Bay Area residents grateful to be closer to ‘normal’ on Thanksgiving, but COVID’s weight lingers

Bay Area residents spent Thanksgiving Day savoring their opportunity to feel normal — or something close to it — but the emotional weight and residual stress of an enduring COVID-19 pandemic were not so easy to shed.

A year ago, the anxiety of a growing winter surge had dampened Thanksgiving’s festivities, with most families either isolating themselves at home or undertaking well-documented health risks to gather with their loved ones.

On Thursday, by contrast, residents felt cautious relief as they breathed fresh air with family members at holiday events or shared human moments with strangers in need at local meal giveaways.

Near Lake Merritt, the mood was festive as several thousand people of all ages — some clad in turkey hats, tutus sprouting fake feathers or carrying loud bells to ring — poured into Eastshore Park to watch or take part in the first Turkey Trot in two years.

Anne Lopez, 73, watched on from the sidelines with her husband Rudy as their 10-year-old grandson ran the course. Their arrival at San Francisco Airport from Tucson marked the first time they had seen their son and his family since December 2019, and the pang of spending nearly two years apart was starting to sink in.

“It’s the best thing in the world to see your kids and your grandchildren — it’s just the best feeling in the world,” said Anne Lopez, 73, as tears sprang into her eyes. “Like, OK, we’re whole again.”

OAKLAND, CA – NOVEMBER 25: Hundreds of participants begin to run in the Oakland Turkey Trot at Lake Merritt in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Nov.. 25, 2021. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Not far away, a trio of Piedmont Avenue Elementary moms did jumping jacks by the lake to warm up as they waited for the race to start. For parent Jasmin Canfield, 40, Thanksgiving will still be smaller than usual because her 2-year-old son isn’t yet eligible for the vaccine and some of her family members haven’t gotten their shots.

“You need to be vaccinated and also following the guidelines, not like, vaccinated and licking doorknobs,” she said with a laugh. “People usually call and say like, ‘Hey, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?’ I haven’t had any of those calls.”

Two of Canfield’s relatives have died from COVID-19, and a handful of others have gotten ill. She plans to have a moment of silence at the dinner for those lost to the pandemic.

“Having that space to really think about how we really don’t have control over stuff, how people have been gone, have died — I’m thinking about that,” Canfield said.

Across the Bay Area, local church volunteers were thankful to celebrate a holiday in person, but this year’s occasion was also an opportunity to collectively process grief accumulated over the past two years.

Joanie O’Bryant of Concord had spent the morning volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Pittsburg, where she had helped give prepared meals to homeless residents and others in need. O’Bryant lost her 85-year-old father earlier this week, so it was …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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