It’s already seven weeks into lockdown and while many aspects of life have been put on hold, there are still occasions to be celebrated, from birthdays and baby showers to wedding anniversaries.
But how does one celebrate when social distancing restricts us from coming together?
As with everything else that’s been interrupted by lockdown, from our kids’ schooling to our 9-5, all it requires is a little innovation – just ask Bronwyn Anderson who recently celebrated her mother’s 60th.
"Birthdays are usually pretty low-key in our family, but we do always make a point of being together when we can - my sisters and I are spread between Durban, Cape Town and Joburg," she told Parent24.
"This year, however, my mom was turning 60 and to celebrate we had booked for our extended family to all get together at our favourite holiday spot growing up – the Cavern in the Drakensberg. My mom’s 50th wasn’t much of a celebration because my dad passed away a few days later after a year long battle with cancer. For that reason, we wanted to make her 60th extra special," Bronwyn explained.
"For a little while we held out hope that lockdown would be lifted and we could carry on with our plans, albeit without some of our overseas family joining us, but we soon realised we would have to take the celebration online."
Together with her sisters, Bronwyn threw a virtual party and included friends and family from around the world.
"My older sister had the idea to put together a little slideshow for Mom with pictures of her youth and of our family growing up. My younger sister organised for all the party guests to send through their birthday wishes in video format – we even managed a few chaotic snippets from each of her four grandchildren."
"We then sent my mom links to both on the morning of her birthday and arranged a Zoom call for later in the day so we could all sing Happy Birthday and share in some cake (we each baked something so we could blow out candles together)."
While it wasn’t the celebration they had planned, it was just as special.
"My mom was very touched. She watched and rewatched the videos a few times that morning. It was very emotional. There are lots of happy memories in those videos," Bronwyn said, as she realised that despite being physically distanced from family, there are still ways to connect.
"While nothing can replace that direct contact for me, we are all doing the best we can in a tough situation to make sure that 'isolated' doesn’t mean 'lonely'."
Durban based Tammy Fraser has also discovered the silver lining in all this when she threw a virtual baby shower for her sister.
"My sister is expecting her first child so I had planned a really special baby shower," says Tammy who had pulled out all the stops, booking a venue in Joburg (where her sister lives) and planning every detail down to the Baby Safari theme.
"A few of us were due to fly from KZN to celebrate in April, but when lockdown was extended, we had to cancel our plans.”
Instead, 21 friends from across the globe dialled into a Zoom call.
"Everyone got a chance to share a story about my sister and why they think she’ll make a great mom as well as offer their best parenting advice," she told us.
Before the call Tammy organised for one of her sister’s friends to drop off flowers and a cake and everyone bought presents online (all of which will be delivered after lockdown).
Connection can still happen
"While it wasn’t the shower we had planned, and it wasn’t a surprise (I knew my sister would want to do her hair and makeup), it was a very meaningful celebration. Instead of the usual baby shower chit-chat where you all have your own conversations and perhaps don’t get a lot of time to talk to the mom-to-be, we each had a turn to talk and, more importantly, to listen," she said.
"For me, it was an opportunity to see a glimpse into my sister’s relationships with each of her friends as well as to hear 20 different perspectives on parenting."
While a virtual gathering isn’t quite the same as making memories together in person, what this pandemic has taught us is that connection can still happen in the midst of a crisis.
As Brownyn said, "isolated doesn’t have to mean lonely".
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