Holidays without travel? It’s the time of year when Western Washington parents, especially transplants, start buzzing about travel plans for Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Or, in many cases, families are revving up to pick up relatives at the airport and open up their houses to visitors of all ages, sometimes for weeks.
This year, that’s all changed. For many kids, 2020 will be the year without a grandma.
Because of fears of picking up and passing on coronavirus to elderly relatives, or to relatives with conditions that make them much more vulnerable to its effects, a lot of Puget Sound families have decided to stay put this year and celebrate on their own, often for the first time ever as a family with kids.
Seattle parent Becky Mackle is disappointed. This year, she won’t get to see her mom, who usually visits from Tennessee for a couple of weeks as she’s done every Christmas of her two teenage grandsons’ lives. Because her mother suffers from emphysema, it’s just too risky to make the trip this year or to have visitors fly in.
“I usually host Thanksgiving here, and just people from around the city come. I’m not going to do that either,” says Becky with a sigh.
How are her sons handling the news about the holidays without travel?
“I think they’re going to be sad to not have Grandma here – she’s been here every single year since they were born, every Christmas here,” says Becky, who is an only child.
“She just had her 80th birthday on Saturday so they spent a lot of time talking with her, and she’s more on their minds right now.
“I think it’ll be hard.”
The Mackles have recently been trying to get her a device to make video calls, though it might be tough to help her set up a new smartphone, tablet or smart home center from many miles away.
And a video call just won’t be the same as making Christmas cutout cookies together as a family this year.
Tracy Osheroff of northeast Seattle usually hosts her mom and brother from Iowa to celebrate Thanksgiving with her husband and three kids – twin sons Nolan and Caleb, 11, and daughter Alana, 8. But this year, she’s looking ahead to holidays without travel.
As Tracy points out, the only practical option, with family being more than 2,000 miles away, is flying. And because of location, they can’t fly directly and would have to incur the potential exposure risk of switching planes, too.
“It’s a lot of travel and a lot of risks,” says Tracy. “Not only for her, but also even for us because Nolan has type 1 diabetes, so he is in a higher-risk category also.” She had considered extensive masking and looked into N95s, but decided against that.
“We’re just sort of stuck in this,” says Tracy. “We have no idea when we’ll ever be able to see them again.
“This whole pandemic makes you realize just how far away you are from family when maybe you didn’t realize that before, because it just seemed so easy to be able to jump on a plane and go anywhere you wanted to go.”
Marlene Mejia Weiss of Seattle and her husband, Matt, have two sons, Russell, 8, and Robinson, 11. In a normal year, they would travel to the East Coast on winter break to meet up with family in Philadelphia and New York – or to her parents’ new place in Florida.
But this year, it’s all up in the air.
“I don’t think we have a real fear of flying, COVID-wise. I just don’t know that we have a real strong desire because when you’re there, there’s just not much to do there,” says Matt, noting that once they arrived, they wouldn’t be able to visit with most relatives because of COVID precautions, and that there wouldn’t be many places to visit safely either.
Marlene notes that family gatherings would be severely constrained this year compared to previous years. “When we do go back to visit, it’s like, we’re seeing everyone,” she notes.
“Is it worthwhile to travel across the country to just sit in another house?”
The kids are at impressionable ages, and as Matt points out, they are at times
“really profoundly upset” that they can’t see their grandparents and other relatives.
But the kids understand the dangers, even at these younger ages.
“They’re pretty scared too. Russell’s 8, and he’s growing up – he’s
spent seven months – in a world of COVID.
“It’s dominating, I think, his memories. And so they really don’t want to get it.”
So this year, the Weisses have decided to figure out holiday plans as they go.
“One half-baked idea,” says Marlene. “We take a road trip somewhere, just to get a change of scenery.
“Maybe getting together with one other family that’s been in our pod.”