By Noah Parks
I was one foot out the door when the third Thursday of November approached. Grab my bag and head to the airport. I could see myself ready, masked, distanced, reviewing the safety improvements to the airport and the aircraft. I imagined my ticket on my phone, and the alcohol sweet smell of sanitizer. It would be uncomfortable but necessary to get from Brooklyn to Iowa and enjoy the cornucopia that Thanksgiving offers. I could never imagine the matriarch of my family: the host for over 20 years of this destination holiday, the woman that is up at 4 am beginning to cook a feast for thousands though only 20 usually show up, the woman that cancelled Thanksgiving!? It happened like everything else these days: over a zoom call. It was humbling to say the least. I felt like the balloons after the Macy’s day parade with people walking over me. There I was with a big, half inflated hand up asking for mercy.
There was no mercy from Kelly. She was tearful as she said it wouldn’t be right to ask folks to endanger themselves and others to have dinner together. She was broken and it hurt ten fold more than my dream being dashed of escaping the city. I stifled my own tears and conceded that she was right (like moms usually are). While this wouldn’t be like the past 20+ Thanksgivings, it would be memorable. I knew in my heart that we can’t just cancel these types of events.
Just as we all learn to walk then run, we’ve had about 9 months to begin to transition some of our traditions and events to safer, more accessible venues/mediums. HMG+ has adapted to meet the moment with the HMG+ COVID-19 Readiness Guide HMG+ and in collaboration with the Academy for Hospitality Arts it has begun to train COVID-19 Hospitality Compliance Officers to ensure safe working conditions, and train all folks for a safe workplace return with the COVID-19 Readiness Course. AHA has begun to train COVID-19 Hospitality Compliance Officers to ensure safe working conditions, and train all folks for a safe workplace return with the COVID-19 Readiness Course. The traditions of service are adapting and so can I to accommodate the traditions of my family for this unique time.
Naturally, I set up a zoom call. With all of the family from all over the country, we settled into either post meal haze or pre-meal anticipation to share in this hybrid holiday. It was replete with the usual zoom call troubleshooting: “Where’s everyone else?”, “How do I turn on my video/audio?”, “Can you hear me?”. It featured every single member of my mom’s extended family talking over one another, a rolling thunder of laughter, folks asking the same questions because everyone joined at different times, and all the “kids” (me and my cousins in our 30’s) getting roasted by our elders.
At the same time that I was giving my TED talk on hybrid events for my long distance family, I was also hosting my fiance’s family in our apartment. I had to excuse myself from the online conversation when “the bird” was done to carve it. I took my computer and set it up so that the zoom meeting could get a play by play of every piece of white and dark meat that I deftly sliced off. My uncle Doug said it was better than the fireplace video that runs for 10 hours.
It was not perfect but it was a miracle to have everyone in my Brooklyn apartment for Thanksgiving. I believe that hybrid events are an opportunity for me, for HMG+, for anyone with a service mindset to show our willingness to adapt and improve. The hybrid event will bring us together now so that when we do resume in person events we can safely relish the opportunity to share the most important moments together.