We’re doing Thanksgiving a little differently in my family this year. Well, OK, a lot differently actually. Like you (I hope), we are staying apart in order to be able to be together once this virus is under control.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

Ethical qualms about the origins of the holiday aside, I love Thanksgiving. Love it. I know I have mentioned this before, but in my family, there is an unwritten rule of “more pies than people.” As rules go, that’s a pretty good one. In my family, Thanksgiving is all the sisters and their kids and their dogs gathered at my parents’ house, endless pots of tea, “just one more slice, a small one,” and Col. Mustard in the study with the lead pipe. If you doze off in an armchair, someone will put a blanket on you.

After the year we have had, that is what my soul craves: pie, board games, family, connection. But. My soul is going to just have to muddle on as best it can for a while longer, because we have this pandemic raging, and it is not joking around.

Nationwide, more than 11 million have been identified as having contracted the virus, who knows how many asymptomatic carriers have had it, and over 246,000 Americans have died from it.  That’s shocking.

Here in Maine, as of this writing, we have lost 162 people to the virus. Thirteen of them have been within the past week alone. Pause. That is nearly 8% of all the deaths since this pandemic began eight or so months ago – within a week. One week.

What’s more, the virus seems to be hitting rural areas hardest this time around. Hospitals that have been trying to warn us for months about shortages in beds, equipment, protective gear and staff are now facing the worst of their fears.

So we are masking up, washing hands, keeping distance and all staying put. It is looking like we will be staying put for Christmas, too. And New Year’s.

In an attempt to make this new loss a little less awful, I am launching a new tradition: The Pandemic Ugly Puzzle Parade. It goes like this: Each household in our extended family goes into the hat, names get pulled, and we send each other a puzzle in time for Thanksgiving. Said puzzle must be completed and sent on to the next in line in time for Christmas. The catch is, it must be the ugliest puzzle you are able to find. Baby ducks? Don’t even. They’re going to have to a lot better than that!

It’s a silly thing, sure. But in these dark and scary times my hope is that a little silliness will go a long way and through this shared/distanced experience we can all feel a little more connected to each other.

So that’s what I’m doing to get through this holiday season. It’s small, but traditions have power. I’m hoping that through actively crafting new ones, even small, silly new ones, we can create a framework for this new way of being. I am hoping you find a new tradition and way of being as well.

Here’s hoping that by sacrificing our beloved traditions this year, we are all still around to enjoy them together in the future. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my community. Stay healthy. Stay safe. Happy Thanksgiving.

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