Was Thanksgiving 2020 just a year ago?

When I look back at photos from last November, it almost looks like a movie I watched. One I know I’ve seen but I can’t remember the details (my husband will tell you this is a common occurrence). Then someone says one little thing that brings it all rushing back.

That little thing was my 24YO, reminiscing about how he smoked his first turkey last year.

YES! Thanksgiving 2020! I not only watched that movie. I starred in it.

My husband had been in quarantine with his mom for four months at this point. She was finishing up radiation after going through chemo and a lumpectomy for breast cancer. I was living here with my then 20YO, my 23YO, and the latter’s 22YO girlfriend.

I remember COVID numbers were high. There was talk of vaccines being available in December. We were in the thick of pandemic life and had decided to make a lovely outdoor space so we could safely see Clyde, his mom, and the rest of our family and friends.

I remember how seeing friends in the wild or in a planned, outdoor setting brought huge emotions.

I remember being thankful for warm Texas winters for the first time ever.

I remember Noah deciding to smoke that turkey if I’d wake up early with him to prep it.

I remember some things were as they always were, like my lemon meringue pies. They were my grandfather’s favorite so Mom always made them for holidays. They are also my Dad’s favorite so I do the same.

I remember almost being overwhelmed by all the details of organizing Thanksgiving mostly by myself, yet determined we could do it and keep three germ bubbles together yet separate. I was lacking my wingman. And as lovely as my three 20somethings could be, they were not my wingman.

I remember thinking through details like serving spoons and germs, ordering the bamboo plates and fall napkins from Amazon (I remember ALL THE AMAZON), creating three dining areas in our backyard to house each germ bubble.

I remember trying not to lose my shit when some family members weren’t taking the pandemic seriously and when my dad complained we weren’t “together” enough as I was bringing food to his table.

I remember organizing photos for Clyde’s family when we recreated the entire scene (this time with Tex-Mex takeout instead of a full homemade feast because I do have some loose idea of my limits) a few days later.

I remember the whole outdoor prep — new chairs, new outdoor heaters, a new bench, all the firewood, the three eating areas — being worth it when my MIL sat by our fire pit for hours that night and laughed with her grandkids.

I remember when I stayed up until 1 am and spent a small fortune buying those damn heaters a few weeks earlier.

I remember wondering if this would be the last Thanksgiving my MIL would be with us. She was so frail during her treatment. And breast cancer had already taken one mom away from me.

I remember pushing through every bit of all of this because I wanted us to all be together. Well, and what else did we have to do?

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store to buy all the food — a small miracle in and of itself that I didn’t do last year — for our two Thanksgiving meals and my college son’s visit home.

Today, said college son will fly in from New Orleans (because, unlike last year, kids are at college) and can see all his hometown friends without argument of who has antibodies and who doesn’t.

Tomorrow, he and I will make chocolates pies with my MIL, who is doing wonderfully and now lives eight minutes from us. She says we are making three pies: one for my husband’s family gathering, one for my family gathering, and one for her youngest grandson, because he loves pie and she’s missed him since August.

On Thursday, we will all be together on Thanksgiving with only the usual holiday fuss.

With pies. With our antibodies. Side by side at one table.

I hope I remember how ordinarily special all of it is.


About Dawn McMullan

Dawn McMullan is a freelance writer/editor in Dallas, Texas. Her two sons are now 21 and 24, Sawyer in college and Noah starting his post-college career, and both interrupted empty nesting during the pandemic. Dawn helps run a non-profit in Eastern Congo and is senior editor at the International News Media Association.
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