Video dinner parties help distant family stay close

Published 9:51 am Friday, June 5, 2020

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DEAR ABBY: May I share with you a way my husband and I are staying connected? My daughter came up with the idea. She and her daughter live a good distance from us. She decided the four of us should have a virtual dinner together three times a week.
We move our dining chairs together and position a tablet opposite us so we are visible on the screen. They do the same. We use FaceTime (Skype or a similar app would also work) to connect online. We set dinner on the table, say grace together and proceed to eat — all the while talking, joking and laughing as if we were in each other’s presence.
Abby, I can’t tell you how much this has alleviated the feelings of isolation. We look forward to it all day. We phone, text and email at other times, as well, but these dinners together are a very special hour or more that give us a feeling of still being connected. It’s a difficult time right now, but this is such a simple thing. I bless my amazing and wonderful daughter every day for thinking of it. — STAYING CLOSE IN CONNECTICUT
DEAR STAYING CLOSE: For those who, because of travel restrictions or financial constraints, cannot be together in person, this is a tradition that could continue well after the quarantine has lifted. I, too, bless your amazing and wonderful daughter for coming up with the idea and you for sharing it. Salut and bon appetit!
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have about a dozen nieces and nephews on each side of our family. As each of them has married, we have given them generous gifts.
My wife and I have two adult children. When our daughter was married 10 years ago, she had a big reception, with all the best of everything. Our son chose to elope last year. He had a small ceremony when they returned — just parents and grandparents.
My wife is now very upset that no one has acknowledged the wedding with even a card — let alone a gift. Should we bring this up to our families? Is it customary to give gifts only when there is a traditional ceremony and reception? — EMPTY-HANDED IN ILLINOIS
DEAR EMPTY-HANDED: I can see why your wife is upset. Because you have been so generous with your family members when they were married, it would have been thoughtful had they reciprocated with your son. However, the rule of etiquette is that gifts are required when someone accepts a wedding invitation, and your son chose to elope instead of having one, which may explain the lack of response from your relatives.
DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law is wigging out because I allow our two cats and our dog to lick mixing bowls and dinner plates before I put them in the dishwasher. We have an active, healthy family, with no allergies, chronic health problems or obesity. Our house is clean, although I wouldn’t eat off my floors. Shoes are left in the laundry room. We have never even had a case of flu, thanks to flu shots, common sense and probably some luck.
Our dishwasher is set to do a long wash with a heated drying cycle. Am I terrible? I fail to see the problem, but she thinks I’m liable to poison the kids. — WONDERING IN THE SOUTH
DEAR WONDERING: You are not going to poison the kids, yourself or her son, but you could cause problems for your feline family members if they happen to eat any garlic or onions. That said, you may give your mother-in-law a coronary if you continue letting her see what you have been doing. So, in the interest of family harmony, when she’s around, cut it out.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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