Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Fire up your imagination and make people feel loved. COVID-19 restricts in-person meetings but online, face-to-face connection is unlimited. Separated by thousands of miles, invitees in Massachusetts, London and the Caribbean island of Dominica toasted with teacups on Zoom.
Elizabeth Thomas, 53, of Milton, Massachusetts, hosted an online birthday tea party for her sister, Debbie Hilton, who turned 57 in London.
Zoom is an online meeting platform, and its first 40 minutes of usage is free. The virtual tea party was just the thing to lift everyone’s spirits.
“Everyone is by themselves, so I look for opportunities to bring people together. Even though 57 is not a milestone birthday, I thought that during COVID, every time you wake up it’s a milestone,” Thomas said.
Hilton was stunned when 12 guests, framed in Zoom squares, yelled, “Surprise!”
One guest was Bernie, a childhood girlfriend in Dominica, and Thomas said, “Debbie was elated. I had to go through a few channels to find her.”
Thomas’s gaily designed invitations asked everyone to wear hats to the tea. The theme color pink commemorated October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Online guests ate savory tea sandwiches, others had dessert. “My daughter Dominique and I had shortbread cookies, mini-cupcakes, and strawberries,” said Thomas.
For the sisters raised in Dominica, the tea party was nostalgic. Thomas said, “The number one school fundraiser was a tea party, it’s what I knew. When I was growing up, at the end of the day, we always enjoyed herbal teas, we called them ‘bush’ teas and we had them with summer cake. Even now on stormy or rainy days, I feel better with a cup of tea.”
Since the sisters were wild about the “Downton Abbey” series, Thomas’s Zoom square featured fine china, pink flowers and balloons. The “Downton Abbey” theme song played when Hilton first appeared.
Each guest shared how they knew Hilton and how she made them feel. Thomas got teary when her turn came. This was her big sister, her emotional support, her trusted advisor; the one who raised three daughters successfully.
“I got very emotional. She had her children very young and it was hard being a teenage mom, but she has continued with her life and raised role models to my own children.”
Technology like Zoom can bring happiness. Everyone is missing travel, social events and trips to museums or movies. What is needed now are special memories.
Now I will include two friends via Zoom to a holiday dinner. I will put my laptop on a lazy Susan on the dining table so it can turn toward conversations. We’ll cook the same dinner separately and we can all eat, talk, and celebrate. Someday we’ll look back at our memories of staying strong together.
Thomas said, “I’ve been through a lot in my life, so I look for opportunities to bring joy, to bring smiles.”
Email Suzette Martinez Standring at [email protected]