The situation with the Covid-19 pandemic is going to make the holidays different this year for a lot of us. Many of us who would get together in person with family and friends over Thanksgiving are not doing so out of caution and safety. We aren’t flying, we aren’t gathering in large groups. And we are sad because of the situation this health crisis has put us in. We could feel mad and upset or we could do things differently.
My mother, who lives in Palm Desert, CA, celebrated her 90th birthday this past October. If there was no pandemic, we would have all gathered in California to celebrate in person with her. But that wasn’t possible so we implemented plan B. We decided to do a virtual party instead.
Working with my brother-in-law, we designed a fun invitation that was sent to family members and my mother’s friends which included the Zoom link for the party. My sister, who also lives in California, had cupcakes sent to my mother and I made a birthday cake in North Carolina with my grandchildren. The oldest, who is 6 1/2, did ask how we were going to get it to Nanny. Sunday evening, everyone (children, grandchildren, nieces, and friends) logged onto the Zoom call and we were able to celebrate my mother’s birthday together. It was different, but it was fun!
There were two fun parts of the evening that stood out – One was my son-in-law asking my mother questions about what the world was like when she was younger and how things have changed over her lifetime. The other was a photo collage that I put together of my mother over the years starting from when she was maybe 3 years old.
One of the greatest gifts we can give is the gift of our photos and stories. Research has shown that children who grow up with a sense of their family history have better self esteem and “show higher levels of emotional well-being”. In previous years we would sit around the table or the kitchen or the family room and share these stories in person and share photos on are phone. But this year will be different, since we my not be in person but that doesn’t mean we can’t still share our stories and our photos.
Let’s use this year to create a new family tradition of how we share our photos and tell our stories. Let’s do it virtually. Here is a list of questions that you can send to family members and ask them to respond. Or you can create your own list of question. Everyone can send their responses to one family member who can collect and them share with everyone else. Or you can set up a family call using Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger or Google meet or any other application you want to use and share your responses live. It would also be fun if you could dig out a few photos to share as well.
- Where did your parents meet?
- Where did your mother grow up?
- Where did your father grow up?
- Where did your grandparents grow up?
- Where did your grandparents meet?
- Where were your parents married?
- What was happening in the world when you were born?
- What is the source of your name?
- What was happening in the world when your brother or sister was born?
- Which person in your family do you look like?
- Which person in the family are you most like?
- What illnesses and injuries did your parents experience when they were younger?
- What were some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?
- What are some things that your mom or dad did when they were in school/younger?
- What is the national background of your family?
- What jobs did your parents have?
- What awards did your parents receive when they were younger?
- What are the names of the schools that your mother went to?
- What are the names of the schools that your father went to?
- What are some interesting/fun things that your parents did before you were born?
(Adapted from “The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions?”, Marshall P. Duke, Huffington Post May 23, 2013.)
Let’s not allow the pandemic to spoil our family get togethers. Let’s use it as an opportunity to do things differently and start new traditions. Yes, the holidays will be different this year but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We can use the time to be creative and find a new way to connect, share, and love each other.