When my niece who is also my goddaughter let us know about six months ago that she is expecting a baby in late April, I knew I wanted to host a baby shower for her. But I am in Chicago, and my niece and her husband live outside of London, England. Her mother, my sister, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her father lives in Olympia, WA, and her sister in Portland, OR and her stepsister was in Utah. Her grandmother is in Florida.
There was no way everyone was going to get together in one place, so I decided to use the technology I use every day to invite family and friends to what I thought at the time might be the first ever multi-location, multi-time zone baby shower. We scheduled it for 5 p.m. in London, 10 a.m. on the West Coast – and several time zones in between.
While it seemed a novel idea at the time, by the day of the shower (March 21), most of the participants were subject to “stay-at-home” orders and others were expecting similar orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. So, even those who live in the same cities joined via computer rather than congregating even in twos or threes or fours. There’s not a lot of point in going to someone’s house to stay 6 feet away from them. Ten miles and the 12-19 inches between the guest and their computer screen just made more sense.
It was an amazing juxtaposition – the threat of the pandemic and those will not survive it vs. the prospect of a new life coming into the world.
But, after everyone got done describing their situations, the focus was on a sense of sharing with my niece so many different parts of her life. I had not met six of the people at the online shower (not counting the babies who showed up on their Mommy’s laps), although I’d heard about them. What a gift to hear them share their love and excitement for my niece!
14 different screens were on showing faces filled with love and delight and caring. It is a reminder that social distancing is, perhaps, an unfortunate term, in these trying times. Keeping physically apart is one thing. Keeping our social connections and care and love for each other intact can be quite another.
p.s. A second niece has just shared the happy news that she is expecting in November — plenty of time to plan another baby shower!
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