Dusk is descending, turkey dinner is finished, and the soft hum of TV echoes the cheers of football games. Thoughts wander, and the reality of the New Age of Thanksgiving Day penetrates my consciousness. Time to share. Time to ponder. Time to wonder. Time to worry. Time to wish for a return to the Old Ways of Thanksgiving Day.
Earlier this afternoon we traveled to the heart of our city, to an historic hotel, with our handsome second born grandson from Maryland and a dear widow friend. We were a table of four, eager to enjoy each other as well as a lovely traditional feast. Expectations were high, yet the minute we all entered the dining room, something felt amiss. What? Oh, yes! The ambience was different from a year or two ago. Very few men wore coats and ties. Jeans and casual dress prevailed. And, instead of tastefully set tables with white cloths, glasses and silverware adorned bare surfaces, while a do-it yourself buffet awaited. Waiters were pleasant, but hurried. Dirty plates were not cleared without a request. At 2 p.m. many serving dishes featured the dregs of a once full tray of food. What happened?
Something was definitely lacking. We all wondered what and above all, why. As I glimpsed a round table of a dozen family members, it was impossible to ignore the plethora of cell phones in use by children AND adults. What happened to sharing stories? What happened to counting blessings? What happened to good manners? What happened to tradition? Are we so caught up in our own little worlds that we are forgetting to push back from the hubbub of life, take deep breaths, cherish the historic meaning of Thanksgiving Day? Are we so spoiled by instant gratification that we have to be entertained every minute, even if it comes from a little cell phone rather than meaningful conversation? Why are some parents not saying, “Put those things away. It is family time. It is Thanksgiving Day!” Have we become so self- absorbed that we can’t take time to say “thank you?”
If that family table were the only one of its kind in the room, it would be enough. But sadly, it was not. There were others. In one area of the restaurant we saw a solitary couple, not talking to each other as they ate their Thanksgiving meal, each one with a hand busy texting or gaming or whatever. Maybe these people were together as they awaited a divorce. Maybe they were masking their sadness of being alone by hiding behind their phones… No one knows, and in a while no one will care.
But I do. It makes me sad. It makes me wonder how traditions can morph so very fast. It makes me yearn for the days when my friends and I spent a full two or three days in the kitchen preparing a turkey dinner for our husbands and children, and as many relatives as we could gather. It makes me miss dressing up our little ones so that they could sit straight and tall at our dining room table, set with a seasonal floral arrangement, good silver and china, and bathed in candlelight. Hard work, yes, but we loved that tradition. It was truly the one day of the year we could set aside our regular lives, count our blessings together, and thank God for all that He has given us.
Maybe cell phones are a sign of apathy. Maybe the absence of white table cloths means this old hotel no longer can afford the staff to maintain its former ambience. Maybe diners no longer want to be bothered to wear their Sunday Best on Thanksgiving Day. Maybe Casual Friday at work has become a seven-day way of life. Maybe we are so busy surviving, working frantically to make a living, and staying connected to gadgets that we have gotten lazy. We have drifted, we have compromised, and we have forgotten how lucky we are to live in the greatest country on earth.
Any of these things are possible or probable. However, disappointing as the sight of cell phones was, deep in my soul I will always choose to believe that hidden behind the new “stuffing” of life, there are hearts that care, give and want to teach children to be the best that they can be. I fervently believe there are many families today who gathered around their beautifully set tables without cell phones, and who articulated their joy of being together. I believe in the goodness of people who love each other. I believe in Thanksgiving Tradition, and I believe that many, many families will perpetuate that feeling long after my contemporaries and I are gone. No matter where we gather or with whom we share our Thanksgiving meal, living, loving, and learning are goals we can never outgrow. And I pray we never succumb to the superficial Stuffing of Nothingness.
Top photo: Bigstock