What A Difference A Year Makes by
(90 Stories)

Prompted By Pandemic Holidays

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

One of the main impacts that this annus horribilis has had on all of us — even those fortunate enough to stay healthy — has been the severe limitation on our options.  The one exception to this that I would note is in the category of streaming entertainment options.  OK; I realize that thousands of shows were already out there, but my wife and I didn’t take advantage of this abundance of (mostly) riches until the pandemic struck and we knew we had to get through a whole lot of evenings together and, ideally, peacefully.

One of the main impacts that this annus horribilis has had on all of us has been the severe limitation on our options. 

But, as to the far more common issue of limited options, the holidays are certainly a prime example.  So let us look at the upcoming Thanksgiving. (The featured image is Norman Rockwell’s classic reminder of what this holiday is supposed to look like — at least for affluent white people who aren’t watching football games.)  My wife and I knew we did not want to risk travelling or having other family and friends travel any distance to see us, risk a large group gathering, or risk dining indoors at a restaurant. So, eliminate those options.

But last Thanksgiving — jeez, was it just a year ago? — we had a terrific, effortless Thanksgiving by booking a private room at a lovely inn in nearby historic Lexington.  We were joined by my wife’s daughter and her husband and their lovely (truly!) two teenage daughters, who live nearby, as well as my wife’s sister and her husband, who live on Martha’s Vineyard.  An extremely collegial group — and, not insignificantly, one in which there is virtual unanimity in political views.  Indeed, the only issue of dispute arises from the fact that my step-son-in-law is from the Philadelphia area and continues to root for Philly teams rather than Boston ones.  But we all give him some slack on this one, especially since I continue to (quietly) root for New York teams.

So we have tried to duplicate last Thanksgiving as much as possible, both because it was so pleasant and, frankly, because we could all do with some degree of continuity with our pre-pandemic life.  But concessions are being made. The logistics for the Martha’s Vineyard duo were too complicated, plus they have been in fairly frequent contact with their children and grandchildren of late and that posed risks to the rest of us.  So they will stay “on island” instead this year.  And we have decided, rather than a private room at the inn, to do take out and have a socially distanced dinner (as we have done previously at our home) using two separate tables in our living room.

The inn re-opened its restaurant several months ago and has developed a very good system for take-out.  After you call in the order and give them the payment information, you drive to their parking lot and a masked server brings the food out to your car and puts it in the trunk for you; you don’t even have to get out of the car. (I wave and smile, though they can’t see the smile behind my mask.)  So I made a reservation for a take-out Thanksgiving dinner for six a few weeks ago and will pick it up on noon on Thanksgiving Day.  Here is the menu:


For the record, everyone ordered the turkey for the entree, which is a good thing, because I would not want to celebrate Thanksgiving with anyone who chose salmon or steak over it. I mean, there are limits. My only quibble is with the mashed potatoes.  I love mashed potatoes as much as the next All-American white bread kid — even travesties such as these that we all grew up with:



But, as the Pilgrims made clear nearly 400 years ago, Thanksgiving is about sweet potatoes, not mashed (white) potatoes.  Oh, the humanity!

Still, I think it’s going to be a wonderful and yummy Thanksgiving, even if it is too small. We’ll also fret about the pandemic and rejoice about the Presidential election.  And, yeah, we’ll probably watch some football, too.

p.s.  Eleventh hour change of plans.  We have now decided to not even risk a gathering of six, especially with one granddaughter returning from three months at boarding school.  So I have arranged with the inn to separate the dinner into two separate packages, one of four servings and one of two (easy with us all ordering turkey).  I will still pick them both up, but then drop off the former with the “others” — though we may take a brief walk with their dogs around the nearby reservoir — and then take the latter back home for just my wife and me. But I’ll still watch some football.  And, in a small effort to be festive, my wife and I plan to dress up and eat in the dining room with the fancy china and silver.

All in all, hardly a sacrifice.  Particularly in hopes of a much better next year in many, many ways.

p.p.s.  Does a p.s. qualify as a RetroFlash?  Rats; I thought not.

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin

Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    The food sounds delicious, John. Sorry for the altered plans. For the first time ever, I saw a TV ad for Wilson Farms yesterday, which brought back so many memories. I used to shop there a lot in younger years. Do you ever get over to there, also in Lexington? It really was a farm stand when Dan discovered it on his way home to our first Waltham apartment from Harvard Grad School, some 46 years ago. But it grew into a wonderful place, offering cooked and baked goods, a nursery. I used to take my kids to see the farm animals. It was just a wonderful place. I’m just curious, since you seem to venture into Lexington a fair amount.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Betsy. As I just commented on Suzy’s story, I wish there were some way for all of us to share leftovers next week.

      And, yes, we certainly know and enjoy Wilson’s Farm. A terrific place and we do get there from time to time. Though I remember friends telling us early on to avoid it around Halloween and Thanksgiving because it was such a mob scene. It reminded me of the famous Yogi Berra-ism: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  2. Wonderful story John and wishing you a wonderful T-day meal, and bravo for your plans to dress up and use the good silver!
    We’re still in limbo over whether or not our son with make the 4-5 hour drive crossing state lines to get here. We’ve all been quarantining and hoping, but with changing CDC recommendations we’re still not sure. But there is a turkey waiting in the freezer and this morning I woke up and the first thing I said was “cranberries” and added it to my Instacart shopping list.

    And we’re all healthy and Trump’s election challenges are being thrown out of court, so there are still some things to be thankful for!

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks much, Dana. As I have commented elsewhere, it is as if we are all writing the exact same story this week. A real metaphor for this whole damn year. But, yes, there are still things to be thankful for (and Trump is DOA, at least as President) and glad you are all healthy.

  3. Thanx John, yes I have to remember we’re all writing the same story and fight my periodic self pity!
    Happy Turkey Day!

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Sounds like a great plan, John. I’m really jealous of your menu although it is kosher to have mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving in some parts of the country. 2020 is just a time to make the best we can of holidays and look forward to 2021.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Laurie. I hadn’t even considered the kosher aspect to the potatoes. I mainly look to the Pilgrims rather than the rabbis for my guidance on such things. And, yes, so looking forward to 2021 — starting on 1/20!

  5. Suzy says:

    John, that menu looks divine! Especially the three different desserts! Wish that I could come to your house for leftovers! Glad you decided not to get together with stepdaughter and family, and nice of you to buy AND deliver their Thanksgiving dinner. And good for you for dressing up and using the fancy china and silver – maybe I will follow your example on that.

    Next year in Jerusalem! By which I mean next year with our families and friends!

    • John Shutkin says:

      As I mentioned, Suzy, I wish there were a way we could all share the leftovers. As for dressing up, after months of sweatpants and running shorts, I hope I remember how to use a belt.

      And yes; Jerusalem (so to speak) next year!

  6. Marian says:

    Great story, John, and the menu made me hungry. You have inspired me to put on makeup on Thanksgiving day so I look reasonable for the Zoom with family. Oh, and I’m going to insist that we eat in the dining room instead of the kitchen! You are doing the prudent thing with the logistics, although it must be frustrating to change such good plans.

  7. We’re going to use the good china and get dressed, too. And watch the game. And eat very well, for days. It almost seems like we have no reason to complain…almost.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and cheers to an annus mirabilis in 2021 — most certainly not right away but hopefully by the end of the year, John!

  8. Wonderful post, John, right from the beginnings with your succinct description of the otherwise messy and chaotic annus horribilis! Your eleventh-hour change of plans made the perfect ending, an experience of which we are all now unique veterans.

    I can see the “I survived Covid-19” sweatshirts already. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving duet!

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Charles; I really appreciate this, especially given your amazing story. indeed, in light of your story, maybe I should have described the planned Thanksgiving tete-a-tete with my wife as if it had already happened.

  9. Your story stands very well on its own, John. Thanks again!

  10. Joe Lowry says:

    Plans are certainly altered this year. This year, it’s my girlfriend and I only, but we plan to use the fine china, silver, and crystal.

Leave a Reply