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A Response To Thanksgiving And It’s Pandemic-Based Redesign

Happy Thanksgiving to all. For many, this holiday has and always will be the best holiday of the year. It is uniquely American. And it’s about family and gathering with people we love more than anything.

For 32 years, I’ve made the same stuffing, draped the same white cloth over the table, boiled down cranberries for sauce, stirred the gravy. I’ve done this with the chatter of my family in the background, with the sound of tinkling glasses from the living room and football on the television and the opening and shutting of the hall closet.

As the years have gone by, those noises have changed and evolved. Once upon a time, there was the rousing presence of the roving gang of kids, as we called them, as they reigned over the day with their running up and down the stairs and storming into the kitchen for soft drinks, and to swipe some whipped cream from the tops of things.

Their noises changed as they changed. As the years went by, they put on plays for us, or corralled themselves into a bedroom to gossip, or to argue over whose turn it was to play Mario. In the last few years, as they’ve become adults, they have stood beside their mothers in the kitchen and helped us chop and stir.

I marvel now to think of three decades of our coveted Thanksgivings, how it bonded us, how it symbolized who and what we are as an extended family.

This year, my house will be quiet. We’ve decided not to gather for Thanksgiving. More than twenty of us will eat Thanksgiving dinner alone or with their spouse or in a small group.

If you asked me to pick an event that symbolizes our current times, it is this–Thanksgiving will not be the same this year. It’s a fact that perfectly illustrates where we are as a country: fighting a confusing virus, and without a declared president, and looking ahead at an uncertain future as a country.

If ever we needed to gather, to reassure one another, to set stainless forks on a gleaming table and toast our beautiful families, it would be this year.

Understanding the reasons behind our redesigned holiday is one thing. Living it is quite another. I’ve watched as Americans have endured some of the most difficult times of their lives this past year, and most have gladly done what was hard and counterintuitive for the good of mankind. They’ve isolated themselves, worn masks, forgone holidays and get togethers, put off college, weddings and vacations. They’ve lost jobs, struggled financially, closed their businesses and closed themselves off from the world.

Too many have sat alone, their doors locked to the outside world in nursing homes and care centers. I know people who haven’t seen their families since last March. There is a huge cost to this pandemic–to our sense of well-being, to our outlook, to our overall mental and physical health.

And so here we are, all of us, so close to Thanksgiving, facing choices we hate to have to ponder. But because we are resilient, we’ll make them. We’ll put smaller turkeys in the oven on Thursday, cut down our stuffing by half, and prepare for a revised version of a day we look so forward to.

For me, it’s a little gloomy. But there is one bright spot:

It truly inspired me to read the words of Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, when he told the Post-Journal that he will not send deputies out to limit holiday gatherings.

God bless him.

“I have no plans to utilize my office’s resources or Deputies to break up the great tradition of Thanksgiving dinner,” he said. “This national holiday has created longstanding family traditions that are at the heart of America, and these traditions should not be stopped or interrupted by Governor Cuomo’s mandates.”

In other words, you will not find a county deputy at your door, peering into the dining room to see how many people are seated at your table.

You won’t have to decide between Grandma or Uncle Jim.

Sheriff, thank you for letting Erie County residents make their own responsible choices this year. Unfortunately my family is spread far apart, but just knowing that you are letting Americans be Americans in our county this Thanksgiving has renewed my faith in humanity and common sense.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Sir. You’re a good man.

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