Friday, November 26, 2010

I Blame Norman Rockwell

That’s right. I’m calling Norman Rockwell out.

He’s the man who painted the iconic pictures that told the world how families should look for the holidays. He showed them dressed in their Sunday best surrounded by extended family, all smiling as they sit around the Thanksgiving table while Grandpa cuts the turkey.

Don’t get me wrong, I love his paintings. But they do set everyone up for disappointment. Has anyone ever duplicated the scene in “Thanksgiving Day”?

I have memories of going to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm when I was young and everyone sitting around the table while Grandpa carved the turkey. And with my other Grandparents (we were a family that did the every other year thing) we did indeed dress in our Sunday best and cram into the formal dining room for Thanksgiving.

But in this day and age, we’re lucky if everyone can even make it home for the holidays. The world has become such a small place. Back in my youth, you were supposed to grow up, get married and move down the street. Now, I have friends who have kids that are teaching in Japan, working with the Peace Corps in Africa and basically spread across the continental United States. And with businesses open the Friday after Thanksgiving it gets harder and harder to get home for that one day.

My kids all work in the service industry and this year my son has to be at work at three a.m. for Black Friday. The youngest is a waitress and will be working a double on the day after and the middle child’s office is open and she needs to be there for her usual eight hours. I’ve planned dinner at one so they can all get to bed early. Last year, I had Thanksgiving on the Sunday before. It seemed easier for them all to take a whole day off and not be stressed, because for me Thanksgiving is about the family coming together more than the actual day. Not the forced making time, the juggling of the when and where, that causes the holiday to become a have too, not a want too.

Families have changed since that picture was painted. The image spoke to a time when the nuclear family, a mother, father and their children was the norm. Now families are made up of so many different and wonderful factions. If I could paint a Thanksgiving picture, it would be of a group of people, all sizes and shapes, all colors, all the many different parts that make up a modern family. They would be holding hands around the table, young and old alike celebrating just being together, just sharing in the moment. And isn’t that how it should be?

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