Weekend Reading
December 13, 2020

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

My godfather passed away from Covid-19 last Monday. My mom and I had been preparing ourselves for a few days, as his condition declined. But he seemed to be a little better, just before the end, and we’d both responded with some cautious hope.

I happened to lose my godmother at the beginning of October. She didn’t have Covid, but her death was very sudden. I’ve been thinking all week about godparents and people who feel like godparents.

I hadn’t seen Bill—Uncle Bill, to me—for a long time. My godmother and I messaged regularly, but thanks to the pandemic we hadn’t seen each other in person for at least a year, maybe more. I still remember the upbeat, positive email she sent me right after her birthday in late June. She’d had such a hopeful attitude about the state of the world, which wasn’t an easy thing to hold onto at that time.

No matter how long between visits or contacts, I’ve always taken comfort in having godparents. And not only godparents, but also my mom’s big, strong circle of friends. They’ve become my friends, too. Intergenerational friendships like that are special.

It’s a remarkable thing to know people who have known you since infancy. My mother’s friends have watched me grow up. And they’ve done this from the vantage point of their own adulthood.

It’s different with peers. I’m profoundly lucky to have friends who I’ve known since I was tiny, especially Chloe. But with Chloe, and other peers, growing up is something we’ve done side-by-side. We’ve stumbled into each new phase of life together: adolescence, early adulthood, and now, something resembling adulthood (she says with a wink: I keep wondering when I’ll feel like an adult).

Godparents, friends of parents, and parents’ peers are able to watch their kids and friends’ kids from a different perspective—that of experience. No two lives are the same, but to whatever extent human experience is universal, they’ve known what was in store for us. And they’ve observed as we navigate it all of it: education, falling in and out of love, find our way professionally, struggles and achievements.

I feel lucky that my life has been witnessed by people who love me and are rooting for me. Because my family is small-ish, and I’m an only child, I feel especially grateful to have had an extended family in the form of my mother’s friends.

And I’m so grateful that my mom modeled true friendship for me. I knew what it looked like from an early age, and I knew that it was one of life’s biggest joys, something worth pursuing and sustaining.

My two godparents were part of a chosen family that I cherish now more than ever. And in the days since they passed, I’ve tried to honor the spirit of chosen family—that tapestry of loved ones that we knit together as we go through life—by reaching out to the people who are part of mine.

My tendency when I’m sad is to isolate and suffer through things quietly. But I’m working on it, and I thought back to an email that a friend sent me after Thanksgiving. She encouraged me to stay in touch with people as we enter a Covid winter.

So I did. I called my closest friend here in NYC on Monday night, and we had a good talk. I stayed in touch with my mom, letting her know that I was there for her. I leaned on social media, which for me is a positive place, one that allows me to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances all over the world. Maria shared some beautiful words about loss and mourning with me.

A few readers of this blog shared private responses to last Sunday’s post. Their reflections helped me to navigate my sadness on Monday night. One reader and friend encouraged me to put up some Christmas decorations, if I had the energy for it. I got and decorated a tree yesterday, and now it’s twinkling at me from a few feet away.

Light has a lot of symbolic importance at this time of year and on many holy days across different faiths. I’m greeting the lights on my trees and the candles on my table as a reminder that I’m not alone, even when I feel as though I am. Love and connection take effort, but it seems to me that both are our birthright as human beings.

I’m lucky to have the love that I do. Including the love of my godparents.

Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.


Amber’s miso sweet potato quinoa bowl looks so cozy and colorful.

There seems to be nothing oat milk can’t do, and that includes plant-based eggnog.

Thinking about making Jackie’s stunning slow cooker seitan roast for Christmas this year.

…and for Hannukah, Ania’s lovely latkes.

Relatedly, these vegan sufganiyot look so, so good.


1. I remember learning about PCR in my genetics class as a pre-med, and now the technique has been popularized thanks to Covid-19 testing. This essay tells the story of the scientist who invented it.

2. I’ve been diving deep into nostalgia this year, along with many others. My dive doesn’t include Friends, but it’s included rereading some of my favorite books, lots of classic rock, and I’m about to add The West Wing to the list. This article takes a look at the viral comfort of nostalgia in tough times.

3. An interesting look at social medicine—a field that studies how social and economic factors impact health, including disease transmission on a population level—and how it can help us to understand this pandemic and others.

4. An important perspective on modeling a just distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

5. Naureen Akhter reflects on how baking has kept her company through the highs and lows of life. She writes,

If I could talk to my 26-year-old self, I would tell her to value her work and experiences. Followers and job opportunities come and go. But baking will always be one of the few things holding so many of us together in a time when everything else seems to be unraveling.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Wishing you a peaceful Sunday evening, everyone. In a couple days, I’ll be sharing one of my go-to winter salads.


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  1. Hey Gena, miss you so much but love reading about how you’re managing the highs and lows of this crazy year. Meanwhile, I am what you might call a Wing Nut. I love The West Wing and have been rewatching for the umpteenth time during the pandemic. Absolutely like comfort food. You should listen to The West Wing Weekly podcast as you watch if you need even more entertainment and distraction. Fascinating and nerdy. Sorry for your recent losses. Sending all the love.

  2. Dear Gena, I am so very sorry for your loss, and I found this blog post about it very touching and apt. Your natural pivot into the families we choose reminded me of this beautiful NPR piece about how Kamala Harris is putting families we choose in the spotlight. You might find it affirming, and so would your Mom, I bet.Sending you lots of love. I also look forward to the read about baking see us through all the times of our lives Love you–M

    almost forgot–here’s the link: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/09/943651383/as-a-stepparent-kamala-harris-puts-families-you-choose-in-the-spotlight?utm_term=nprnews&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=npr&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR015o2qp8Q9CHpEzMQWkapetpmkG49ut2XOQ7lo6KUIqk-3MQX9wHiduWA

  3. Truly sorry for your loss, Gena. I have a close friend who lost her father to COVID-19 in August. They were not particularly close, but she still felt the loss deeply.

    Thanks for taking the time to share in this space. I always enjoy the recipes, but your writing is so inspirational. I know it speaks to many who need it.

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