Monday, November 8, 2021

Thanksgiving Interrupted

 "Trenton Makes, The World Takes."

I don't know if that statement still remains on the bridge we used to pass every Thanksgiving morning on our way to Morrisville. I can't even be certain that the bridge itself is still open for business. But the memory still resides. And the feelings this engenders remain intact.

My mom was one of five children. In 2017, at the age of 99*, she was the last of the siblings to pass away. The asterisk connotes my lack of clarity as to how many rings were on her tree as she apparently was less than forthcoming on that subject, not only with my sister and myself, but with the government as well. After her death I discovered official documents showing she was born in 1918, 1919 or 1922. But I digress.

Each Thanksgiving, from the time of my birth in 1952, until Thanksgiving 2020, an invitation went out to bring the five families together as one. Like a Jewish Mafia mandate. The honor of hosting moved among the families throughout the years, eventually being handed down from the generation of the siblings to that of their offspring. But it was passed seamlessly, there never being a shred of doubt that the tradition would endure. Because it was in fact much more than a tradition. It was part of our collective DNA.

Over the past several years, the torch has been in the possession of my youngest cousin. Coincidentally, he lives in Morristown (echoes of Morrisville resonate). And he and his family have handled the duties of hosting the assembled horde with grace and a seeming ease which belies the task at hand.

This has been and remains simply my favorite day of the year.

When Covid inserted itself as uninvited guest into each of our lives in early 2020, its possible impact on that year's Thanksgiving did not even register on the radar screen. Who ever lived through a pandemic? Growing up, I had heard stories of the scourge of polio, of children being shuffled off to camp in the summer to try to avoid the worst of all possibilities. But I could not remotely fathom something taking hold of all of us in such a suffocating embrace, keeping all of us from our appointed rounds. Especially the most important day of the year.

My family had relocated out of the metropolitan area, on a temporary basis, in March of 2020. Once the all clear siren sounded we would quickly return, life on pause now resuming. As spring sprung into summer and fell into fall, nothing was as it had been. The new normal was anything but.

In November, the arrival of a vaccine was still out of reach. And as we stared into the abyss, the one seeming certainty was that family gatherings at the end of that month were destined to bring not merely soothing to the soul, but the inevitable and rapid spread of disease. Many chose to head to airports, pack the car or board a train or bus, as the risk seemed, to them, worth what might lay ahead. But not our family. Word went out that the Grinch who stole Christmas was pilfering Thanksgiving 2020. As we each retreated to our own little corners of an unsettled universe, 2020 became the year that wasn't.  It was, on so many levels, a Thanksgiving interrupted.

This year brought a not so small miracle. On February 3, 2021 I received my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and shortly thereafter the second. Everyone eligible in our extended network of cousins held out their arm for an opportunity, if not to erase the recent past, at least to strongly suggest it take residency in the dark recesses where it belonged.

And as the days moved ever closer to Thanksgiving, I know that many of us have been fortunate enough to have received our boosters. Everything, it seemed, was allowing me to dream of our reunion.

The email came but a week or so ago. Apparently there had been some hesitation as to whether we were now sufficiently removed from danger.  My wife and I still find the idea of dining indoors at a restaurant unnecessary and unwarranted. Apart from the concern, however remote, that even with belt and suspenders we could still be touched by Covid, we were more worried that we could pass along this illness to our grandchildren, both under the age of inoculation. And there are others in our extended family who harbor similar fears. Are they justified? Well, let me just suggest they are not unjustified.

And so I got calls from my sister and various cousins within a day or two of us having all received our request to put 2020 in the rear view mirror. "Still undecided" was the phrase I heard repeatedly. Some, as we advance towards the back end of our visit on this planet, have experienced health issues that make them wary, cautious, to be in the wrong place at even the right time.

I responded to the email that my wife, son and I plan on being there. But I know there remains the possibility that we will wake on Thanksgiving day and decide we will wait one more year to gather. And without doubt, our numbers, even if we do appear, will be gravely reduced from earlier times. It will be, if anything, a Thanksgiving lite.

While "Trenton Makes, The World Takes" will forever be a phrase I hold dear to my heart, I think that "Covid Recedes, All Can Proceed" are words that would make me figuratively nearly explode with joy.

Thanksgiving 2021. Still interrupted. But this year with an asterisk.


Anonymous said...

Lovely piece.


Unknown said...

Very nice Bob. Good health to all! amjr

GNK said...

My sentiments as well. Thanksgiving will always be my favorite holiday.

Anonymous said...

Really well written. Life is too short. Time to gather.


Anonymous said...

Love this


Anonymous said...

Your piece was really good


Anonymous said...

Love the piece!


Anonymous said...

I read this to the kids so we could share some collective thanksgiving memories. Thank you for this beautiful piece


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful writer. “Suffocating embrace” …. what an accurate choice of words. As Covid recedes we all know how important it is for our mind and soul to begin to proceed - proceed with caution and smarts!!!!

You should write a book. I need a really good read!!!