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David Bouchier: Something To Be Thankful For

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Thanksgiving will be strange this year. Who will give thanks for what? How many of us will look back on 2020 and say: “Thanks for nothing.” A lot of people will miss Thanksgiving altogether, at least the traditional Normal Rockwell event where generations of the family gather for the symbolic feast. It’s just not the same on Zoom, and it’s especially hard for families who rarely have a chance to get together. They’ll be missing hugs and kisses and time with children and grandchildren — important things.

But it’s not necessarily bad news for everyone. Let’s face it, Thanksgiving can be hard work. Many dread the nightmare of holiday travel. In a typical year at least 50 million Americans would be on the highways this week, and more than 5 million would pack into the airports to fly towards their families. By no stretch of the imagination is this a pleasure.

Then there’s the anxiety of getting together with remote and complicated families who may seem almost like strangers, with or without their masks. It’s no longer a simple case of “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House we Go.” The fashion for multiple marriages often means that we have a large choice of grandmothers and mothers to visit at this time of year, spread all over the country, and sometimes all over the world. Sometimes there’s even a choice of fathers, assuming they left a forwarding address. It’s not like Norman Rockwell’s cozy picture any more.

But the really challenging thing about Thanksgiving is the food. Not only does the traditional menu contradict every known principle of diet and health, but there is also the inescapable fact that somebody has to cook it, and few people remember how to cook on that scale any more. Since the baby boom mothers appeared on the scene, with their relentlessly busy and ambitious lives, the skills of home cooking have been fading into history. They survive only in the forms of thousands of books and TV shows about cooking, which bear the same relation to the actual activity as books and TV shows about sports do for men – namely that they enjoy thinking about it but have no intention of actually doing it. The habit eating of home-cooked family meals around the table has been declining for decades. Many families were already choosing to go to restaurants for the holidays, but restaurants may now be closed. So the prospect of cooking a multi-course meal with six vegetables and several desserts for a whole house full of critical relations is a modern host’s nightmare. It’s like trying to pilot a Boeing when your only flight training has been with a kite.

This is one of those uncomfortable facts that nobody is supposed to say out loud. We will never know how many people are breathing a sigh of relief that Thanksgiving has been put on hold until next year. It will be no great hardship to stay at home and eat turkey sandwiches on Thursday

So it seems that Thanksgiving this year has to be almost an individual thing. Those of us so far untouched by COVID, undamaged by the economic turndown, and unmoved by the childish games of politics, still have plenty to be thankful for. We’ve been lucky so far — and “so far” is really all there is.

Copyright: David Bouchier

  

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost 20 years. He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996.