By Ginger DeShaney
The year 2020 has been brutal, from the global COVID-19 pandemic, high unemployment, and business closures to remote learning, holiday restrictions, and political turmoil.
But despite all this, people in South Boston are thankful for what they do have as we enter the holiday season.
From healthy families to beloved dogs, people are cherishing what means the most to them during these unusual times.
“I’m thankful for the health of my loved ones,” said Raphaela, who was at Dorchester Heights with Patrick and her dog, Tulip, last week. “The pace of this year has allowed me to spend more time with the people I love.”
Patrick is very thankful for his family being safe.
And they are both thankful for 3-year-old Tulip.
Initially, their holiday plans were separate, with Raphaela, who lives in the Back Bay, planning to go to New Jersey to visit her parents for a small Thanksgiving. But with the CDC discouraging travel, she may be going with Patrick to visit his parents in Weymouth for a small gathering.
They were both tested for COVID-19 recently. “We don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s health,” said Patrick, who lives in South Boston.
Angela and her family were hanging out at Castle Island’s playground last week.
“I’m thankful I gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” she said about 3-month-old Will. “And for my daughter, Lucy. Everyone is happy and healthy.”
Angela and her husband, Scott, are making the most of this unusual time and spending more time with family. “If the world hadn’t shut down, I wouldn’t have been able to watch the kids grow, see their milestones. I am thankful for that,” Angela said. “It’s given me a new perspective.”
The family will have a low-key Thanksgiving dinner with a brother and sister-in-law. Their holiday is usually much larger, with Scott’s six siblings and their families.
Stephanie was at the Heights last week with her co-worker’s dog, Cooper.
“I’m thankful my family and friends are all safe and healthy and that we’re slowly coming out of this terrible year with a vaccine on its way,” she said.
She’s also very thankful for all the dogs at the Heights: “It’s my happy place. This park has helped me through this year. We don’t have much else to do.
“Being in a safe outdoor space with other dog lovers makes this easier to manage,” she added.
Stephanie was recently tested for COVID-19. For Thanksgiving, she will be attending a small gathering of five people in a big house so they can socially distance.
Nicole was at the Heights with her dog, Bubba, last week. “I have so much to be thankful for,” she said. “This year has given me time to step back and take stock of what’s really important.
“I’m thankful for my family and loved ones. I’m thankful for open spaces in South Boston,” she said, listing Dorchester Heights, Castle Island, and the beach. “I’m thankful for our community. Even though we are apart, we have come together.”
Nicole’s Thanksgiving plans are low-key, with just immediate family. They are planning to do a virtual Champagne toast with loved ones and talk about what they are thankful for.
Steve and Ashley were enjoying the sunset at the Heights last week. “I’m thankful for a lot more time together,” Ashley said. “And our families are healthy,” added Steve.
“The weather has been pretty good,” Ashley said. “Every nice day I appreciate it more.”
On Thanksgiving, “we will keep it small,” Ashley said. “Just us and my parents.” Their Thanksgiving usually includes 15 to 20 people.
Ryan was at the Heights with his dog, Wally. “I’m thankful for my brothers,” he said. “I’m thankful for my well-being and health. I’m thankful for my girlfriend, and I’m thankful for my dog, Wally.”
Ryan, of South Boston, plans to join his girlfriend and her family for Thanksgiving on the Cape for a gathering of about 10 people. Ryan got tested for COVID-19 last week.
Jess, Jeff, Jacob, Linnea, and their dog, Nora, were enjoying a beautiful day at Castle Island.
“I’m thankful for more time to spend with family,” said Jeff. “It’s been a chance to be outside a lot more,” added Jess.
The family will have a small Thanksgiving with their immediate family. “It won’t change much for us,” said Jess. “It will be quiet like usual,” added Jeff.
Tony, who was at the Heights with his dog, Chief, is thankful for his students. The BPS teacher said his students are doing well, all things considered. “A lot of them want to be back in school with their friends,” he said.
Everyone Tony knows is healthy, “knock on wood,” he said, noting there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases among his friends and family.
He’s also very thankful for Chief, his new rescue German Shepherd, who is 9 months old.
There will be just four people at Tony and his girlfriend’s Thanksgiving. Normally, his Thanksgiving would be 40-50 people in Pennsylvania.
“It will be different, but the experience will be the same,” he said.
Sam, who was at the Heights with his dog, Ollie, is thankful that everyone in his family is healthy and “we are able to have some sense of normalcy.”
Sam’s folks are in the area and they’ll have a smaller gathering this year. Normally, the whole family would get together, totaling more than 30 people.
When Dan and Lindsey were asked at Castle Island what they are thankful for: “You’re looking at it,” Dan said. “Our family,” Lindsey said. Ruby, 8, is thankful for their dog, Rosie. “She’s healthy,” she said.
Jenna and Harrison, who were at the Heights, are both thankful for a safe place to stay and for their healthy families. They both live in Southie.
Jenna said they are lucky to be in Boston, where people can get tested even if they are asymptomatic. Both were tested last week.
For Thanksgiving, they are “trying to figure out a way to be close to the people we care about,” Harrison said, which may mean not seeing them on Thanksgiving.
Evan and Kate are thankful for 15-month-old Emma, their family, and their health.
“Luckily we don’t know any who succumbed to [COVID-19],” Evan said.
Their plans include traveling to the Cape to see immediate family. “It will be just the five of us,” Evan said.