“Happy Thanksgiving!” Those words land differently this year. Our gatherings this week probably won’t look much like gatherings of previous years. A few days ago, my Facebook feed shared a memory from two years ago – a video I took during our drive to Maine to spend Thanksgiving with Gary’s parents. There was snow on the ground and, as we wound our way across Vermont on Route 2, it had a very “over the river and through the woods” feel. The quintessential holiday experience.
There will be no trip to Maine this year. There will be no piling in the car with parcels and pie, no stopping at the well-known rest stops along the way, no visiting over food and football and the Black Friday sales flyers that arrive in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper. We say that we will appreciate it all the more next year, but that doesn’t take away from the grief of missing it now.
We humans, when told we can’t be together physically, have still found ways to be in community. Family members chat through Google Hangouts and friends catch up over Facetime. Workplaces have virtual after-hours happy hours and daytime coffee breaks. This tells me that community is essential to human nature.
Over the last few months, I’ve been offering online support groups on topics including spirituality, grief, trauma, and change. I’ve had participants from Vermont and also Hawaii, British Columbia, England, and Australia, not to mention many states in the continental US. Starhawk describes community as a place where, “…there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats.” We need those places.
On Thursday, Gary and I will cook our turkey and connect on Zoom with my parents who are in Nebraska. We are going to do our best to coordinate our cooking so our meals are ready at the same time. It’s not our usual Thanksgiving, but it will have the usual ingredients – love, connection, laughter, and good food. (I just wish there was a way to pass my mom’s lime-pear salad through the computer screen!)
However you spend Thanksgiving this year, whatever community you find – in person or virtual – in the midst of this global pandemic, may it be a community of support, of love, of warmth and of generosity. And, if you are alone on Thanksgiving Day, know that you are not the only one. As one person said, “We are in this together, apart.” The “apart” part can be painful and lonely.
It will be amazing when we can be together in person again. Hugs will feel so good! And today, there is sorrow, there is gladness, there is joy, and there is grief. And there is Thanksgiving.