Like all families, we have had some inconveniences and disappointments due to Covid, however, unlike over 350,000 thousand American families, we have not experienced the unimaginable heartbreak that a death due to the Coronavirus brings. I know the isolation has been devastating to those who are social, to kids, to families, and can bring profound loneliness and depression
I am lucky. Or maybe I am not lucky, it depends on how you look at it, but I have been working, in person, every day since school started, with a cheerful group of fifth graders who brighten my day, so things have seemed *normal.* Sort of. The new “normal” of school is a completely different topic. Instead, I want to discuss how very much I miss my family and friends! My 86 year old dad, my 4 year old grandson, my daughters and daughter-in-laws. My brothers. My nieces and nephews. In-laws. Close friends who live “down south,” and for that matter, my friends who live near-by. I miss them all.
Last spring, when school closed I became quite familiar with Zoom. I quickly applied that new skill and set up a series of family meetings. It was just a really weird time. Few of my nieces or nephews were working, along with my daughter and it was worrisome, but we all thought it would be short-term, so everything was pretty light. Pretty joyful. We invented things like “Fixer Upper Bingo.” We had a virtual baby shower with games like, “The Price is Right!” We had cocktail parties, monthly meetings and at first it was pretty fun. Novel.
Flash forward to this fall. The family meetings had tapered off, most of the kids were working again, at least part time, and coordinating zoom get-togethers between New York, Chicago and Alaska proved difficult. The sense of isolation and separation from family began to deepen. The holidays loomed and plan after plan was canceled. In the end, no one wanted to travel. It was super disappointing, but completely understandable, but I kept thinking we HAD to come up with a way to bring us together.
Then I remembered a team game I had played with 14 members of my family back in the days when we could all be under the same roof at Thanksgiving. It was a digital scavenger hunt of sorts. Teams of three hopped in cars and had two hours to dash around taking pictures of things like two black cars parked side by side and uploading them to the app. There were more difficult tasks such as: Go to Walmart and have a team-mate put on the ugliest outfit, or find your doppelganger, and sit on a couch and sing the theme to “Friends.” All documented with your phone and uploaded to the app. We met back at the house at a prescribed time, drank mimosas and watched the team entries together. It was joyous!
Since this was a virtual game, the idea of trying it long-distance began to percolate. If teams were simply uploading virtual proof to an app, why couldn’t they do it from Boston? Seattle? Portland? Ketchikan? After spending nearly a month coming up with Thanksgiving themed tasks for teams to accomplish (in a Covid-safe manner of course) I then invited 22 friends and family members in five teams to participate. For your info, these were the “rules.”
- *There were 30 missions. Each mission/task was worth varying points. The idea was to be the team with the most points at the end. So if life was busy? Just choose a few high point tasks, or missions and complete them. Putting olives on your fingers? 100 points. Recreating a scene from your favorite holiday movie? 500 points.
- *The only task that was “required” was one called “Roll Call.” The team had to take a group picture. The challenge with this was that some teams were spread out in different states. For example, my nephew and his family were in Portland, while his Mother was in Alaska, so they did a face time picture and submitted that.
- *Each team had one week to complete challenges. We figured with Thanksgiving, work week, college, and busy lives this would provide enough time to participate in some fashion.
- *On Saturday the game ended and everyone was to sign in for a Zoom “Watch Party.”
When the game went “live,” our team procrastinated, we had a week after all. Then, my hyper-competitive oldest daughter and her family started posting completed tasks. It was clear she was going to try to do ALL thirty tasks!! When a completed mission would go into the feed, we would all cluster around and watch the video or comment on the picture. It brought joy and laughter. Soon my nephew and his team started posting, one by one more teams were posting. It was So. Much. Fun. The leaderboard fluctuated wildly.
With time running short, we began to brainstorm HOW we would perform some of the tasks, WHO would perform them, WHEN and WHERE. As time went on the tasks coming in through the feed were getting more and more creative! We brainstormed, practiced, choreographed and submitted task after task. Soon we began to climb up the leaderboard.
As the deadline approached some super creative ones began to come in! Recreations of Holiday Movies. Macy’s Day Parade Rockette dances. Touchdown celebrations. We dug through old photo albums and posted pictures of Thanksgivings from long ago. Showed off our Thanksgiving tables, pies, leftovers. We watched some of them over and over.
Saturday arrived, and with it the deadline. We got a few more missions in, and then logged in for our Zoom Watch Party. If you asked me now who won? I couldn’t tell you. Although we were a *little* competitive, that wasn’t the point. The point was, it was something that brought us together. Oh how I wish we were together on a couch though, cuddled watching it together as a group! How I wanted to hear the laughter together. The explanations, the compliments together. In person… but of course that was not possible. Not now anyway.
Now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I am feeling more hopeful than I have felt since March. I am hopeful I can see my grandson, my daughters, my inlaws, my friends and my dad again. In person. I am hopeful we can gather together around one table and share a meal. I am hopeful we can sit, cuddled on a couch, watching what may very well become an annual event, the Goose Chase Watch Party.
Here is a link to Goose Chase. I first became familiar with it in my Library coursework and have used it in the library and in my classroom. I paid for a subscription so I could have up to 10 teams, but I think it is free for fewer teams: https://www.goosechase.com/
Here are some “stills” from a few of the missions that were uploaded.