My first holiday family reunion since the pandemic

A student describes how it felt to be reunited with her whole family for the first time in almost two years.


As someone with a big family, the holidays are always chaotic because I’m surrounded by crazy aunts, playful wrestling matches between uncles and cousins and annoying nieces and nephews.

Growing up, I didn’t always celebrate the holidays with the large family I have now, but when I did, I’d hide from the crowd in my room. However, that changed this Thanksgiving, especially after not seeing most of my family throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

When I was younger, I wasn’t exposed to many crowds, which is why I tried to escape every event we hosted. I lived with only my parents and my brother, so our holiday celebrations were with just the four of us. For Thanksgiving, my mom would cook all day while my father, brother and I spent the first few hours of the day watching the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on television.

This changed when I moved in with my older sister and her husband at age 11. Our house was spacious, so it was always the designated “place to be” when during holidays, parties and cookouts.

With such crowded gatherings, I’d feel overwhelmed by every aspect of the holidays — the swarm of people, the ridiculously loud music blasting from the speakers, guests yelling when football was on. The mere thought of having so many people in my home trying to talk to me and saying things like “I’ve known you since you were a baby, don’t you remember me?” always left a sour taste in my mouth.

Thanksgiving dinners were more lively as more people came into my sister’s house with their energetic and outgoing personalities. The yelling from the adult’s spades game and the cheering from my nephew and cousin’s NBA 2K matches on the PlayStation gave me more reasons to stay isolated in my room, away from everyone, even my family. 

My room was my best friend because it was where I felt the safest and most protected from the crowd. 

Now my Thanksgiving is different, and sometimes doing things differently is a good thing.

Although we traditionally hold our large Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house, we couldn’t in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite my love for isolation, I missed everything that went into Thanksgiving, and I longed to see all of my family members again. 

I missed my family’s Thanksgiving routine, like beginning to prepare the food on Wednesday night. I would stay up for hours sitting at our dining room table helping peel sweet potatoes and cutting fresh greens.

I’d wake up on Thanksgiving morning to find my sisters finishing up the final preparations for the feast that was soon to come. My sister would tell us Thanksgiving dinner would be ready at 4 p.m. However, something would always push dinner back, causing us not to eat until 6 p.m.

I missed seeing our first guests arrive with open arms, even though I once dreaded their arrival. I missed the conversations I had with others and the obnoxious screaming at the football games.

The pandemic changed my views on our holiday gatherings. I went from not wanting anything to do with family events, to wanting to be a part of them any chance I could get. The time away from most of my family last year made me realize that I shouldn’t take spending time with them for granted.

This Thanksgiving was our first big holiday with my whole family since Thanksgiving in 2019, and surprisingly, I was excited.

My heart swelled with happiness seeing everyone together. I chatted with more people than I usually did, bonding with relatives I hadn’t seen in years and laughing until tears fell from my eyes. The love and positivity that filled our home grew stronger with each passing second.

I’ve decided even though I’m still not too fond of crowds, staying in my room was not an option. Instead, I decided to make the best of this Thanksgiving by making unforgettable memories with my family.

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