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A Mother's Day without hugs? Omaha moms are finding different ways to celebrate

A Mother's Day without hugs? Omaha moms are finding different ways to celebrate


They miss the hugs most.

With Mother’s Day around the corner, many families are planning video visits, parades or in-person — though socially distanced — get-togethers. But none of these choices, some moms say, is a replacement for the physical touch of a loved one.

“We’re a hugging family — big hugs when you come, big hugs when you leave,” Janet Bonet said of her three adult children and their kids. “I haven’t had a hug from my kids in two months now, and it drives me nuts.”

Bonet, a court interpreter and translator, said the family agreed from the start of the pandemic that, because they live in separate households, they would maintain physical distance, including not entering each other’s homes. Their contact has been limited to drive-by visits, phone calls and texting. Every once in a while, they’ll meet in a park.

“We don’t want to be the ones that brought it to the others,” she said.

For this holiday, one son, James, came by Friday to do chores in the yard, and the other, John, may come sometime Saturday to finish up. Her third child, a daughter, Johanna, lives out of state. On Mother’s Day evening, if they can coordinate schedules, they’ll do a family video chat.


James Bonet helps his mom, Janet Bonet, with her yard work from a safe distance outside her Omaha home on Friday, May 8, 2020. The Bonet family has agreed they won't go inside each other's homes until the novel coronavirus pandemic passes, but she misses the hugs she used to get from her family the most during all of this.

For families whose loved ones have compromised immune systems, thoughts of physical contact are layered with anxiety. And that goes for Mother’s Day.

Janece Mollhoff has seen her daughter, Sara Black, only once in the past seven weeks, even though both live in the Omaha area.

In 2018, Sara was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She’s been undergoing chemotherapy for a year, and now the family is laser- focused on protecting Sara’s compromised immune system.


Janece Molloff, right, said she hopes to see her daughter for the second time since March on Mother’s Day. Sara, left, is undergoing chemotherapy for kidney cancer. The family is keeping a distance from Sara to protect her compromised immune system from the coronavirus.

Mollhoff said if Sara is feeling well, they’ll visit in person on Mother’s Day. The family is still thinking through the details of that visit.

“Probably no hugging,” said Mollhoff, a retired nurse and member of the Omaha Public Power District board. “No hugs, and we miss that.”

“As long as we need to, we’ll isolate so that we can see her once in a while, and be certain we’re not going to bring in anything. If the threat goes back up, we’ll not see her again for a while,” Mollhoff said. “Right now, with everything starting to open up, I have to accept that I can only really control what I do, and what everybody else does is beyond my control.”


Kelsey Oliver, left, and her mother, Martine Quartey, will likely share a meal, a short visit and possibly a walk this Mother’s Day. The Omaha daughter and mother typically have a girls’ weekend in honor of the holiday and Kelsey’s birthday. She was born on Mother’s Day 1989.

Martine Quartey will get her Mother’s Day hug from her daughter, Kelsey Oliver, but everything else about the weekend will be different, she said. Kelsey was born on Mother’s Day 1989, and ever since her daughter was little, they’ve celebrated both Mother’s Day and Kelsey’s birthday during one long girls’ weekend. Meals out, meals in, movies, shopping, church and whatever else suited their fancy.

This year, the Omaha mother and daughter will probably share just one meal, a short visit and, if the weather is nice, a walk.

“It won’t even be a full day,” she said, “but yes, I will get a hug!”

Quartey, an entrepreneur and co-host of 95.7 FM “The Boss Morning Show,” said she , her daughter and her daughter’s husband mostly work from their homes. They take the quarantine seriously, she said, which makes her more comfortable with the hugs and visits.

“We’re really trying to keep our distance,” she said. “But I miss her.”

Elspeth McKeon, who lived in Omaha 20 years before returning to her native New Zealand in 2017 to be with her mother, said she has no choice about visiting.

New Zealand has some of the toughest coronavirus restrictions in the world, and, as an island nation, has largely been able to keep the virus at bay. It has had 21 COVID-19 deaths in a population of 4.8 million; Nebraska has had far more deaths out of population of less than 2 million. A nurse, McKeon received her training at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“I am grateful that my mother is not one of those statistics,” she said in a Facebook exchange.


Elspeth McKeon and her mother, Joan MacDonnell, enjoy each other's company during the pre-coronavirus days. McKeon, who lived 20 years in Omaha, returned to her native New Zealand in 2017 to be with her mother. As Mother's Day approaches, she says the two will be apart due to travel restrictions in the island nation.

Her mother, Joan MacDonnell, lives about a two-hour drive from McKeon. Authorities in New Zealand are not permitting travel over such a distance.

“When we are able to travel further afield, we will enjoy a hug, cream buns and a lot of laughs together down at the beach,” McKeon wrote.

“The gift, on Sunday, will be that of hope.”

Our best staff photos of May 2020

Omaha World-Herald: Momaha

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email:

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