My own decision — if there was any decision — was made less complicated by the fact that I’m working in Italy, so I will be 3,000 miles from all the people I usually see on Thanksgiving. My kids definitely aren’t going to be coming.

Some families have complex issues to resolve around college students who are, in some cases, being sent home from colleges that are closing their dorms; a recent article suggested strategies to reduce the risk that they bring coronavirus with them, including reducing their possible exposures in the days before they come home and during their travel, testing before they leave, isolating and wearing masks when they do get home and, of course, sometimes, when there’s an alternative, deciding to skip the trip home.

Those difficult family logistics are not the same, however, as yearning for the family turkey meal for tradition’s sake. I don’t mean that I won’t yearn for my children, or my in-laws, or the good friends who usually come. But I’m not yearning to have all those people I love gathered around my table. When I picture that happy table right now, with a couple of people crowded together on the piano bench at one end and a few too many trying to pretend they have enough room to eat on the card table that gets jammed in at the other end, I’m thinking that this is the year that doesn’t look happy and healthy and safe.

So in the interests of doing things differently this year, to mark a weird and terrible year, here are some things I’m grateful for. Some you know: dedicated frontline workers, steadfast parents everywhere getting their children through, smart epidemiology, vaccine research, the various kinds of privilege and protection which keep many people I love comparatively safe, the selflessness and mission that put many people I love at a certain amount of risk.

I’m grateful for deadlines, and pressures, which get me writing, since I didn’t turn out to be one of those people who just feels motivated by the at-home pandemic time to get really creative. Concomitantly, I’m grateful for guilt, especially the guilt that goes with overdue deadlines, because that really gets me out of bed in the morning, even when the news is bad.

I’m grateful for knitting, which has helped me with my Zoom fatigue, and for novels (especially to Anthony Trollope for writing so many of them and to Persephone books for republishing so many authors I hadn’t previously encountered), which take me into other worlds and other scenes more effectively than anything else (and then make me feel guilty for reading novels when I have deadlines overdue).

But most of all, I think, I am grateful for all those Thanksgivings past, and for the prospect of a better Thanksgiving in a better year — and I’m hopeful that will be 2021. I will not ask people to go around the table and announce what they’re grateful for, but honestly, there will be no need. If we get to that table, we will know.

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