Dear family,

We're not coming home for the holidays.

Phew, I said it. Now let me explain.

We love you with all of our hearts. Holiday gatherings with you are some of the happiest occasions we have all year. I have such fond memories of meals around our old table—yes, even the time Dad poured turkey fat into his slipper and had to go to the ER. And the time we forgot to defrost the turkey so we had all the fixings—and chicken nuggets as our main course.

Now as an adult, sharing our quirky and warm traditions with my own family is a tremendous source of joy. The way the house smells when we walk in. The way you pull the kids onto your lap to watch old movies. The way you insist on making your own pie crust and then have it fall apart every. single. year.

I love it all. And, this year we can't come.

I want you to know that it's not you, it's COVID.

I trust you, I do. I know you are being as safe as you possibly can be right now, but the risk is still real. And the consequences are still too great.

I cannot in good conscience subject my children to the risk of traveling—and, I'm sorry to say, being in someone else's home. Yes, even yours. And I cannot subject you to the risks either—if I knew that I was the cause of you getting sick… I honestly can't even think about it.

I also have to decline on principle—I cannot insist that everyone else follow the health guidelines, but then break the rules myself. I can't gasp when I see the latest COVID trends, and then not make sacrifices in an effort to reverse the upward curve.

It's not you, it's COVID. And I am broken-hearted.

I am so mad at this virus. I am so upset that we, as a nation, didn't do enough early enough.

I also know that sacrifices like this matter. That part of being a member of a community is making tough calls that put the lives and safety of others above our own comfort. I am heartbroken, but I am proud.

This year will be different, but I know that we can make memories that will last a lifetime—and that this decision could very well be the reason we get to live to see another holiday season.

Thank you for inviting us. Thank you in advance for agreeing to the ridiculous games I am planning for our Zoom holiday meal.

Thank you for loving me and my family enough to understand why we can't come.