As at many South Jersey residences, the advantageous, candy scent of yard BBQ as soon as once more perfumed the air across the Deptford Township residence of Patricia and Kenneth “Double K” Kelly this July Fourth Sunday.
For the primary time within the practically 18 months of COVID-19′s reign of terror, the Kellys’ prolonged household and buddies — greater than 50 folks — had been amassing from close to and far to partake of Double Okay’s legendary Carolina-sauced rooster and ribs, Pat’s coveted potato salad, Jersey corn, a niece’s rice and beans, deviled eggs, string beans, and extra. All the issues that the pandemic cheated them out of final 12 months.
But then Patricia Kelly figured: Why cease there?
“We’re having Fourth of July and Christmas in July,” stated the top hostess of her household’s get-togethers.
The pandemic canceled the prolonged household’s annual Christmas bash, too. No Pollyanna. No one received their annual stash of Aunt Moy’s particular Christmas cookie. No Christmas socks.
So Kelly put up a Christmas tree for the weekend. Her brother Guy Corsey of Glassboro agreed to play Santa. She advised her family members to carry presents. She even received a sock field that everyone may decide from. But most vital of all, she received the household again collectively once more — lastly — beneath the identical roof, COVID-19 be damned.
“I said it was time for us to get together,” Kelly stated. “I wanted us to celebrate and have a joyful time. So many things have happened in these past 18 to 24 months. We lost our mother in September of 2019, and then we went right into the pandemic. We just weren’t able to see each other, and it was such a loss and such an emptiness in me, not being able to see my family.”
Joyous issues occurred, too, that the household wasn’t in a position to share collectively. Over the weekend, nevertheless, they lastly received that chance.
“Since the pandemic, my niece has had a baby, and this will be the first time the family has gotten to see and meet him. He’s 7 months old. His name is Jrue Jennings,” Kelly stated in an interview final week.
In addition, she stated, her cousin Charlene Love got here up from Atlanta together with her husband, and Charlene’s daughter and husband, Teresa and Allan Thomas, had been in from Dallas. The youthful couple received married in October, however as a result of of the pandemic, solely 10 folks had been on the marriage ceremony. Even Kelly, who made the bride’s robe, didn’t get to attend.
“We’re all going to meet her husband,” she stated. “It’s an exciting time.”
It was a time for reflection, as nicely. Kelly stated she and Double Okay didn’t lose any fast relations to the coronavirus, however two of their dearest buddies, Joan and Jack Randall. They have missed them terribly, and the Fourth of July celebration, although joyous, would even be a reminder of their absence. Maryland residents, the Randalls at all times got here to the annual July Fourth barbecue and introduced crabs. Someone else was tasked with doing that this 12 months of their reminiscence.
Other family members stepped up to make the household’s time-consuming particular Christmas cookie — an intricate gingerbread creation — to make up for what everybody missed out on on the final Yuletide.
It’s not that the household didn’t see one another at all throughout the pandemic.
“My house is the gathering place for the family,” Kelly stated. “Even during the pandemic, I would make dinner for my family. Like for Mother’s Day and Easter, even though we couldn’t gather, I would make dinner, and then have people come into the house and do takeout. We couldn’t eat together, but they could come.”
COVID-19 hasn’t been vanquished. The Kellys put out the phrase to their family members that they needed to be absolutely vaccinated and in a position to show it to return to the July four shindig. Masks had been additionally required indoors. According to Kelly, only some unvaccinated cousins handed on the celebration.
Pulling collectively the household multi-holiday fete was no small feat. But the pandemic taught many classes, and Kelly, for one, was listening.
“You could be here and gone tomorrow. We’re only here by the grace of God,” the hostess stated.
“Life is precious, and we can’t take it for granted. You’ve got to love your family while you have them here on this earth. And that’s why I’m having my big party — to let my family know, ‘I love you. And let’s celebrate life.’”