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For Some Wyomingites, This Year Marks First Holiday Alone

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This year, the holidays are looking different for many people across Wyoming. With concerns about spreading COVID-19 to loved ones, some are opting to stay home this holiday season. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler brings us this postcard from some who are spending their first holiday alone.

Michael Katz: It's like the first time that I haven't had something to do. And it's just so par for the course for this year of just things just happening, and you just kind of take it as it comes.

Joan Anzelmo: I usually get together with a group of friends, most of us work together throughout our professional careers. It's our tradition to usually gather at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And this year, we all decided not to do that.

Seth McGee: Well, we usually plan on like a giant family dinner, which we call it dinner, but it's like one in the afternoon. But it usually lasts for like three or four hours of everybody just kind of hanging out together.

Michael Katz: My family's parents are in their 60s. You know, the last time I went home I drove and that's a 16-hour ordeal. I can't do that right now or as frequently as I'd like. And I'm not going to put them at risk just because I'm homesick or because I want to go home.

Seth McGee: So those are the two times in the year that I would usually be able to get to see everybody, or at least the majority of everybody, just because we usually do have like one or two family members who don't live in the state come and visit. And obviously, that's not going to be the case this year.

Joan Anzelmo: Not to say it's not a great loss, to not share holidays with friends and family. My family all lives on the east coast. And so I'm not going to fly there. They're not going to fly here. And so, you know, it's not ideal, but it's something that I accept. And I'm not bummed out about it. I missed a lot of the annual holiday events that we have in our community, whether they're open houses, favorite shops, or our tree lighting happened remotely, things like that. So, you know, there's a lot of sacrifices that people are making, but I think that it's a small sacrifice.

Seth McGee: When Thanksgiving came around, it was like the first time that we had that big talk of like, okay, what are we going to do? And then as things have been progressing, we decided that we would just opt out of not doing a family get together, but instead opting for a Zoom call, which I actually actually slept through and totally spaced out on. But I believe that's what we're gonna probably end up doing right now.

Joan Anzelmo: I enjoy reading. So, I'll do a lot of reading. I like music, I'll listen to music, you know, some of the cheesy holiday movies that come on, I may watch those.

Michael Katz: I've made latkes and my mom was super jealous, because she's like, yours [are] so much better than mine. So, I do that. I light my menorah. And I'm not like a super religious person. But there's just something about having a routine and that normalcy that makes you feel like you're a little bit closer to home because you know, your family is doing it too.

Joan Anzelmo: I'm sad to be missing the meal and the holiday get togethers I am doing you know, some traditional Christmas cookie baking just because it wouldn't feel right to be in December and not have that.

Michael Katz: Like I sent my mom a picture of my menorah. And she sent me hers. And it's the same menorah she had when I was a kid. And there's just something so stupidly comforting about that.

Joan Anzelmo: When I was growing up, my mother would use a cookie press, an old fashioned cookie press, and we would make a cookie called holly wreaths. And I actually stocked up on the ingredients so I can do them again, in the next couple of days or a week or so.

Michael Katz: New Year's is always the big one for me just because of the tradition with my sister. I think that's gonna be tough because our tradition was we'd go to the Rose Bowl every January 1. It's just odd and to know that I'm not gonna be able to go with my sister this year and tailgate way earlier than we should and just watch some good football and meet new people and, and hang out. It was like one of my favorite things to do.

Seth McGee: I still find myself just incredibly exhausted just to have the day-in-day-out of just going to work. Even outside of the pandemic, I was constantly busy, and I never felt this worn out. And I think it's just because of the mental exhaustion of the grind of days and not seeing people that like just doing absolutely nothing is incredibly appealing to me right now.

Michael Katz: I've had invitations to go to a friend's house for a meal, but I honestly think I'm going to be working on Christmas. I think that's my understanding.

Joan Anzelmo: For some people, it is really going to be hard and sad for people to have to be alone and not to be with their families. For me, the heartache is those families this year at the holidays, who have lost their loved ones, because they're going through the first time and perhaps their lives they've ever been without someone close to them, someone in their household, so I feel really bad for those people.

Michael Katz: I think this whole eight, nine, however many months, it's been- I don't even know anymore-has really kind of taught me a lot about myself that I can't operate alone, you know, you always have those moments when you're like, I don't know, if I can do this, I need to call mom, I need to call Dad, I need to go home. And you can't do that right now.

Seth McGee: The biggest theme of 2020 has been like reflection on what's going on in your lives. And I think that you shouldn't necessarily have to wait for something like Christmas or anything like that. But I do think that it's kind of a perfect time to take that test of emotional stock in the things around you and like the people that you have in your lives. And even if you aren't able to, like see those people to at least make some sort of concentrated effort to like say hi and like remind yourself that these are people that in any other situation, you might have taken it for granted.

Michael Katz: It's okay to feel whatever you're feeling, it's okay to be sad that you're not with your family. It's okay to want to be around people. But this is a hurdle, and this isn't permanent. What's another couple days? It's okay to want to do those things that you've been doing forever, but the end is in sight. Hopefully in 2021, hopefully you're not going to be alone again.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.

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