Home for Thanksgiving: Two local couples among area residents who are using Zoom/FaceTime for holiday

CHANGE OF PLANS — Michael and Savannah Guz of Weirton, with their dogs Miss Pepper and Otto, will have Thanksgiving at home on Thursday but will enjoy holiday time with family through Zoom and FaceTime. -- Contributed

This year’s Thanksgiving will translate into a very different holiday celebration for many area residents adhering to COVID-19 precautionary suggestions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that advise people “to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”

Two local couples, however, plan to make the best of their down-sized traditional festivities, using technology to be with loved ones and stay connected.

Savannah Guz anticipates this Thanksgiving will be “very unusual” for her and her husband.

“Michael and I will be at our home here in Weirton,” explained the executive director and president of the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center in Weirton.

“In the morning, we’ll be FaceTiming with my parents, who are on lockdown in south central Pennsylvania. And in the afternoon, we’ll be doing a Zoom call with Michael’s family, who are geographically dispersed. Two of our nieces live in Cleveland; another lives in Pittsburgh; while two others live in New Albany, Ohio, and Boardman, Ohio. Michael’s siblings will also likely be joining from New Cumberland and Calcutta.”

The couple will share duties as always in the holiday meal food preparation. “Michael will be cooking the turkey in the smoker, and I will make the sides and dessert. He will be delivering part of our meal to his mother, who is our neighbor here in Pleasant Valley.”

Plans are to time the Zoom call so everyone’s sitting down to eat whatever each family unit has prepared.

“That’s the plan anyway,” Guz noted. “One of our two nieces in Cleveland, Emily Householder-Stacey, is sending out the Zoom link, so we can all join. I’ve used Zoom for Weirton Area Museum board meetings, but I’ve never used it to facilitate family time. This will be an entirely new experience. We will also likely use the opportunity to talk about what we want to do for Christmas.”

A “normal Thanksgiving” for Guz and her husband varies.

“When it’s with my husband’s family, it’s usually held at the farmhouse here in Pleasant Valley — the farmhouse that my husband’s Polish grandparents purchased in 1925 and where so much family history has been made,” she said. “Usually, there are oodles of people, including siblings, nieces, nephews, great-nephews and cousins. In fact, there are so many of us, a single room can’t contain us all. We have a variety of tables in multiple rooms of the farmhouse,” she explained.

“However, because I’m an only child, we often spend Thanksgiving with my parents. In recent years, they’ve come to our house, and my husband cooks — he’s an amazing cook! We have an electric smoker, in which he prepares our turkey. It’s a process that begins well before Thanksgiving because he brines the turkey and seasons it before it goes into the smoker box early on Thanksgiving morning. I make hors d’oeuvres and sides. My Mum brings dessert and cocktail ingredients. We give our dogs — Otto and Miss Pepper — plates with their own turkey and stuffing. It’s just a wonderful time because we just get to be together and catch up. I still have the wishbones from our previous Thanksgiving feasts as wonderful mementos that I keep on the windowsill above our kitchen sink.”

Guz has much to be thankful for, she assured.

“I am so thankful for my husband’s, my family’s and my own health; for our pooches — who make our lives so rich ; and my ability to contribute to the city I love — Weirton. I also am very, very thankful for my friends and their health.”

Asked for her thoughts on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting life in general, holidays specifically and what she predicts Christmas will look like, Guz responded, “It’s so difficult to make concrete plans, particularly since the pandemic seems to be suddenly worsening by the day. I am so happy and grateful that we are able to connect virtually. Not only can I still have museum events that matter to people, like the upcoming Weirton Floor Coverings Wreath Unveiling and Light-Up, which people can watch and enjoy on Facebook from the safety of their homes, I also can still connect with the people I care about the most — even though we can’t hug. I miss the hugging part.”

But Christmas, like Thanksgiving, could potentially shape up to be another holiday celebrated in a different scenario.

“Usually, my husband’s family meets on Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law’s house, and we exchange gifts and eat together. It’s potluck, and the dining room table is usually filled with amazing food. My husband and I then drive to south central Pennsylvania on Christmas morning to spend a week with my parents and visit with my York friends. To break that tradition this year will be very hard on everyone.”

The Rev. Vaughn Foster Sr., executive director of Relationship Builders, and his wife, Lisa, also will stay at home this year although that’s not the usual practice for the Steubenville couple.

“Every year, like most families, we look forward to the holiday season because it means time away from work and/or school and time with those we love,” Foster noted. “However, unlike many families, because of my role in ministry, we sometimes receive a good number of invitations. We get to choose whether to spend time with my wife’s family in New Jersey, my family in Kentucky or families who have become our family in the Ohio Valley,” he added, pointing out that, “Wherever we eat, three things are critical to our gathering — faith, family and football.” And that won’t change, he added, no matter how the Dallas Cowboys are playing.

But there won’t be any multiple-hour drives for Thanksgiving Day 2020.

“This year, we will not gather at any of the homes we normally would have visited many times already since April. This year, we will do what we have tried to do consistently since the pandemic began — spend time with our immediate family. Nevertheless, the positives of changing what we do this Thanksgiving outweighs the negatives greatly,” he explained in responding to e-mailed questions.

“When we travel, we know how much it will cost in gas. We know how much it will cost in tolls. We know how much it will cost to stop and eat on the way, if we choose to do so. However, this year, we do not know the cost of visiting family or eating with loved ones locally. In every home there is someone who has or has contact with someone with underlying conditions that may make them more vulnerable to the traumatic effects of COVID-19 than others. My good friend, Charles Harmon, put it this way, ‘There are restaurants where they do not put prices on the menu. If you eat there, you are expected to be able to pay the bill no matter the cost. I cannot afford to eat at homes or be around people not knowing the cost.’ The truth is, none of us can,” Foster wrote.

But Zoom technology will keep family connected.

“We will be able to give thanks with our family members in Kentucky, New Jersey, Connecticut and perhaps other states all in the same day,” Foster pointed out. ” For years I have been making sweet potato pies and have not shared the recipe. This year, I will be sharing the recipe with out-of-state family members who want one of my pies for Thanksgiving,” he said.”

“Another good thing about a physically distanced Thanksgiving is no one has to drive home, full and drowsy,” he added. “We haven’t scheduled the times for the Zoom calls yet. However, I am pretty sure they will take place before kickoff or after the final whistle. We will miss hugging each other, but we all know the meaning of the holiday. This year, we will give thanks to God that although apart, we are still together here in the land of the living,” Foster said.

Asked to share some thoughts on marking Thanksgiving in a different way this year, Foster responded, “I am not a fan of Halloween. However, I am a student of life. We learned from Halloween that creativity can make a celebration better than we would have imagined. People were using slides and T-shirt launchers to distribute candy. Thanksgiving is a good time for us to get creative. Plato once said, ‘A need or problem encourages creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem.’ We can cook together via the social media platforms, eat together or even watch the games together. The holidays can be as miserable or as enjoyable as we choose. The key is, we should not do anything for Thanksgiving that might directly or indirectly cause us to be in mourning as the next holidays arrive.”

In whatever way the Thursday holiday is marked, Foster has a grateful heart.

“Part of our Thanksgiving tradition is to always ask each other what we are thankful for,” he noted. “I suspect I will try to limit my list to a few. I am thankful for a loving wife, children that make us proud, a God who never gives up on us and the assurance that, no matter how bad things seem, God is still on the throne and able to perform the miraculous in our world, country and lives.”

While some area residents are using Zoom or FaceTime to visit and stay in touch Thursday, other area residents are simply preparing for smaller get-togethers.

Such is the case for the Purks in Weirton.

Barbara noted the holiday will be one involving just her and her husband, Larry, and daughter Cari having Thanksgiving at home for the usual feast.

But normally there are eight together for the occasion with family in Dayton, for example, electing to stay put.

“I will miss family — especially grandchildren,” Barbara noted.

“I am thankful that my family has stayed well and all seem to be careful about taking advice seriously. As much as I miss them I am thankful they are staying home,” she explained.

Sharon Cole-Isner of Mingo Junction also is observing a small gathering at home for Thanksgiving.

“There will be just four of us. My daughter, her husband, his mother and me,” she explained. “Other kids are staying in the areas they live (Columbus). They only have that day off.

“If I could have all the family — kids and grandkids — there would be 20 of us,” Cole-Isner said. “And I’ve also done multiple meals on days to accommodate schedules. I know my oldest and her family work the day before and after, but we all are trying to be COVID responsible. There are approximately 15 family members in the Columbus, New Carlisle, Fairborn areas.”

The change in how the holiday is celebrated brings a change in who’s doing the cooking as well.

“As much as I enjoy cooking for everyone, my daughter and her husband didn’t want all the cooking on one mother or the other, so it was decided to order our meal this year. COVID or not, I always try to shop locally,” Cole-Isner noted.

“It is sad that so many have to scale back due to COVID,” she added. “It’s normally a time family enjoys each other, reminisces and makes memories.”


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