Whether they were carving turkeys at outdoor picnic tables, connecting with family via video calling, or eating filling in the break room of a coronavirus ward at the hospital, many Americans found themselves marking this Thanksgiving day in a way they would hardly have a year ago can foresee.
The holes that Covid-19 has so viciously torn in millions of lives were glaring on Thursday: the houses stood still, the dining tables were almost empty, even the Macy’s parade route in New York was almost without spectators. And in too many cases relatives were irrevocably missing.
Nevertheless, laughter and holiday joy still poured behind many face masks or through the boxes on digital screens. In Mississippi, the hunting tradition of a brother and sister lived on. The Houston nurses ate from paper plates between shifts, holding the virus patients breathing.
And a 93-year-old retired toy maker in California seemed to speak for many when describing his pandemic-altered Thanksgiving Day: “We’re adapting.”
– Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs
Lunch on a son’s terrace, then home alone
LOS ANGELES – Edgar Burns, 93, has long been used to having a large family Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by 13 relatives. But that wouldn’t work this year.
Born in Germany, Burns survived the Holocaust, emigrated to the United States in 1947 and spent a long career designing toys for Mattel. In retirement, he lived an active life of writing, gardening, and exercising. Although he lives alone, he is fortunate that all three of his children live nearby. Before the pandemic, he usually saw one of them every day.
“The family is everything,” he said.
To be on the safe side this year, instead of having a big dinner, the family decided to have a small, socially distant lunch on the terrace with Mr. Burns’ son Ken. Mr. Burns wondered what Thanksgiving would look like in broad daylight instead of under artificial lightbulbs in the evening. But the change didn’t worry him.
“I’m pretty malleable,” he said. “We adapt.”
Mr. Burns later saw his two daughters and their children on Portal, a video device that his grandson had recently set up for him. “Sure, I’d like to do more with my grandchildren, but I can’t, so I can’t,” he said. “It’s only a few more months.”
– Isadora Kosofsky
Thanksgiving is on call in a Covid-19 ward
HOUSTON – There is a sign on a wall at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston that shows the number of days the medical team “fought against Covid-19.” Thanksgiving was day 252 of battle.
The hospital is located on the north side of Houston and serves some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. Most of the patients are black or Spanish and many are not insured. The hospital has recently started receiving virus patients from El Paso, one of the most severely affected cities in the country.
Many nurses and other hospital staff saw more patients than family or friends on Thanksgiving Day. In the breaks between shifts, groups of three or four employees snuck into the employee break area to inhale a paper plate with a turkey and casserole and a piece of pumpkin pie.
Even as they struggled to keep the patients alive, this unconventional family managed to crack jokes and lift each other up between bites. Thursday was another busy day in the Covid-19 ward: one patient died early in the morning, two patients required percutaneous tracheostomy procedures to breathe, and two new patients were admitted towards the end of the day. The doctors and nurses rarely had time to look back; They focused on getting to day 253. – Christopher Lee
When a family eats apart, they share a pork bowl
LOS ANGELES – Ericke Tan, 30, spent last Thanksgiving with her large extended family at her grandmother’s house, but this year they avoided a large gathering and came up with a different way to share a meal.
Ms. Tan, a digital marketing manager, bought a lechón, a slow-roast suckling pig dish popular in the Philippines, and cut it in half. She delivered one half to her parents and two younger siblings at her home on Thursday and took the other half to her studio apartment in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Later that night, she used FaceTime to chat with her four siblings. Three live in the US and one in the Philippines. – Rozette Rago
Mississippi dawn, a family’s hunting tradition
NATCHEZ, miss. Jimmy Riley and his sister, Alyce Riley-Reames, got up before dawn, loaded up Mr. Riley’s Ford truck, and drove to the family’s 300 acres of forest south of Natchez to hunt.
“It’s not just about meat,” said Riley, the manager of the Giles Island Hunting Club. “I can have something in common with my family.”
The siblings have been doing the same thing on every Thanksgiving Day for more than a decade. Despite what has changed this year, he said, “Covid has not closed this part of our lives.”
At about eleven o’clock he lowered his bow from the wild, sweet pecan tree he had perched on and picked his sister up from her seat. They packed their things and drove to their mother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, where only five family members – instead of the usual 15 – gathered for dinner. After that, they set off again to finish the day’s hunt.
Neither of the siblings killed a deer Thursday, but that wasn’t the point.
“The hunt isn’t just about killing,” said Riley, walking back to his car in the rain after sunset. “This is where I go to reflect on everything that’s going on in my life.” – Annie Flanagan
“It’s a little lonely”
DETROIT – Cherri Harris, 47, celebrated Thanksgiving with daughter Reanna Williams, 20, at their Detroit home. They couldn’t hold hands with the extended family in a prayer circle as usual, but they were joined by family and friends on a Zoom call in their kitchen.
Without Ms. Harris’ mother, Rev. Darla Swint, who died of Covid-19 in April, a month and a few days before her 70th birthday, the vacation was noticeably quieter. Ms. Harris, a former nurse, took care of her mother at home for almost two weeks after her illness before she had to be hospitalized.
“It’s a little lonely, but I thank God my daughter is coming home from college to be there for me,” said Ms. Harris. “That meant more to me than she’ll probably ever realize.” – Sylvia Jarrus
Under a lockdown order in the Navajo Nation
LUPTON, Ariz. – Coronavirus has gripped the Navajo nation and shown no signs of letting go as the number of cases and deaths continued to rise this week. The vice president of the Navajo Nation tried to contain the spread and urged everyone to stay home for Thanksgiving Order stay at home Earlier this month, which runs through December 6th, restricting home travel to “essential activities”.
“Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Navajo people, and we encourage you to stay home with loved ones all weekend,” said Myron Lizer, vice president a statement. “The safest place during this pandemic is home in the Navajo Nation.”
President Jonathan Nez urged people to stay home the day after Thanksgiving and not go shopping on Black Friday. He said: “The risks are far too high and not worth your life.”
Lorencita Murphy, an Army veteran, cooked and baked for her family Thursday and set up take-away trays to distribute to relatives in their cars outside their home. She described this celebration as “very different” from her usual festivities.
“A couple of family members, friends and no buffet,” she said. “Kind of sad.” – Sharon Chischilly
Thanksgiving on the prairie
BENNINGTON, Neb. – Bundled up on a sunny, windswept prairie, Barbi Hayes found a way for her family to safely celebrate Thanksgiving together. Each household prepared dishes and exchanged the food in containers, which should be opened and eaten after collecting.
Although family vacations typically bring together up to 40 people, this year it was only 10.
“You forget how important just your immediate family is when you are trying to promote many people,” Ms. Hayes said. “It really brought the family home.”
They enjoyed each other’s company in the open air and then set out for a hike through the golden fields.
“You know we have to be optimistic,” said Ms. Hayes. “And even in the darkest of times, you need hope. The year is almost over, which is good. “ – – Calla Kessler