Janet Fonesca typically enjoys Thanksgiving dinner at her parents’ home in Corpus Christi, Texas, with her three sisters, their spouses, her brother, 10 children, aunts, uncles, cousins – all under one roof.
With the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that Americans opt out of traveling this Thanksgiving because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many were forced to find alternative ways to still celebrate the holiday.
For Fonesca, that meant a socially distanced dinner table set with just three plates.
Fonesca, a patient care tech in a hospital Covid-19 ICU, had already made significant changes to her lifestyle. She, her husband and daughter, who is asthmatic, sleep in separate rooms; use separate bathrooms, disposable cutlery and dishes; and sit 6 feet apart to try to keep everyone healthy.
So, changing holiday plans wasn’t a huge departure.
Fonesca started off Thanksgiving Day at Mass with 50 people – all masked – in attendance. And although she couldn’t gather with family to eat and play Mexican Bingo, she made sure to swing by her in-laws’ home to see them and their 90-year-old parents from a safe distance.
“I’m grateful to be healthy but sad for all my friends who have lost their loved ones,” she said.
Swapping side dishes in the driveway
Paul Kingsley’s family loves to cook. So, when his daughter asked what the plans were this year, it didn’t take long to come up with a solution that included every family member.
Typically, Kingsley’s home in Rochester, New York, is the meeting point for Thanksgiving, but a couple weeks ago, the family shifted gears to make the holiday a safe one, he said.
Kingsley’s son came home from college last week after taking a Covid-19 test provided by his school. Kinglsey’s daughter is nearby with her significant other, and his brother and their 91-year-old mother live not far away, in Canandaigua, New York, he said.
With his family in three different homes, Kinglsey said members were assigned to make a side dish that was shared in a Thursday morning driveway swap. Everyone wore masks – and left with a full meal. Kingsley then drove the 30 miles south to Canandaigua to deliver a portion of the bounty because his mother doesn’t get out.
“So, we all had the same food so we could eat at the same time, but we did it in three different locations,” he said. “We still had family time, but we were eating separately and safely.”
One person could have cooked all the food, but by giving everyone a cooking assignment, there was more to talk about during their video call, Kingsley said.
Dinner on the porch
Kelly Anne Odhe usually sees between 50 and 75 relatives and friends at two or three get-togethers on Thanksgiving. This year, she enjoyed her table for two in the comfort of her home with her significant other – and still made it special with her table decor.
Odhe said she connected with loved ones in different ways – some virtually and some with porch deliveries with face masks on. On the menu: turkey, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, stuffing, rolls, cranberries and dessert.
“Table for two, porch drop-offs, outdoor hellos, & masks,” Ohde tweeted. “Thanksgiving brings a new level of gratitude & a different look. What matters are relationships. Thankful for all of you, a career I love, an opportunity to give back and health.”
Giving thanks for Zoom and FaceTime
Usually, the rules of dinnertime include no phones, laptops or tablets. With things looking and feeling different this year, families everywhere had no problem making exceptions.
Zoom even lifted its 40-minute meeting limit on Thanksgiving, for free, so that the gatherings weren’t cut short.
And those who had to work still took a break to enjoy their loved ones’ company and a meal.