“A Different Kind of Thanksgiving,” Nov. 17, 2020

Different. That’s a word I’ve been saying a lot lately. Maybe you’ve been saying it, too. I’ve said it so often it’s starting to sound as if it doesn’t mean different, just more of the same. Here are some examples:

My husband and I have always loved going out to dinner at a favorite restaurant to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary or just the fact that we’re hungry. But in the past eight months of the pandemic lockdown (why does it feel more like eight years?) we eat most every meal at home. We cook. We eat. We clean up the mess. Then we talk about what we want to eat next.

Sometimes we get take-out so we don’t have to cook. But it’s cold when we get it home. And after we reheat it and eat it, we still have to clean up the mess.

Recently, when I saw my doctor for a routine checkup, I never really saw him at all. He wore a mask and a face shield. I could barely see his eyes. He asked all the usual questions and I tried my best to answer, mumbling through my mask.

But I had no idea if he was smiling in approval or debating whether to confine me in an institution. For all I know, my real doctor was on a golf course, paying his out-of-work cousin to check my vitals. Not that my doctor would ever do that. I’m just saying it was…different.

Eight months ago, I had friends. We’d go out to lunch, or sit in our kitchens talking and laughing, baring our souls, sharing our hearts, solving all the problems of the world. Or at least, catching up on gossip.

Not any more. Yes, I know there’s a thing called a phone that lets you to talk without risking what my mother called “swapping spit.” And there are even things like FaceTime and Houseparty and Zoom that let you see each other while you talk. They’re fine for keeping in touch “virtually,” if you can’t be in the same room together. But I like being in the same room with people I love. Being apart from them is…different.

Fortunately, thanks to FaceTime, I still get to read to my grandchildren. Or I get to listen as they read to me. Either way, it’s something we love doing together. I used to hold them in my lap and nuzzle their necks while they turned the pages in “Goodnight Moon” and played with a lock of my hair.

Now we read together long distance on computers, not physically close, but still finding comfort in the sweet familiarity of each other’s voices.

Social distancing and wearing a mask are sacrifices I’m willing to make to keep myself and those around me safe. I have faithfully practiced both for the longest eight months of my life. But I never dreamed I’d have to practice them on my favorite holiday.

I love Christmas, but it’s complicated. Thanksgiving is simple, just family, friends and food, being thankful and being together. It’s perfect. Especially if I don’t have to cook.

Last Thanksgiving, my daughter and her husband hosted a feast for twenty of our family and friends. All I had to do was show up, eat and talk.

I wish you could’ve seen us.

This year, with the pandemic taking thousands of lives and causing so much suffering, Thanksgiving will be different. Our family will still celebrate, but not all together. We’ll have Thanksgiving dinner in our own homes in separate households.

I will set two tables: A small one in our dining room for my husband and me; and a big one in my heart for all our loved ones, living or long departed, who’ll be with us in spirit, and never forgotten.

I’ll set a place for you at the big table. Maybe you’ll set one for me. We won’t join hands, but we can join hearts to give thanks for all our many blessings and pray that soon things will be…different.

Here’s wishing us all a safe and blessed Thanksgiving.


  1. Brenda Daelhousen says

    Another great column…thank-you, Sharon! I discovered you in The Reading Eagle (Reading, PA) a couple years ago, and now I’m a regular reader. You are personal, practical, and let your faith shine through! And you are a good writer!! This is my first time commenting, so I want to list some of my favorite columns (dates are from my newspaper): 2020–Nov. 16 Publishing novel, Nov. 9 Let go of past, Sept. 7 Long road home, May 4 Hands we see not hear, June 6 How do you comfort friend in loss, June 6 Giving thanks not giving up, Mar. 2 Family photos; 2019–Aug. 12 What will you do with your one sweet life? I’m adding your new novel to my Christmas list!

  2. I wanted to let you know I like your new picture for your column. Your face looks the same, just your hair is shorter. I read your column faithfully.

  3. Ok. This one made me cry. Some days are harder than others, but I really need to be more thankful for my situation. I have been keeping a pandemic journal of sorts. Mainly, the mundane things that I do each day and some thoughts—not very deep ones. I want to remember this time and know that we had to make adjustments and some sacrifices to keep safe. Since I still get the print version of the Anderson Independent (in SC), I’m cutting this one column out to include in my journal. Thank you for writing from your heart.

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    I best keep quiet. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours dear lady…. the book just arrived 😀👍🏻

  5. I am a bit puzzled by your column. Is it you who feels it is “not safe” to gather for the holidays or the kids? I am 70 years old and my husband is 74 and as long as no one feels sick we plan to see each other. Half the family lives out of state so getting together is special. Covid is 2% of the death rate of the country and the large majority are in their 80’s and 90’s. Your governor says do not get together for the holiday but attends a large dinner party and sends his kids to private school daily. My kids can not go to school full time or some not at all even though pediatricians say transmission between kids is minimal at best. COVID is real but it is being used to start some sort on “new normal” that is evil. I intend to see my family and live my life because the alternative is not “real living”. I love your columns so much and you are a gifted writer but the content of this one is a disappointment.

  6. Linda Taylor says

    Yes, this year will be different, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve lost an uncle due to complications from COVID recently, but also lost 3 other family members this year for health issues unrelated to COVID. I am thankful that I will be able to be with my 91 year old Dad and 90 year old Mom, as well as my siblings and a few other relatives. We are keeping the group small (less than 15), will have Thanksgiving dinner in the fellowship hall of my parents’ church, and will open windows for ventilation. Yes, we are all quite concerned about COVID, but we also take all the precautions we can along the way.
    The most important thing we can all do is be thankful for what we have!.

  7. Sorry, but we, my Wife, I, and son’s family (Just three there, him, our Daughter In Law, and GrandDaughter, oh yeah, and there is our Grand DOGGER, LOL), will be keeping our tradition of going up and spending the one night for Thanksgiving.

    They bought a house, not a new one but one 3 yrs. older than ours (Our brand new in 76) and get their keys and moving in NEXT Sat. and my Wife asked if since they’ll be so busy if they rather skip it or come down to a cooked meal here. They are less than an hour away in Sacramento area and I am sure want to show is their new home.

    Our Daughter In Law wants to do it there, “Tradition.” 🙂

    Anyway, they are safe, just the three of them. He has been working from home, not a COVID thing (e-health, medicare.com), but he was offered that opportunity before COVID and loves it. She works for the State, in Emergency services or some such State OFC (Presently the Manager in Charge), being checked for Temps daily, and the GrandDaughter has been home, virtual schooled this entire time.

    Even if I wanted to skip it this year, my Wife would not hear of it, she is so DAMN FAMILY family oriented, LOL

  8. In Feb. when we celebrated Hubby’s birthday and our anniversary the next day, little did I realize it would be our last family gathering til to who knows when. We are older and pray we will be alive knows when we can meet again. I understand the need to keep safe and we are a large group of around 35 to 40. The holidays are the only time we all get together so that makes this sad for us. Hubby and I are thankful for our 59+ years of marriage and our many blessings. God has blessed us greatly and we know heaven will be our eternal home. For that we shall have a quiet dinner together and count our many blessings.

  9. Yes. Different, but still thankful. BTW, I am currently reading your book “Birdbaths & Paper Cranes.” Loving your memories shared.

  10. I love reading your column.
    It helps during theses different times.
    I also love your novel.
    When is the next one coming out?

  11. This year Thanksgiving will be very hard for me and my family. I lost my dear husband in July not covid related but suddenly. This could have been prevented if he had received the care he should have following surgery. I am dealing with the worst grief of my life. I have lost my parents, in-laws, and friends but this is a different loss. I know you understand you have been here to. I pray for all the people who have lost a love one to covid. This year has been so hard in so many ways. Thanks for your column it helps me every time I read one.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. The holidays are reminders of the times shared with your husband and family. May you be comforted in knowing you’re not alone in this journey. May God bless.

  12. We have 13 in my immediate family, children, grandchildren. We have been around each other this whole time. I’m a nurse in Texas, I’ve seen the worst of Covid, but young healthy people are usually ok. I’m going to celebrate with my family, got to, want to. Thankful for all my husband and I have!

  13. Gail Tancreto says

    Some days it’s very difficult to be thankful for the… different. But thank you for reminding us to hold to hope of the future and not regrets of the way things are or have been.

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