanksgiving feast. (I can hear you now, reader who is unaware of this beautiful tradition. “What? You eat Thanksgiving dinner at Del Taco?” Yes, we do; and yes, it is just as amazing as it sounds. But, that’s another story for another time.)
If you have been following along with my life this past year, you already know that in early November 2019 my mom received a breast cancer diagnosis. At this point, it’s not a new plot twist, but in the moment, it was heartbreaking. A few days after the diagnosis we found out she needed to start chemotherapy the week before Thanksgiving. Her doctor was adamant. There would be no Northern California holiday that year.
“I know not being able to host everyone is small compared to cancer,” I cried to David that night. “This disappointment feels so selfish, but right now I’m sad.”
I didn’t sit in the sadness for long, however, and within days everyone had either changed their flights or purchased new ones. We would spend Thanksgiving in Southern California with my parents. The location didn’t matter, really. Being together was our top priority.
I wish I could stop right here and wrap this story up with a sweet little anecdote about the importance of family time, but Thanksgiving 2019 had a few more tricks up its sleeve.
As is prone to happen to toddlers during cold and flu season, Ellie came down with croup, and we pushed our flights back to give her more time to get better. We wouldn’t be with my family on Thanksgiving, but we would be there the next day. That was good enough.
Ellie felt much better by Thanksgiving Day, so we decided, rather than put all celebrating on hold until we reached Southern California, we would find a few ways to make the day our own. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in our jammies and David made “pancake balls” (that’s ableskivers for anyone over the age of three), declaring them our new official breakfast for any and all holidays.
“Do you still want to go to Del Taco for dinner?” David asked later in the afternoon.
I decided I would feel sad without the rest of my family so, despite David’s sweet attempts to convince me otherwise, I snagged a last-minute reservation at a restaurant that served actual Thanksgiving food.
Here’s where things get weird.
We waited in an absolute sea of humanity for what felt like ages to be seated, David trying to keep Ellie entertained while I tried to keep the crowd from breathing on tiny Lauren. We finally reached our table and, to my horror, the middle-aged woman seated next to us had taken off her shoes AND socks and had one foot propped up on the table leg while she used every last wet wipe the restaurant had to clean her face. Ellie refused to eat a single thing, including the snacks we brought, and the meal ended with Lauren projectile vomiting all over me, the table, and the floor.
Unfortunately, she missed our table neighbor’s bare feet. That would have been some poetic justice.
I should have gone with drive-thru bean and cheese burritos.
At 5:00am Friday morning, Lauren woke us up coughing. It was her turn to come down with croup. We canceled our flight.
I ended up with a Northern California holiday after all, just not the one I wanted.
I don’t know what the upcoming holidays will look like.
I know we won’t be traveling and will miss out on seeing family.
(I pray there are no barefooted strangers.)
I also know we’ll eat ableskivers. There will be pod dinners, giggling sisters, and quiet evenings at home. We’ll give thanks to God for his abundant blessings.
If last Thanksgiving taught me anything, it’s that you can feel absolute deep, guttural disappointment and, in your grief, still celebrate.
There will always be moments to savor. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of creativity and a unique perspective to find them.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series “Savor”.