New Traditions

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New Traditions

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The pandemic marked a turning point for my family. A few weeks before the March 2020 lockdown, my grandmother was hospitalized then placed in her final nursing home. Although my family knew the Alzheimers and cancer were progressing, we never expected a pandemic to make letting go even more difficult. Shortly after her arrival in the nursing home, the building closed down for all outside visitors. For the entire summer of 2020, my family and I had to watch grandma through a screened window. By the time we were finally able to go inside the nursing home to touch her again, it was only because her time was coming to an end. By then, my grandmother only recognized my grandfather, the rest of us were strangers.

My grandmother was in many ways the glue of our family. To lose her at a time when we could not see each other in person at holidays was extra difficult, but we adapted and even started new traditions. As a Polish family, we always have pierogi and fish on Christmas Eve and we usually purchased our pierogi from local churches that handmade the delicious dumplings every year. However with the pandemic, most churches did not sell pierogi in 2020 to protect their older community members who made the pierogi. Therefore, we decided to attempt for our first time to make our own pierogi from scratch. Admittedly, the pierogi we made in 2020 were not the best (and we made over 300 of them!), but we did not give up.

In December 2021, our families could once again gather in person – our first Christmas together without grandma. We made our own pierogi, and this time my cousins were able to join and help. Not only did the pierogi turn out much better in 2021, but a new tradition became cemented. Although the pandemic provided many hardships, I can't help but be thankful for the two years of stillness and uncertainty it provided. The pandemic allowed me to return to my hometown, reconnect with my family, and start a new chapter in my family's history. I think my grandma would be really proud of our new tradition.

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This item was submitted on April 3, 2022 by Marissa Hamm using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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