We Gather Together (Not) by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By Pandemic Holidays

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The candles in my Featured photo were my mother’s. There are two pairs. I don’t even know how old they are; just a bit younger than I am. They’ve graced countless Thanksgiving tables through the years. Their sweet faces are rather the worse for wear, but they must come out every year and be on my table. My father did all our Thanksgiving cooking. He enjoyed cooking; my mother did not.

This year, due to COVID restrictions with the virus raging across the world, there will only be Dan and me at the table, plus these little wax creatures, more than 60 years old. This is what we are reduced to. No “Over the River and Through the Woods”; we won’t “Gather Together To Ask the Lord’s Blessing” (I think I sang in one too many Thanksgiving pageants as a kid).

I already wrote about the first time I cooked (or at least provisioned for) my first Thanksgiving feast in Thanksgiving Forever. That was a memorable one. For years we got together with my in-laws, who cooked the meal. Eventually, I took over and learned to make all my mother-in-law’s recipes, just the way my husband likes them. I became efficient and started a day ahead of time, so only had to cook the turkey and potatoes on the actual day. Frequently, Dan’s sister, brother-in-law and niece (and maybe even boyfriend) at Brandeis would join us, so we’d have lots of family. That’s always the best.

The last time we were together was two years ago, but I didn’t cook. We were invited to friends. There were 40 people in attendance; lots of food and fun, we all contributed something. I had to make Dan’s favorite yams with caramelized brown sugar topping and also brought food for the hors d’oeuvre table.

Nov, 2018, last Thanksgiving together

But David is in London. Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday there, so it is difficult for him to justify the time off. Easier for him to come in for Christmas, and Anna to join him the day after (Boxing Day in the UK). Vicki can also get away more easily, so that became the time for family to get together. Right now of course, London is locked down again. With the virus raging in the US, we won’t be far behind.

Now we will probably try to have a Google Chat and each celebrate in our own way. That will be the best we can do. The kids mock me for photographing the screen, but at least I can record the event and know when we chat. It is likely to be my holiday card this year as well.

Goggle chat

I promised Dan that I can still make all his favorite foods, just not a whole turkey. I am looking into a turkey breast or just sliced turkey. I checked out Whole Foods this week, which has already-cooked, roasted turkey, but I will buy it in a few days. The rest is easy and he’ll have left-overs for days, so he’ll be happy. There used to be a store close by that sold carved turkey with good gravy, but I noticed that was gone. It’s probably been gone longer than a year. I just never noticed. So we will have our sad little pandemic Thanksgiving day feast, watch movies and perhaps some sports, be thankful we are healthy and hope for a better 2021.

Best wishes to all.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Yummy story, Betsy, if sad. Very much reflective of what we are all doing this year (as you’ll see from my story, too). And thank you for recognizing the primacy of yams/sweet potatoes (yes, I know they’re different) over mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.

    And you speak for all of us with your thoughts about this year and next. (Except maybe for a certain turkey who is still in the White House and may just pardon himself.)

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      If Vicki were home, I’d make mashed potatoes for her, John. She doesn’t like the yams. My dad made the mashed sweet potatoes with the melted marshmallows on top, but that’s not what Dan grew up with, so that’s not what I make. And I do make cranberries from scratch, none of that gelatin from a can stuff.

      That turkey is doing SO much damage before before Jan. 20. Where is the gizzard? We always liked giblets in the gravy.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    You perfectly described pandemic Thanksgiving 2020. I feel the same way you do — sad and sentimental, but also hoping 2021 will be different. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  3. Suzy says:

    We are all living the same story this year. Having a sad little pandemic feast, while being thankful we are healthy, just as you say. I love your Pilgrim candles that grace your table every year. The little Pilgrim dolls in the featured image for this prompt are ones that grace my table every year. (Barb put the masks on them in PhotoShop.) It’s nice to have those traditions.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It is true, Suzy. We ARE all living the same story, but are, indeed, thankful for our health and can communicate with our loved ones at some point throughout the day. Zoom, FaceTime or Google Chat have saved our world. I wondered about the image (I really like it). Love those dolls; assumed that Barb had somehow enhanced them with the masks. That does sum up the 2020 experience.

  4. Your story is so universal. It made me realize how much alike we are, and how nostalgic we are about family gatherings. We all yearn for closeness and normalcy–and good food! Thanks for this story.

  5. Betsy, what a hellish year we’ve all had, but thankful for small things like those sweet candles with their sentimental value and larger, more important things like your family’s good health.

    Here’s to happier times when we can travel again!

  6. Marian says:

    Thank you for a sad but hopeful story, Betsy, that is indeed universal. I love the little candle figures as a symbol of continuity, and I hope it is some comfort that they will be at your table. I am beginning to miss having my mom with us, and all the other random folks in Dick’s family that often drift in and out. Here’s to next year together!

  7. I loved reading your story, Betsy, and all the comments…yet now I find myself at a loss for words. I think seeing those familiar little candles did me in..they brought tears to my eyes, as I grew up with a similar set. Thanks for all you shared!

  8. Lovely history, Betsy. And you won’t be alone — so many of us will be sitting in these un[familia]r duos. May we all make the best of it.

  9. We have to get a whole turkey so I can make soup out of it and also so I can chomp on the well-flavored carcass (before it goest into the soup).
    But oh, Betsy, you do so well in reminding us of what the pandemic is taking away from us. “Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?” (“Where are the snows of yesteryear?” by Francois Villon, 1500s)

  10. Joe Lowry says:

    Your Thanksgiving day this year will mirror mine. However, being safe is a top priority for me, and I am happy that your actions will be the same. Happy holidays.

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