Think back to last Thanksgiving.

COVID-19 cases across the U.S. were rapidly increasing, hitting upwards of 170,000 cases a day by the end of November. By January, cases had hit their peak.

Many businesses were closed, leaving millions out of work. There was fear: Would this ever end?

Compared to last year, cases have remained relatively low despite the reopening of schools in September, the spread of the Delta variant and the onset of colder weather. Although rising slightly recently, daily cases are still only half of what they were when the holiday approached in 2020.

A vaccine was developed and distributed quickly. People learned to adapt.

As a result, 2021 has been far better than last year.

I am so thankful for that. I hope you are too.

In the past year, we celebrated birthdays again. We cheered as graduates flipped their tassels. We danced in joy at weddings. We cried to mourn the loss of a loved one.

These connections were deeply missed last year. We should be so thankful for their return.

This is true in my life.

We were thrilled to attend two weddings this year. At one, held in a Newport vineyard, the couple began the service with a Beatles song that, for me, is the theme to our recovery from this awful affliction:

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun do, do, do

Here comes the sun

And I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Sports returned. The lights went back on Friday nights this fall. Fans jammed Gillette Stadium to watch a promising Patriots team led by an emerging star.

My family was able to go to Fenway Park twice to see the Red Sox — a team I have followed passionately since I was 5 and listening on my transistor radio to Ken Coleman and Ned Martin describe the play of my heroes Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Conigliaro — defeat the hated New York Yankees.

I am so thankful, just for the chance to see the green expanse of the ballpark and watch today’s heroes compete.

And we are no longer locked in, secluded.

AAA predicts 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This would bring travel volumes within 5% of 2019, with air travel almost completely recovering from its COVID crash, up 80% over last year.

You may need a mask or a shot or a test — or maybe all three — but you can visit loved ones, explore new places again.

That is also true for us.

To celebrate our 40th anniversary, my wife and I recently returned to Aruba, one of our favorite vacation spots. Traveling was difficult, but Carol and I were able to walk along the crystal blue water, enjoy a candlelit dinner on the beach and toast a relationship that has only gotten better over the years.

I am so, so thankful.

When you and your family gather this Thursday, please look back at where we were a year ago and where we are today.

I hope you, like me, will give thanks.

MIKE KIRBY, a Sun Chronicle columnist, can be reached at

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