It once was a notion that only the scientists and know-it-alls talked about. It once was as real as a realistic fiction story, something that was possible, but it would never happen.
Now everyone talks about it.
Now it's the only reality, and it determines our lives.
I remember in the beginning of January life was normal. End of January: life was too normal. February: the virus came closer. March: we were all going to die.
Then it’s had been 257 days, but who was counting? 257 days of sheer torture. Of friends defying the rules and partying, and me staying by myself, in my apartment, with my cat.
I was supposed to go to Hawaii with my family for Thanksgiving. I could be surfing and doing the Hula, but instead I'm here, in sweatpants, too lazy to turn on the light.
I picked myself up, and logged into the computer. I quickly fixed my hair, so my mom wouldn’t scorn me, and I pasted the biggest, fakest smile possible. I couldn’t be real, it’s not in my being. Sometimes I wonder if I'm even real? But that's just the quarantine talking.
I typed in the zoom code. Each digit, each member of the alphabet that goes in is a knife into my heart. Each is a barrier between me and my family.
As soon as I saw my mother’s face, I remembered the last time I did zoom with her. It was the day my father died, the worst day of my life. I couldn't be there for it, and my mother had to be there alone.
I looked at her wrinkled, rosy face. She had cried tears that I would never be able to dry, and I tried to contain my own tears. The tears that I knew would fall, and the tears I knew I wouldn't be able to prevent. There was my mom, my sister, her husband and four kids, my brother and his girlfriend, my uncle and his wife, and my cousin and his seven kids, boy was their side chaotic.
A flurry of hellos sounded; they were right there, but so far away.
I tried to be thankful. That was what this holiday was about, right?
"What is there to be thankful about?" I said quietly to myself. I thought I was muted. I was wrong.
"There is so much to be thankful for." Said Mom softly. “The trees and beautiful fall leaves, the icy cutting wind to be a companion, and family to look forward to seeing in person someday but enjoying the time over zoom with that we have now.”
I smiled, trying to take her poetic sentence to heart. She had always been a wanna-be poet. If she didn’t have me, (I’m the oldest,) she would never have settled down and taken the time to give me siblings and my father a large-ish family.
She was the perfect mother according to my friends, positive, poetic, romantic, realistic, and beautiful. But those are all good things for a poet or a writer, not for a mother. I am not saying she wasn’t a good mother, but she was lacking in a maternal sense. She was more of the favorite crazy aunt, but my siblings and I all love her to death.
I tried to think over what she had said we have to be thankful for. Who could be thankful for the icy wind? Or Zoom? I wanted to say "Darn, Covid! I'm coming to your houses for this Thanksgiving!" but that would've been childish and lacking in sense. There was a pandemic for goodness sake!
Suddenly, James, my sister’s oldest child, lead his siblings in a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving, it’s a tradition that me and my siblings used to do for my mom and dad. It always ended in giggles and smiles all around. That was one thing my mom excelled at, leading us into laughter. She would crack a joke, tickle one of us onto the floor, or say a ‘potty word’ as she called any word that wreaked of the bathroom.
After the little presentation was done, we all clapped, and a hush fell over the zoom room. This was the time when we would all eat a gigantic meal, full of turkey legs and mashed potatoes. Even more saddening, my dad had always made it. He was a chef at heart and had always started baking and cooking the day before. This was his first Thanksgiving in heaven, and boy was it dreary without him on earth.
He was the strand that had tied our family together. He was the janitor, chef, servant, therapist, and butler of the house. He cleaned, told us what to do, comforted us, and sorted our problems, all while mom typed her poems out on the computer. But he and my mom were in love with each other, more in love than any other two people. They never fought, which they emphasized was an abnormality for any married couple.
Another tradition we used to do was sing around the table songs of thanksgiving. We wrote our own songs when we realized that Thanksgiving songs weren’t a ‘thing’. Mother was a poet, Father knew the guitar, piano, and fiddle, so together they were musicians. Mother had written a song called “Come, Little Turkeys” that she would sing whenever the dinner was ready. We would all come squealing to the table and then sing one or two more songs, say grace, then dig in.
Bethany, my two-year-old niece with a lisp, started singing “Come, Little Turkeys” and smiled broadly. My Mom joined in, then my sister and brother in-law and their other children, then my cousin and his kids, and finally me.
I was right, I did cry. But they weren’t tears of sadness, they were tears of thanksgiving for the technology that provided me a way for me to see my family during a worldwide pandemic. This holiday wasn’t lacking, but it was hard.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!