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November 27, 2020

What started as a quiet day expecting a subdued Thanksgiving 2020 because it would just be the three of us, turned into a “normal” family gathering, and then some.

We had originally planned to cook our turkey dinner, but decided to support one of our favorite restaurants, Shiro, in South Pasadena where we used to live. Shiro is a lovely, intimate place that, like all restaurants today, has been struggling during the pandemic. When I called to say that I would like to place a Thanksgiving dinner order, the immediate response was, “Thank you so much!”

Not having to cook, Louie spent time in the yard raking the leaves falling from the fruitless mulberry tree. I love the tree in fall when its big leaves turn a beautiful bright yellow. Jacqueline spent time at her art studio, and I had quiet time to update Quickbooks and print reports for our year-end (phone) appointment with our tax preparer next week.

Our table was set with a mix of platters and take out containers. I heated the delicious pumpkin soup, which we sipped standing up as we hung out in the kitchen. Then, Louie “FaceTimed” his Aunt Magdalena (with whom we usually celebrate the holiday in San Clemente). “Great timing, she said, we are just starting dinner.” She knows Shiro well, so Louie showed her the soup, the catfish wrapped in foil and my juicy duck entrée gently warmed in a pan.

FaceTime at the dinner table

When we finally sat down for dinner, Jacqueline cleverly propped Louie’s iPhone on top of the pumpkin on the dining table so that all of us could “eat together.” Louie gave a toast honoring Thanksgiving. Then chatter and laughter ensued with everyone speaking (or shouting) over each other as we told stories. Kudos to Magdalena and Jeff who cooked their entire meal, including a 16-lb turkey! Thankfully, she made a brine for the first time, which saved the day because she misunderstood the cooking time. When they both peered into the oven to check the turkey, the bird was blackened. Oops. But the meat was tender as could be. We called the turkey skin Covid armour – that Jeff demonstrated as he hit the table with a piece of it.

Thanksgiving toast.

Then Magdalena, with her skills in smartphone wizardry, transferred our FaceTime images to the TV screen on the wall. But then Jeff had to stand in front of the television to see us because the screen was not comfortably within view of his seat at their dining table.

FaceTime in the kitchen

Then more family, Tony and Alycia, called in, and our group of five turned into seven. Dinner could not have been better planned.

And what Thanksgiving is not complete without the dog throwing up. Poor Lola had lost her dinner on her bed under the dining table. As far as we knew, she didn’t eat anything unusual. But the chaotic and loud evening could have caused her some stress as she, too, tried to voice herself as she barked to get our attention that it was time for her regular evening snack.

But hours before dark, dangerous Santa Ana winds had begun blowing. Our friend Teresa in the canyon sent us a Happy Thanksgiving text along with an alert from Southern California Edison forewarning Sierra Madre residents that the utility, in anticipation of possible fire hazards, may perform a forced power outage. Within a few hours, my neighbor Elsie from across the street called me frantically from her daughter’s home in the canyon. Just as they were cleaning up after their Thanksgiving dinner, the house across the street burst into flames and was destroyed within minutes. A short while before, Jacqueline and I grew worried as we smelled smoke while standing in the back patio and hearing blaring sirens from fire engines. It was that house burning. The cause: a burning candle on the second floor had been knocked over by the winds. Thankfully, no one was injured -- and the fire did not spread to neighboring homes in the tight canyon. But, tragically, a home was lost.

Indeed, as the majority of us followed the mandate to stay home and celebrate with family units only, Thanksgiving this year will be remembered for a long time to come.

And in the posthumous words of Alex Trebek, legendary host of “Jeopardy!”, who died this month after battling pancreatic cancer:

“Keep the faith. We’re going to get through all of this, and we will be a better society because of it.”

This is your country, and it’s up to you to save it.” – English translation of a saying in Taiwan

Washing Hands + Wearing a Mask + Social Distancing = Saving Lives

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