It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition in my family in recent years to write our annual end-of-the-year newsletter while the turkey is roasting in the oven.
Dubbed the “Cains-Kessler Chronicle” – a combination of my wife’s and my last names and the newspaper where I worked for almost 30 years – the holiday letter is limited to one page and tries to give an overview of our past year. I sprinkle it with humor and self-deprecation in a lame attempt to avoid being boring.
But, as has become commonplace during this – pick your adjective: agonizing, challenging, depressing, anxiety-producing – year of 2020, nothing is “normal.” That forced me to think about the contents of our missive earlier than usual. So, written well before Thanksgiving, here’s what I’ll tell my friends about a year that most of us wish we’d wake up from and learn that it was only the plot of a very bad episode of “The Outer Limits” or “The Invaders.”
Greetings from ‘The Twilight Zone’
As I wrote recently about this altered coronavirus pandemic reality, even Rod Serling, the creator of that classic sci-fi show, would have been hard-pressed to write a script based on the twists, turns and tragedies of 2020.
That’s something to consider as you critique this edition of the Cains-Kessler Chronicle, which – despite your expectations that the pandemic would have been reason enough to cancel it – the publisher and your loyal friend (aka nudge) is pressing ahead with. So, here’s what passes for our “news” from 2020, done in a Top 10 countdown, with apologies to David Letterman:
- Miscellany department: Larry is still freelancing and Lynne continues to work part time. … Larry finally threw out his old and tattered Patriots sweatshirt and tossed out dozens of decades-old receipts. … Lynne has become adept at trimming Larry’s beard and mustache.
- Trips we didn’t take: Our plan to visit our older daughter Arianna in Ecuador in April, during her teaching stint there, was scrubbed by COVID-19, as was our plan to spend a few weeks during this upcoming winter in Florida. We also didn’t get into Boston or take our annual Labor Day weekend jaunt to Gloucester.
- A lone dinner out: Shhh, don’t tell Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, but we snuck over the Rhode Island border in August for our only family dinner of the year to celebrate my birthday outside at a restaurant in Providence.
- Sports shutout: Ari had bought roof box seats in Fenway Park for a Yankee game in August for Lynne and me and for a game against the Tampa Bay Rays in September for a father-daughter outing. Neither happened, of course, but she did get two Red Sox masks along with her refund. I also had 30 flex tickets for the final season of the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium, but didn’t get a free mask with my refund. Hope springs eternal for 2021, 2022 or the 22nd century.
- Zoomed out of our minds: All of us discovered that the PBS children’s series “Zoom” was reincarnated as a ubiquitous, and occasionally nefarious, social media platform. Like millions of Americans, we’re praying that we don’t have to “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom” as often in 2021.
- Virtual purgatory: For the first time in 45 years, I didn’t run any actual races with other runners, but did do a pair of virtual charity races, which is a COVID-era way of saying that they were two more opportunities to run alone. My annual Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society also went virtual, which was yet another big 2020 letdown.
- You’ve got a friend: We sent lots of emails and texts to our friends, but sadly saw precious few of them in socially-distanced settings.
- Relatives: We saw none of you; if you consider that good news, then we may not see you in 2021, either. (Only kidding.)
- Our kids: If you thought you were going to escape news of our kids, you’re wrong. Ari came home early from Ecuador, landed a teaching job and moved into her own apartment. Alana, a sophomore at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, continues her culinary studies and labs; per JWU, she moved back home before Thanksgiving, and after finishing her first semester remotely, will return in January for lab classes and more remote learning. May the latter be among the things that largely disappear in 2021.
- Staying healthy: To paraphrase one of the great lines from Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” we’re alive! Sure, Larry has more aches and pains than the Red Sox had in 2020, but he’s always been an accomplished kvetcher.
Now the good news: You’ve reached the end. Mazal tov. Sip some wine or schnapps and wish for a better 2021, which, as low as the bar was set in 2020, won’t take much improvement.
L’chaim, my friends!
LARRY KESSLER (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at https://larrytheklineup.blogspot.com.