Last weekend the nation’s health experts pleaded with Americans to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday and forgo any plans to travel or celebrate at large family gatherings, even as …
Last weekend the nation’s health experts pleaded with Americans to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday and forgo any plans to travel or celebrate at large family gatherings, even as airports have recorded a significant rise in passengers.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist, and other health experts relayed a clear message on Sunday morning news shows: With coronavirus cases surging to record levels across the country, turning nearly every state into a hot zone of transmission, “the risk of getting infected, whether in transit or in even small indoor gatherings, is high.”
“Up to 50 million people could be traveling on roads and through airports in the United States over Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA. [It will be] the biggest travel surge since the pandemic began, despite strong cautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities.” (www.nytimes.com)
Mine is not a large family. My sister is in Canada, so there was never any talk of us getting together this week. Although I see Aunt Marcia once or twice a year (we had a socially-distant visit somewhat recently), she was also not on the shortlist for turkey dinner. My mother died on November 21 10 years ago and I haven’t been to Florida since, although Uncle Sid and Aunt Ethel are still there, presently holed up in Boynton Beach, laying low and staying home for the holidays.
Last year, I drove to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with my nearest and dearest: Cordelia (the light of my life, now in her mid-30s) and her mother, Lucia (of indeterminate age). We’re an unusual family unit, and while our relationship is solid, our time together is precious and rare; the three of us have not been in the same room in about a year. As we all discussed how to handle things in light of the pandemic, I went to www.riverreporter.com in order to review what happened last time. Reading last year’s column on the subject was sobering. “As some of you might know,” I wrote in 2019, “I’ve been a little under the weather lately, and by lately, I mean for more than a year.”
“Wow,” I murmured to the dog, “has it been two years, then? Oy.” Continuing to scan last Thanksgiving’s column, I read on. “Some days are better than others, but every doctor I see (and there have been a few) agree that the best thing I can do is keep active and keep working. That said, it’s been a while since I’ve taken a road trip. But when the opportunity arose for me, my precious Cordelia and her mother to spend some quality time together, I said ‘yes’ without hesitation and made plans to drive to Lucia’s home in Lawrenceville, NJ—a cool little town just outside of Princeton.”
Dialing Cory’s mom a few weeks ago, I hemmed and hawed when Lucia picked up. “I’m conflicted,” I said. “Our visit last Thanksgiving was the highlight of my year, and I don’t want to miss another opportunity, but the news is dire,” I intoned, my voice trailing off. Those words hung in the air before Lucia broke the silence. “I know, I know” she responded, “but Cory is adamant. She wants us all to be together, and so do I. Besides,” she added. “We both want to meet the new man in her life, right? I think she’s hoping for our stamp of approval.”
“Oh, right, the new boyfriend,” I said. “Sounds like he’s a keeper—on paper, anyhow. Okay then, let’s do this.” That was more than a month ago and, although we went ahead with making plans, I reminded both mother and daughter that, according to Buddhist principal, attachment to the plan “can only lead to disappointment, so let’s keep it in perspective.” And here we are.
As I listened to Dr. Fauci on Sunday and his advice that “even small gatherings” should be eschewed, I picked up the phone once more. Honestly, I’m saddened just recounting our conversation here, but suffice it to say that, for the safety of all concerned, our little family get-together is canceled. “Maybe we can make plans for Thanksgiving in July?” I said. “You know, like the Christmas thing, but with pilgrims and a horn of plenty,” I chuckled, doing my best to make light of a dark situation.
Lucia called Cory to break the news, and while I wasn’t privy to their conversation, a decision was made. “She was in agreement,” was all Lucia said, stifling a sob when she called me back. Am I happy about it? Of course not, but my health has been iffy for two years now. If I want to see another Thanksgiving, being prudent is called for. “Looks like we’re gonna have a Zoom dinner, like millions of others,” I said.
Cordelia, who happens to be a professional chef, and her mother, who knows her way around a kitchen, are far more likely to whip up something appetizing, while I’m inclined to make PB&J and just (sigh) call it a day.
There’s no place like home for the holidays? That might be true if family members are present as well. This year, it just sounds downright depressing. As for Christmas being right around the corner? It’s not looking good, but calmer heads must (IMHO) prevail. Seems wise to hold off, be smart and hope for a brighter tomorrow, right? Of course... right.
Fun Fact: Not only is “Home for the Holidays” a hit song written by Al Stillman and Robert Allen and recorded by crooner Perry Como in 1954, it is also the title of a 1995 film directed by Jodie Foster starring Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Robert Downey Jr. and Charles Durning.