Expressing My Dear Thanks for Zoom Thanksgiving

A simulation of what a virtual Thanksgiving would be like.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Sabrina Chen

As you reach for another mouthful of stuffing, you drop your pencil onto the kitchen floor. While you kneel down to grab it, the contents of the math packet that you were attempting to hide under the table flutter to the floor, spoiling your feeble attempts at multitasking. The resulting jerk you make in response dumps the contents of the folder you were leaning the packet on as well. You toss your head back and listen to the reverberations your expletive makes on the pots and pans hanging on the other side of the room. The hair on the back of your neck stands up, and you slowly gaze back to what is sitting on top of the table; you find your entire extended family gaping at you through your laptop screen. You gingerly grab your fork and take another bite out of your stuffing.

It all started about a week ago, when a stray text to an unused family group chat ignited the holiday equivalent of a civil war. Just as our Founding Fathers righteously argued for independence almost 300 years ago, the members of your nuclear family shot down all talks of an in-person family reunion for Thanksgiving. After miraculously convincing your relatives in New Jersey that a 50+ person gathering would be smooth-brained, the herculean task of teaching all the oldies to use Zoom ensued. Indeed, many, many hours went into setting up the virtual get-together that you just ruined.

Of course, you didn’t want to do this. You’re a Stuyvesant student. You would’ve been content to blow half of your day off doing the “two hours” of homework your teachers assigned, then curling up with what is now your 14th rom-com at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. But your parents’ word is law, so now you have to explain to Grandpa Dan why you haven’t been to church in almost a year.

Once your dad smacks you upside the head for making a scene, the dinner is once again in full swing. You dig your nails into your thighs as you hear Uncle Roy ask your mom to pass the potatoes for the third time this hour, and his wheezing laugh snaps your focus away from your precalculus homework that was due a week ago. “You get it? Because we’re ‘a zoomin’?!” he chortles. Cringing heavily, you need a minute to regain your sense of vision following the enormous facial scrunch. You sigh as you sweep a drop of cranberry sauce that was launched from the whirlwind feasting of your family members off an equal sign. For a solid 20 minutes, you are able to rest your homework on your kitchen table since everyone’s faces are too deep in their plates to notice. The dull roar of cutlery clinks and indeterminate food processing could be a little less distracting, though.

This peaceful intermission is not to last, anyway, for the plates of your family begin to clear. Aunt Gretchen, who is ambitiously hosting the Zoom meeting, decides the conversing must begin, and screen shares a list of assigned groups for socialization. You’re about to protest when your family’s Zoom gets forced into a breakout room with Aunt Tilda and Uncle Bill. Aunt Tilda, the renowned family chatterbox, rapidly jumps into what is essentially a questionnaire. Uncle Bill, on the other hand, who just moved into his cabin in Maine, takes the opportunity to mute and turn off his video. Knowing him, he already has his latest Hemingway in his hands. After a dreadfully long and unproductive hour, Aunt Gretchen brings you all back to the full room, and a chaotic discourse ensues. You notice that in this short time, she’s already grown power-hungry, muting belches and unjustified Mahjong boasting alike. You finally have the opportunity to resume your task. Uncle Bill, however, isn’t so lucky, and Aunt Gretchen forcibly unmutes him in order to uncover his romantic pursuits as of late.

But just as usual, all it takes is one rogue comment to sever that pleasant conversation you were sharing, and your ears burn as Aunt Lorraine goes on another political tirade. Unsurprisingly, she’s transitioned from a flamingo pink to a lobster scarlet during her time in quarantine and begins to unravel a conspiracy of near-Biblical proportions. She’s on the brink of proving that Satan himself wore a medical mask when your lips split open against your will. Almost shouting to gain control of the Zoom audio, you launch into a well-scripted rebuttal. Just as you’re about to use the word “ignorant,” your mother delivers a swift dig to your left shin, and you pipe down. “It’s best,” she whispers, “to let bygones be bygones on Thanksgiving.”

The fourth time Grandma Meredith forgets to unmute herself, you excuse yourself from the room due to a compound misery of boredom and lethargy. You have to practically tear yourself away from your parents’ grip to leave. Due to the butterball turkey you just devoured, you collapse on the very first piece of furniture you encounter once you escape the view of your laptop camera, which happens to be a marble coffee table. You arise 14 hours later, just in time for your first-period gym class, and are severely winded from your set of five calf raises. You also end up slamming your face on the keyboard after dozing off during your minutes-long meditation.

Yet another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and you feel even less grateful than usual. You’re about to complain a whole lot online to a disinterested audience when the slightest hint of thanks wafts in your noggin. Sure, you may have been suffering at home almost nonstop for the past eight months, and into the foreseeable future, but it isn’t all bad. You could’ve been stuck with arguing parents or a dreadfully annoying sibling. You could’ve been stuck rationing food and water from quarantine bankruptcy. You could’ve actually gotten sick. You could’ve not had a laptop or a Netflix subscription. You could’ve even been stuck in New Jersey instead. Well, you might have some of these troubles. Heck, you might be able to fill in all this stuff on your Suffering Bingo sheet, but I just don’t know for sure. It’s kind of hard to tell from here.