Discover more from People + Bodies
Hi, loves. 🌿
Thanksgiving edition (do make my mom's/Julia Child's spinach, linked)
I keep returning to this time two years ago: forgive me. The end of November has always been particularly vivid for me because we are rounding the corner toward my birthday and my dad’s birthday—I was born the day after his 40th, 5 weeks early—it’s almost Thanksgiving; winter, even in LA, is sort of falling; we are barreling into the end of the semester. Much of my pandemic memories have gone the way of the sewer, somehow indistinguishable, but the ones that arise around this time of year feel saturated.
Our six-month pod had just ended and we were on our own, the three of us, as the nights got so dark so early and the numbers rose precipitously. I’m not making Thanksgiving! I declared to general shrugs from my family. Fuck it! We’re having cereal! I missed my parents, my sister and her family. I missed our enormous, legendary celebrations over bacon turkey and creamed spinach and Mom’s pumpkin pie and that dollop of whipped cream in the espresso. I did not know how to cook a turkey, nor would I try to do so for a vegan and a child.
But partway through the day, I was possessed. This day could not be nothing. I made Samin Nosrat’s apple pie, I made Alison Roman’s homemade pizza, I made Smitten Kitchen’s excellent brussels sprouts salad, I poured the wine, I set the table, I lit candles. My husband and daughter watched movie after movie while I danced around the kitchen, cooking for them. When it was all done, I made several plates for our neighbor, Jay.
I felt, wait, really? Happy. I looked at my two loves—there was no one else, no one with whom we’d share space with for months, somehow this focused my gratitude—and I felt like: well, here we are. Safe, for now. Together. Abundant at the end of the world. With enough to share, which is all I've ever really cared about. It was okay, it turned out. At least in here.
Is this all terrible to say?
The terror was there. Remember that omnipresence? It was all growing scarier and scarier as the days grew darker, the epicenter shifting to our city. My friend got it at the grocery store! He went nowhere else! My other friend doesn't know how he got it. My friend got it from a dinner party—wait, he went to a dinner party? The judgement was also everywhere and exhausting and awful.
Newsom's stay-at-home order went into effect on my birthday, the last Saturday in November, but four of us snuck into a friend’s backyard for an illicit celebration anyway. It was freezing by LA standards, and we ate with little boxes of sushi on our padded laps, all of us wrapped in coats and jackets and blankets and hats and gloves. We sat, at minimum, 15 feet apart, in a funny square shape with the table in the middle like a centerpiece, and put on our masks when we weren’t eating. We knew nothing, we were terrified. Every few minutes, the only light keeping us from complete darkness would go out and someone would get up and leap around or wave her arms to activate it, and we’d laugh and start all over again.
And yet I came home feeling loved. I have no idea why this is the pervasive feeling I am left with of that time, because the time was objectively awful. It was surely at the height of me asking my husband a hundred times a day, do you think I have Covid? Our daughter was lonely; school was a joke; work was done in the cracks and badly. Our winter plans with Grandma would soon go the way of Newsom’s stay-at-home orders. But I remember moments of being fed, or of feeding others, even if it was only two mouths. I remember sitting down with my family to watch another Harry Potter movie, or in that ridiculously cold and dark backyard, and I think: we did our best. We made something of it, even if that meant, we simply continued to cook and bake and get up and celebrate what we could and just get through.
Is it terrible to say I feel a little bit of pride, thinking of us?
Yes, yes, it is, because pride goes to the doctors and nurses and janitors who walked into the hospital to try to stop death with so few tools or protections at their disposals. It goes to the families who had to say goodbye to parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles over FaceTime, then fell ill themselves. It goes to the people who had to stock grocery shelves and work in Amazon fulfillment centers and meat plants and also risk their lives, and to the kids who lost their parents.
When that time returns to me, I think of hearing someone—our rabbi?—say, we are all in the same dark waters but we are not in the same boat. And I also think of the old saying about writing a novel: You're lost at sea, but you're also...building the boat.
Doesn’t it still feel this way, even as we’ve emerged into this new world? That we are still building the thing in which we are also trying to move forward? That we actually have no idea how sturdy it is, or whether it can hold us, and where on earth are we headed anyway?
I’m just glad to know you’re all out there, at least, in these dark waters, just beyond where my eye can see.
People + Bodies is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.