I Had Been Planning a Big Holiday Gathering, Until I Got COVID

I had been planning a large family gathering for Thanksgiving — until I got COVID. In my isolation from my immediate family (we were lucky. My kids and husband didn’t catch it), I realized that being sick of this virus, missing our friends and family members... doesn't change the fact that we are all still vulnerable. I could have infected my entire extended family. Instead, I went into isolation. While sorely lacking in personal hygiene, my alone time was packed with guilt and fear, but ultimately, a renewed determination to do whatever it takes to beat this virus.

“This pandemic has been hard on us all,” I whisper to my reflection, stroking my luscious new beard. It was day #7 of isolation following my COVID diagnosis; personal hygiene went by the wayside around day #4. I wander over to the window and open it for a dose of fresh air – facial hair has a tendency to make one feel claustrophobic.  

“RIIIIIICOLA!” I stick my head out and yell at the senior workout group as they shuffle by. They whisper something to each other and hustle down the street, terrified. I laugh maniacally and settle back into my bed nest to resume Dawson’s Creek.  

I was the last person in the world I’d expected would test positive for COVID. I followed the rules to a T… until I didn’t. My friend who I’d been in contact with over the weekend told me she’d tested positive and less than 24 hours later – though I was feeling fine – I was in isolation with a positive test, scaring the elderly and French braiding my leg hair. 

With three days left until I entered polite society, I was starting to get nervous. 

Is the house outside my bedroom still standing? I’d been hearing a lot of farm-like noise coming from the kitchen area. 
Will Dawson still be there for me once I leave my room? Is the Yeti look in this winter? 

Isolation was rough, as was COVID. But under the loneliness… the nausea… the fatigue… the coughing… the blinding headache… the diarrizzle ambush… was another sensation, stronger than all of those combined. 


My isolation ended 10 days after I was tested; our family quarantine ended four days later, on the day before Thanksgiving. The day before we were scheduled to host eighteen people at our house. Eighteen of the people I love most in this world - my parents, my sister and her family, some friends and neighbors. 

We had planned the large gathering in mid-October, rationalizing it by telling ourselves that everyone on the guest list was being careful by socially distancing and wearing masks. We were all experiencing big time COVID burnout and I hadn’t seen my family in over eight months so we all said, “Screw it – we’re eating turkey.” 

I was asymptomatic for four days after I entered isolation, which is how I think I spared my children and husband. I can’t begin to describe the fear and guilt I felt thinking I may have infected my girls. It was overwhelming. 

Also my husband is a huge baby and super annoying when he’s sick and I just don’t know if our marriage is strong enough to survive several days of his whining while we’re trapped inside a house together. 

More, though, was the sickening thought that had I become infected just two weeks later, I would have obliviously been the Angel of Death at my Thanksgiving table. “Who wants dark meat?” I’d say, using my scythe to carve the turkey. “I’ll do my best - it’s hard to see what I’m doing under this freaking hood!” Everyone would chuckle as I broke into a coughing fit. 

Obviously we canceled our large, poorly-thought-out family gathering within minutes of me finding out I had a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. As upset as I was, what would have been exponentially more upsetting is spreading a potentially deadly illness to my friends and family. 

Instead, we decided to turn sour grapes into wine and have one of our most memorable Thanksgivings ever. We slept in, my husband and I had early happy hour with the good wine (read: non-boxed) while we played cards and I let the girls pick out anything they wanted for dinner: 

Behold - the Thanksgiving chili! It went great with the Gingerbread houses we ate for dessert. 

After dinner we walked around the neighborhood and looked at Christmas lights. It was sort of nice because word had gotten out about my COVID diagnosis as well as fragile mental state, and the neighbors hightailed it the other way the second they saw us coming. It was so relaxing and peaceful. 

When we got home, everyone settled onto the couch for a nice little Dawson’s Creek marathon, despite my family’s screaming protests. 

There’s no arguing that this is pandemic is awful. We miss our families. We miss our friends. But when thinking of the December holidays, let mine be a cautionary tale. COVID is real, it sucks, it is fiercely contagious and you can spread it even when you feel fine. 

But there’s good news. A vaccine is right around the corner. So planning a big holiday make-up is totally do-able – later this summer. And just think of how much more fun it will be to get together with your family without worrying you might be the one responsible for pulling Nana’s card. 

This holiday season, stay healthy, stay safe – stay home.


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Hannah Mayer is a nationally award-winning blogger, humor columnist and exponentially blessed wife and mother of three. She would trade everything for twelve uninterrupted hours in a room with Jon Hamm and two Ambien. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram or at her blog, sKIDmarks.

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