Thanksgiving Reflections 2020

Thanksiving 2020 for all of us will not business as usual. Who would have ever believed that this beloved holiday as so many other milestone events and celebrations in the last months  will be curtailed. I have already gotten over mourning my favorite holiday which is not going to be the same this year for my family. For me, Thanksgiving has always been special for several reasons. First, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving or around it. This year, it is a big birthday ending in a zero. I’m used to being surrounded by family to celebrate the holiday and my birthday at the same time. My daughters are planning a virtual Zoom birthday party on Thanksgiving morning. Oh well….I know it will be fun, and I am swinging with this new reality.

Thanksgiving was also a holiday where I felt, as a first generation American, part of the mainstream. My parents had immigrated to the United States fleeing Nazi Germany and met in San Francisco at a dance for servicemen. They had much in common and got married while the war was still raging. Fortunately it ended before my father could be shipped out of the country. They settled in San Francisco. My mom wanted us four kids to be “good Americans.”

Pilgrim tchotchke

My mother went all out for this holiday, setting a beautiful table with decorative tchotchkes  little pilgrims and ceramic turkeys, flowers and baskets with fruit. It was a holiday we could fully participate in which made us feel like full fledged Americans. We always had east coast cousins staying with us on Thanksgiving. They loved my mother’s wonderful cooking which included a big turkey and all the trimmings, stuffing, sweet potatoes and four or five desserts, though she never made pumpkin pie.  She was a great listener and they could talk to her and get her advice, and she loved to spoil them with her cooking.

I didn’t have to act “dumb” which I did when I was in a grocery store after Thanksgiving and well meaning ladies would ask the cute little blond kid what Santa was bringing me. I knew Santa wasn’t going to be stopping at our home. We had a brass menorah on the mantle, no tree,  and celebrated Chanukah, but it was not a major holiday for us.

Over the years, as my mom got older, I took over the holiday. I have my own box of  cardboard decorations I’ve accumulated which I would put on the tables and hang on walls;  pumpkin-shaped candles, brocade  tablecloths I  save just for this holiday. I have a binder with a Thanksgiving recipe section. I make some items every year like my squash soup, my mashed yams with crushed pineapple and try to add a few new items to the menu. Where I used to buy cooking magazines, now I scour the internet. Though my parents and in-laws have long passed away, our immediate family has expanded now with grandchildren and my daughters’ and their husband’s families. It is always a festive occasion with lots of good food and lively discussion. Thankfully the election will be over.

So this year, how are we going to manage? The warnings of Dr. Fauci resonated,  and we definitely did not want to take a chance on spreading Covid within the family. We decided to limit the dinner to just my daughters and their children. We are also going outside in my daughter’s yard so it is not going to be at my house. Living in California, this is doable and we will start earlier and tell everyone to bring jackets. We will pray for no rain! The little ones will have an area they can go off by themselves, and we will do what we can to be mindful and stay safe.

 I know, it won’t be the same but I tell myself just get over it. . We will start our meal out going around the “yard” saying why we are grateful. I am grateful my husband and I and my family are healthy. That is the bottom line. So many families have suffered or are still dealing with the virus. I am hopeful that there will be a vaccine available soon on the horizon in 2021. Maybe this year will be a time to really take stock, to hone in on what is valuable, meaningful, and important in our cluttered lives. That is what will give new meaning to Thanksgiving 2020.   

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