November 28, 2005
The turkey carcass is in the pot…with onion, hominy and hot sauce. Soup is on the way.
This year, around the table, we were five generations, from 2 to 82. Twin toddlers climbed into and out of every lap in the room, not counting the times they were carried around by cousins and tripped over by kitchen cooks.
Stirring the soup, I reflect on the last eighty years, a time our two-year-olds will have to read about in their freshman history books. It’s easy to mark the cultural changes in the lives of people around the dinner table.
Half of the family arrived by plane this year. Years ago, when my own grandmother came for Thanksgiving, I remember waiting for her at one of the only four gates at the sole Phoenix terminal.
Back then, workers pushed a rolling staircase up to the airplane, the plane door opened, and travelers climbed down the stairs, exposed to the weather—rain, shine, or sleet—and across the asphalt runway into the terminal. I would stand on my tiptoes, watching for Grandma’s fancy hat with the pheasant feather. Like everyone who flew in the 60’s, she dressed to kill in her Sunday best.
Only forty years later, we have four terminals and countless gates at Sky Harbor International Airport. Travelers now step out of the 747 directly into the comfort-controlled terminal. And seasoned travelers long ago gave up their Sunday best in favor of comfortable jeans and running shoes. Forget fancy hats with feathers.
A Thanksgiving feast had to have been unimaginably special to my grandmother who remembered her small town canning food in the school basketball gym during the Great Depression. If you wanted stuffing in the 30s, you made it by scratch, with dried bread carefully saved over the previous month. No prepackaged stuffing mix or heat and serve dinner rolls. Worse yet, no stores were open for the cook who forgot to buy cranberry sauce.
Back then, after dinner, Grandma told us how they would entertain each other in the parlor. As a kid, she did a great Bug Dance, her mom played the piano, and everyone in the family took turns reading stories out loud.
Today we huddle around the large, flat screen, surround-sound television for Thanksgiving football. If you blink, we have instant replay…from four different camera angles. And for viewers who need a “trip down the hall,” Tivo will let them back up to any Hail Mary pass reception they missed while gone.
How can any child today ever truly understand the magic of a clunky black and white television console first introduced in the 50s and the four national stations that went dark after 9:00 p.m.? Tic tack toe has given way to Game Boy. Pencils are mechanical. Running shoes now come with lights, buzzers and wheels. And fancy hats with feathers are crushed in the corner of a dirty thrift store…or rented out by costume stores.
From 2 to 82, at Thanksgiving this year, we evidence the cultural changes already accomplished. And we guess at coming changes we will never live to see. What will our country be like when the twin toddlers turn grey and squint to focus through 2.25 reading glasses?
Will stores deliver pre-cooked turkeys ordered online from cell phones? Will viewers interact with football teams through wall mural televisions? Will running shoes with wheels be jet powered?
More to the point, what will the crowd around the table look like in another 80 years? Will brothers pass the gravy to their clones? Will everyone be 5 foot eight inches tall, thanks to gene selection…an essential way to match the competition in job interviews where physical appearance is more important than resume experience? Will children with harelips even exist, when elimination of “imperfect” babies is mandated by insurance companies who set medical protocols to keep costs down?
And at the center of it all, what will our families look like? This current generation of toddlers now is growing up predominately in homes without fathers. In four more generations of unwed teen pregnancy, will people even be able to imagine a time long ago when mothers and fathers were married for a lifetime and babies were bounced on the knees of Grams and Gramps at their fiftieth wedding anniversary?
This year’s turkey is gone. It’s in the pot. And there’s a lot to think about as I stir the soup.
September 3, 2004 – We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
May 14, 2004 – Order in the Courtroom!
See Archives for more past editorials.