A Thanksgiving like no other: 'It was tough, but it was the right choice'

Kristine Gray is in the kitchen prepping the turkey. Her fiancé John is making his mom’s holiday green Jell-O mold: “It’s tradition.” In some ways, it’s like every other Thanksgiving.

“I’m probably going to be driven nuts all day,” Kristine said. “When’s turkey going to be ready? What’s this? What are you doing with that?” she said, mocking the kids.

The blended family of six, four kids ages 6 to 17, make for a pretty full table.

“This year, it’s just us, just us six, which is enough,” Kristine said. “I’m high risk, [John’s] son, who’s not up yet, is high risk because of his diabetes, so we just thought it was safer to be home.”

In a different year, they’d be at her best friend Michelle’s with 30 other people, or John’s family in Enumclaw. 

“It was tough, but it was the right choice, it was the smart choice, and it’s just the right thing to do,” Kristine said. “It’s unfortunate and it’s hurtful, especially with my mom with her fighting cancer, we really wanted her here but it’s not how it’s going to happen.”

Instead, the family settles into the living room for a cross country Zoom. Kristine’s mom Darlene and her partner Tim are on the screen, zooming from Florida.

“This is amazing, I really feel like I’m right there. It’s not the real thing but it’s pretty darn close and I’m really happy” Darlene said. 

It’s a 2020 Thanksgiving gathering, fit with spotty connection and sporadic freezing.

“I don’t understand it - because it’s so warm here - why it was freezing,” Tim joked.

In all seriousness, though, the distance is hard for this tight-knit family. Darlene usually spends all of fall with Kristine and the grandkids.

“This year’s a little bit harder than most because I would really love to have my mom here,” Kristine said, choking back tears.

“It would be nice for everyone to be together,” John chimed in, while the family soaked in the sobering moment of separation. 

“I’m just grateful we have this day together and we can share and look around us and see, for people who cannot have these things with COVID, I just truthfully feel it’s going to be a happy 2021 and look forward to that,” Darlene said, as the family went around the room saying what they were grateful for.

In between the cooking, the chaos, and the confinement, a family counted its many blessings.