When my son Sam was seven months old, my cousin and I decided it was time for our family to come together at Thanksgiving. There is power in having the only baby around--everyone wants to see him all the time. So in 1993 we hosted out first all family Thanksgiving, with Sam taking on the lead role over the turkey. I lived then in a second floor apartment of a beautifully restored Colonial house on the East Side of Providence. My landlord and landlady were a single mother's dream: supportive, fun, kind. I was very off kilter, having moved from my beautiful duplex on Leroy Street in Greenwich Village just two weeks before Sam was born. Thankfully my parents lived nearby because the man of my dreams had gone AWOL. But that Thanksgiving, GJ and I created a memorable dinner in my small kitchen with its blue and white table and chairs, Sam happily eating and getting adored by two sets of aunts and uncles and his doting grandparents. Unsure what to do all afternoon with half a dozen geriatrics, we decided to have a fun activity for everyone, which was making hand turkeys. That Thanksgiving was such a success that we have repeated it every year since, in that same small kitchen, in different rented Victorian houses with much grander dining rooms, in the dining room with the enormous hearth in the house where I lived with my family for twenty years, and for the last four years in my loft with giant windows that let the silvery November light in. We've added to our guest list over the years--cousins, friends, partners, new children--so that even as we've lost most of the older generation and most of the partners eventually became exes, the celebration still grows somehow. Until this year.
We'd imagined a scaled down Thanksgiving on my roof deck, which is big enough to socially distance many more than the nine people coming, sitting in three pods. No buffet. No hugging or dancing or singing Italian songs. But still, like that first small one at my blue and white table, we'd all be together. Then Rhode Island's cases spiked. The CDC warned us not to travel. Dinner should be limited to just our immediate families, the one we live with. With guests coming from Vermont and Boston and NYC, with this virus raging, on Friday we made the smart, right decision to follow the rules. For the first time in 27 years--since he was born--Sam would not be home for Thanksgiving. There would be no drunken Thanksgiving Eve as people arrived from far flung places, like Scotland and California and Puerto Rico. There would be no toasts, no Nantucket scallops from our friend Bruce, no cocktails made by Matt. GJ and I would not be making plans for the dinner and the day itself.
It's easy during this hard year to focus on all of that, all of the things we won't be doing together. And believe me, I've had more than a few crying jags since Friday, more than a few "pity parties," as Gogo called those times when you just feel bad for yourself. But yesterday morning, Michael and Annabelle and I sat down and vowed to have a lovely, happy Thanksgiving. We each got to choose our favorite Thanksgiving foods (which is why I'm baking a blueberry pie), we set up a Zoom cocktail hour with all of the people who usually come and celebrate with us, we bought a turkey, and champagne, and we planned our day.
How lucky I am to be "stuck" with the man I love and my fabulous daughter. How lucky I am that, so far, the people I love have been spared this terrible virus. How lucky I am that we have food aplenty, and a warm home, and each other--and by each other I mean all of those wonderful people staying wisely in their own homes this year. Next year, "God willing," as my father used to say, we will fill this loft to its high ceilings. We will dance and sing and cook and eat and drink and remember the year that we had to be apart.
Be safe, all of you lovely people who read my meandering musings here. Don't take unnecessary risks with you or your loved ones. Be thankful.
Meanwhile, I am knitting Ferrymen gloves from Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. I am reading "We Keep the Dead Close" and "Ghost Wall," and recommending "Shuggie Bain" and "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane," both which I loved. I am playing lots of cards--cribbage, hearts, and pitch. I am reminding myself to cut the pity parties short, and thank the universe for this crazy, mixed up, gorgeous world