Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine. I would run around in the yard with my cousins until we heard the call that “Dinner was ready!” and made our way to the beautiful table spread that could “feed an army,” we always said. The kids would be consumed in giggles as the adults would reconnect, sharing the mountains and valleys of the year they’d had, while the most “seasoned” of the bunch were almost always found completely present, as if seeing younger versions of themselves in their kids and grandkids. I’d leave the house later that night feeling physically and emotionally “full.”
“I do believe it is important for families to be able to spend time together. I would recommend keeping the gatherings as small as possible.” -Dr. Ben Bowman
After this tumultuous year, an attitude of thanksgiving seems like a tough bite to swallow, but there is power in having a thankful heart. Our festive tablescapes may look different this year and we may have fewer seats at the table, but in this trying season, let gratitude be your guide. The holiday season has been complicated by COVID-19 and the elders in our community are among the highest risk groups if social distancing guidelines are not in place. We’re all asking ourselves, “How can we be ‘home for the holidays’ from more than six feet apart?”
Dr. Ben Bowman, the medical director of the Emergency Department at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, says, “I would recommend that everyone use their best judgment. It will be difficult to follow strict social distancing guidelines during the holidays, but I do believe it is important for families to be able to spend time together. I would recommend keeping the gatherings as small as possible.”
For these small holiday gatherings, Bowman recommends getting a COVID-19 test prior to attending only if you are symptomatic or have had close contact with someone who tested positive. “Otherwise I do not believe asymptomatic individuals need to be tested without a known close contact. Special consideration should be given to higher-risk individuals, including those over the age of 65 and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Try and use video conferencing to reach out to those that may not be able to attend,” said Bowman.
Video calls allow family members to cook, eat and watch football together, while still being physically apart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] also recommends preparing traditional family recipes and delivering these in a no-contact manner to neighbors and family members who are higher-risk and cannot physically gather.
Bowman intends to get together with family for the holidays, and so do other Collierville residents, particularly if their family is already in the Shelby County area. At this time, the CDC views air travel or staying in hotels as medium-to-high risk, so plan your holiday travel with this in mind.
Karen Shelton, owner of Simply Done Catering and Events, also plans to get together with her family, but suggests alleviating some of the pressure of having a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. “There’s no need to be Martha Stewart. This year, especially, it doesn’t have to be perfect. People are just going to be happy to be together and out of the house,” she said. “Don’t try and do it all.” Shelton also recommends buying premade Thanksgiving sides and desserts, investing in some pretty paper plates to reduce clean-up and placing hand sanitizer near the food and on tables.
Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season will be what we make of it. Whether you’re grateful to have some time away from work and school (festive fact: during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, Memphis students went to school on Thanksgiving Day to make up for lost class time!) or just ready to chow down on all your favorite holiday treats, it’s important to remember that as long as you and your loved ones are healthy, there’s still so much for which to be thankful.
story | Anna Bell
As circumstances surrounding COVID-19 change day-to-day, please make sure to follow CDC and local government guidelines during the holiday season.