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Michelle Deal-Zimmerman: A Thanksgiving to remember | COMMENTARY

Dear Mr. Santa,

It’s Thanksgiving, so not quite your day yet, but since most people have already finished their holiday shopping, I’m not sure what you’re waiting on.

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This has been quite a year and then some. Just the last week in Baltimore has felt like a year. Now comes the day when we can all finally gather with family and friends and be grateful to be together and frankly, just to be.

But I wonder if we’ve lost so much over the past 18 months of the pandemic that we won’t remember how to be together again in quite the same way as we were before.

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If we’re traveling, will we remember how to get on an airplane, exchange a friendly greeting with the flight crew, find our seat, store our luggage, open a book and remain quiet for the rest of the flight?

If we’re hosting, will we remember how to shop in a busy grocery store without commenting on what another shopper is wearing or not wearing? Discussing the weather has apparently fallen out of fashion. Of course, there’s always another option: silence.

If we’re visiting, will we remember how to speak calmly and kindly to family and friends who may have a different point of view about really, almost anything? In the past, we may have left the room or poured another glass of wine.

The holidays have always carried an edge, and the pandemic has given us time to sharpen it. There are so many new dividing lines: masked or unmasked; vaccinated or still doing research; working from home or going to work; pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie — that’s always been a debate but I’ve never seen anyone turn down a slice of either.

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Not that I remember.

You see, while we all say we long for the Before Times, we don’t seem to remember them that well.

So Mr. Santa, for Christmas this year, I would like a time machine so I can travel back to pre-pandemic Thanksgiving. And I’m not picky. I’ll take just about any year in my lifetime before 2020.

Maybe it will be the mid-’80s when my dear grandmother was still preparing the family feast for a crowd of two dozen and even the teenagers had to sit at the kid’s table. The howls of protest from me and my siblings would surely be familiar to our current pandemic times. We did everything but hold up signs — you need two hands for that, and my grandmother’s cooking was too delicious to miss even a forkful.

Perhaps the 1990s will offer some lessons to remember, too, about arriving late for your oversold day before Thanksgiving flight and enjoying the 3-hour trip from the absolute last row of an MD-80, a stuffed sausage of a plane that I cannot actually believe was ever certified for air travel. The noise was something just north of a rock concert. Do the airlines even fly those anymore? I sincerely hope not.

The late aughts, right about 2008, might have marked the end of the tolerable holiday table of disagreeable uncles and sparked the beginning of Friendsgiving (although the term itself dates back centuries). I can’t help but link this trend to a certain political dynamic that still persists today. But like a good guest at your table, I won’t go into that. Again.

This is all to say that the challenges of Thanksgiving gatherings remain the same. It is us who are changed. Many of us are different people after enduring nearly two years of roller-coaster upheaval. Those changes are not limited to just one thing, instead it’s everything: our health, our jobs, our families, our lives.

Yet we need to remember it wasn’t always this way. And there’s great hope and promise that it won’t be this way for much longer.

Mr. Santa, I’ll be looking forward to my time machine under the tree. But until then, I’ll settle for the gift of patience and a piece of my grandmother’s coconut cake.

And the blessing of a safe and Happy Thanksgiving for all.

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman is senior content editor for features and an advisory member of The Sun’s Editorial Board. Her column runs every fourth Wednesday. She can be reached at nzimmerman@baltsun.com.

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