This article is part of the Life in Quarantine series, which contains stories from around the world about how people live through a coronavirus pandemic. The fourth episode focuses on the Covid-19 celebrations, including the revival of traditions and security.
Time to heal together and reminisce about past holidays; the secret ingredient of Alberta Sparks…
Maria McCoy, 53, from Greater Orlando, Fla.
Occupation: Retired teacher starts a new company
What are you most thankful for? I am grateful for the opportunity to have my two loved ones who died in 2020 in my life at that time. They both had a special love for the whole family. His memories will surely stay with the family.
Maria McCoy’s parents raised her to be independent and strong, which helped her when she lost her 11-year-old husband to Covid-19 in September. She now faces the next hurdle: her first Christmas without her mother, who died before the pandemic struck in February.
My mother was the only one who cared about keeping the family together, said Dr. McCoy, 53, a retired high school teacher and doctor of education.
Dr. McCoy, surrounded by her parents, Louis Sparks Sr. and the late Alberta Sparks, after receiving her doctorate in education in 2017.
Dr. McCoy plans to hold the party as usual at his younger brother’s in Miami, where about 30 family members will gather. But this year alone, it will take 3.5 hours to travel south. She expects that there will be the usual big tree, surrounded by hundreds of gifts eagerly handed out by the younger children. Thanks to Covid, the party takes place in the open air, with a table that separates each house. They’re still in a circle, but they’re not holding hands. Dr McCoy’s husband, the Reverend Will McCoy, will not lead the prayer.
To facilitate the healing process, Dr McCoy turned to travel, keeping a close eye on all of Covid’s safety recommendations. In November she booked a two-week trip to The Gambia, a small West African country she had visited twice before and where she had made friends. With what I’ve been through, I just wanted to escape. Mentally I needed a break, she says. He and his sister-in-law then spent a holiday in Jamaica, with horses along the coast.
Dr. McCoy and his sister-in-law Jeanelle Millender on horseback last month in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Coming back for Thanksgiving was hard: Her friends and family invited her to dinner, but she only wanted to sit at her husband’s grave. It comforted them to remember the last day they bought tables and chairs together for a new event company. They talked about all kinds of things while she was driving. I’ll always live with the memory of that day, she said. She organized her husband’s funeral banquet in the room they were to open together.
They’re the memories Dr McCoy thinks will help him the most. Her mother, Alberta Sparks, always shared food with relatives for Christmas dinner. Dr. McCoy usually gets the dessert: Book cake, red velvet cake and lime cake. This year she will bake again, but she will also make a green collar, a dish her mother used to take with her. That’s because his mother gave him the secret ingredient. My necklaces taste the same as they do now, she says. -Nancy Keats
Dr. McCoy with his parents and siblings at Christmas dinner 2013.
Enjoying life in Hawaii, plans for Christmas in Poland
Baking cakes online with his grandmother helps the graphic designer feel close to his family, but working and surfing in Honolulu this year.
Zuzanna Rogatty, 29, Honolulu.
Occupation: Graphic designer
Miss Rogatti spends her afternoons exploring the island.
Has any of your traditions changed this year? According to Mrs. Rogatti it is impossible and convenient to prepare many traditional Polish dishes this year. If it is coconut water instead of borscht, gaupia instead of kutia, or papaya acai instead of bigos, I like it.
While walking through a shopping mall in Honolulu, Zuzanna Rogatti recently heard the first sounds of something familiar but unpleasant: Christmas music.
It’s so weird to see all those Christmas decorations around the palm trees, says the 29-year-old graphic designer, who recently moved to Hawaii.
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Paradise can be a strange place to stay during the holiday period if you have always spent your holiday in your own country. I feel like I miss Christmas this year, Rogatti said. It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me anymore when I’m not with my family or good friends.
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her new reality: She rented an apartment five minutes walk from the surf beach in Waikiki. Skipping winter, for the first time in my life, was part of the plan. The winters in Poland are hard, freezing cold, she says, and those in New York, where she has lived in recent years, are not much better. With the blessing of her boss, she put her desk, books and winter clothes in the closet, packed her suitcase and left for Hawaii at the end of the summer.
I just took a risk. It was my adventure, Mrs. Rogatti said.
After about 40 two weeks, she began to develop a rhythm for her new life: getting up at 5 a.m., working until 1 p.m., spending afternoons cycling, walking and swimming in the ocean. At 5 o’clock she’s on a surfboard. The ritual became meditative.
There are only a few days you paddle in the ocean and there are no waves. You sit on the board and look at the world, how beautiful it is here. You can see the volcano, the rainbow and the beautiful sky, she says.
She catches the sunset and goes home. A night bird was already asleep at 8 p.m. because he had to watch his work on the east coast.
The graphic designer Mrs. Rogatti wakes up at 5 a.m. and works on catching the sunrise. Details of one of their projects, right.
Zuzanna Rogatti (2)
Mrs Rogatti says that the pandemic enabled her to appreciate her family – and to stay with them – even more than when she lived near them. December discovers that she is about to send a package of Hawaiian delicacies to Poland – cocoa covers, macadamia nuts, Hawaiian printed shirts. She plans to be on the 23rd. December to bake cakes with grandma at Zoom and then take dumplings to a Christmas picnic organized by new friends. -Rachel Feinzeig
A retired woman brings mental flexibility to a blocked holiday only
There are many ways to party in California, even though traditions have changed: Go out and order a nice meal to go.
Kendra Heath, at home in Windsor, California, will spend the Christmas holidays alone for the first time in years. She plans a journey and enjoys a feast of crabs.
Kendra Heath, 69, Windsor, California.
See the bright side? I saw my sister more often this year and spent more time with her than anyone I can remember. We have never been very close, but we feel that we are even closer this year, which is good because we are the only two left in the family.
Do you have any holiday tips for other singles? Do something special for yourself. Go ahead and order a nice meal to go. Decorate them if it makes them happy. Bring flowers for the house. Do what you want to do.
Kendra Heath plans to make a long solo trip and have lunch alone on the coast of Mendocino on Christmas Day. I’ll treat myself to a cracked krablunch. If all goes well, by then it’ll be crab season.
The only 69-year-old retiree from Windsor, California, adds: I’ll eat out, in the car, or I’ll just take them home. Temperatures will probably be in their mid-50s and I’m not a fan of cold weather.
Miss Heath and her sister Erica spend Christmas 2016 together. Miss Heath always spent Christmas with her sister’s family.
Miss Heath will be spending her first vacation alone in four years. She usually spends Christmas at her sister’s house eating turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green meat pans and a carrot soufflé prepared by her brother-in-law.
During each holiday period, Mrs. Health is usually a mix of Thanksgiving, Christmas and their 26th holiday. December.
This year, when I turned 70, I wanted something special, she says. But that’s not going to happen with Covid, especially not with the peaks we’re seeing. I am currently looking for ideas for virtual parties. Maybe I can think of something else.
Mrs. Heath, a single mother, has been divorced twice, with a son, who lives with her family in Boise, Idaho, and originally planned to spend Thanksgiving as she did many years ago. Mrs. Heath usually organizes what she affectionately calls orphan meals, bringing together groups of three to eleven friends who may not have family for the day. She cooked turkey, potatoes and a fruit salad, and each guest brought a dish.
Covid reversed the trend. I only have one or two friends I really trust, she laughs. Seriously then, she says: I’m not gonna take risks with anyone, and I know they won’t either.
Mrs. Heath, bottom right in orange plumes, with friends at a party to welcome a new friend to her group in 2018. I tend to drop little classmates as soon as I can think of a reason, she says.
So she got involved and invited her sister and her sister’s family to Thanksgiving. Since this important holiday has already been shared with Mrs. Heath, her sister and brother-in-law come to Seattle to spend Christmas with their grandchildren.
Honestly, I have no problem being alone during the holidays, Mrs. Heath. I can play it by ear, so to speak, and do whatever I want that day. -Ray A. Smith
Photo taken by Mrs. Heath during a visit to the coast of Sonoma, which is about 45 minutes from her house. She plans to go to the coast at Christmas.
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