My friend Lorita was doing Friendsgiving before it had a name and before it became a hip cultural trend. Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday, and she delights in bringing together, what was at first an eclectic group, but what became a holiday family.
She goes all out to make the annual gathering special with warm table settings, gorgeous flowers and an afternoon’s worth of great background music. It’s a noisy group with lots of hugging, wine drinking, telling tall stories and of course eating. We all request — ok demand — that the serious cooks in the group, known for certain carbolicious specialties, prepare massive quantities for seconds and leftovers.
I’m salivating thinking about the artfully arranged buffet spread featuring so many yummy dishes — mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole, turkey and ham, cornbread dressing and mac and cheese, plus so many vegetable sides that the vegetarians can, well, pig out. Part of the experience is the time after we dive in — hours when we can slowly emerge from our group overstuffed stupor.
That was then, but this week, I’ll be in my own home savoring a special take out order from a local restaurant and the warm memories of past gatherings.
Like so many other people my new plans have taken some time to embrace. Early on I clung to the fleeting hope that I could make the old plan work with a few adjustments — masks inside, even further distancing, shorter time hanging out. But I finally realized that I would be a nervous wreck worrying, unable to relax. I didn’t want to take the risk.
So many traditional holiday plans have been upended because of COVID-19, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept it. And what cruel irony that Americans’ favorite holiday celebrating abundance, symbolized by the horn of plenty, arrives as many are in a season of struggle and scarcity.
Texans are filling up parking lots hoping to get desperately needed food. The head of the organization collecting and distributing the food told CNN some people had slept in their cars overnight to make sure they were near the front of the line in the morning.
Those pictures are hard to look at, but shockingly, Massachusetts has the highest percentage of people in the country who don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, and that includes one in four children. Many have lost jobs; others are at risk of losing housing.
The food pantries and organizations collecting food donations are nearly collapsing under the weight of the need. There are thousands of people trying to feed their families who could never have imagined that they would need this lifeline. Many were food bank donors. So, I’m stepping up my donations to organizations feeding others and providing meals this year, and giving thanks that I’m healthy and that my biggest hardship this holiday is making altered plans for the day.
We’ve now met and moved past another grim milestone: 250,000 deaths from coronavirus. Even with the promise of vaccines with a 95 percent effectiveness seemingly within reach, it will be well into next year before most of us have a chance to get inoculated. We can only hope that next Thanksgiving will be all we want. But during this challenging time, I’m embracing gratitude and remembering as someone once said, “There is always something to be thankful for.”