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Barbara's Column
December 2002 #1

Family's thanksgiving featured turkey ...
and a whole lot more

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Monday, December 9, 2002

So sometimes one has to write an anticipatory column and hope for the best.

Before I left for a holiday vacation with my family in Nevada, I wrote, you may remember: "The twins will be in their highchairs, about to taste meat for the first time. My vegetarian son and daughter-in-law will proudly display the turkey that they roasted to accommodate the elder, traditional generation, i.e., Chip and me. Then, when we are seated, I will say my newfound Jewish prayer: 'Grateful, am I, to You.'"

I think I owe it to my readers, who may have had a traditional family fussing-and-feuding Thanksgiving and envied my Walton-style imagery, to admit that the reality was slightly different.

The children ate their vegetarian dishes early and went down for their naps, which quite sensibly gave all adults a chance to enjoy their own meal without having to help little fingers with forks and spoons. But I'm not sure all the adults were enjoying the meal equally; for in the turkey display, there seemed to have been more accommodation than pride.

My daughter-in-law ate only the stuffing which had been baked outside the bird and none of the turkey or gravy. There was much more, of course -- red potatoes, broccoli, home-made bread for croutons, garlic rolls with brie, cranberry sauce and two pies. The middle generation did a lot of work.

I didn't feel guilty or anything, but some instinct said to let my son say grace if he wanted, and to keep my mouth shut unless a simple "amen" was required.

Just thought I'd paint a more accurate picture, as we head into another family-oriented holiday season.

Chip got some great spontaneous photos of the 20-month-old twins, but when he tried for the Gram and grandkids portrait, Mariah posed the same way she did for the professional studio during my last visit -- body stiff, toes pointed, fists clenched, face red.

Aidan's expression was one of good-natured puzzlement at first: "Why is my sister screaming?"; and then he, understandably, squirmed to get away. I soon followed him. You will not be getting the portrait in a card this year.

Why do families refuse to fit into the mold of an Andy Williams Christmas TV special? I guess it has something to do with hiring a producer for the event itself.

If I remember correctly, once the last stanza of "Joy to the World" ended, Andy's ex-wife shot someone named Spider.

Real life just has to be good enough, I guess.

Speaking of which, Lance got a babysitter and planned a night out for the four of us at a Reno casino. I had tried slot machines once during an earlier visit, and once was enough; Chip had never had the experience, and though Lance kept handing us quarters, neither of us could see the attraction of watching to see whether the slots lined up right or not.

Anyhow, we had tickets to the Celebrity Showroom's "Shaolin Wheel of Life", the first appearance in the United States of the Shaolin monks, whom you may remember as the teachers of David Carradine in the television series, "Kung-Fu." I would have expected that if monks went on the road, they would start in an open stadium, or perhaps a quiet auditorium, not in the center of The Nugget with its glass ceilings and one-armed bandits named Elvis and Betty Boop.

All the tickets cost the same, but the room had tables, not rows; and seating was "maitre d'." This means, it turns out, that as you enter the room you hand the maitre d' your tickets, with a "tip" attached; the size of the bill determining the table to which you are led.

Lance slipped her a $20, so we sat down front, where we had a good view of the drama and individual mind-over-matter feats of focus by young Buddhist monks who later sold "good luck" beads at the elevator. My son bargained them down to two for the price of one, as he had learned to do in Mexican markets.

I was impressed with his negotiating skills, while at the same time realizing that most Mexican merchants can't break a cement block in two with their hand or head. The monks were very peaceful though, and we were glad to contribute as long as none of the money goes to Al Gore's campaign.

Family and holiday expectations, baby laughter and tears, the juxtaposition of the holy and the tacky, roulette wheels and prayer beads: "The Wheel of Real Life." I get it now, I really do.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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