Apparently, everyone is stressed out because of Thanksgiving, and for good reasons. Family members awaken the week before with nightmares about being criticized for the umpteenth time about their choice of career. Vegans are cajoled into just having a bite of turkey—“It won’t kill you for goodness sake!” your Grandmother insists—and children are outcast to their own table, creating eternal anxiety that they are not accepted, nor ever will be, as contributing members of their family. Our Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings have turned into Thanksgiving Reality Shows.

Many of us yearn for what we remember, our home filling with the aroma of turkey cooking in the oven. Our older siblings actually being nice to us and letting us join them in their games. Our parents smiling: Mom in her half-apron decorated with a Pilgrim, and our Dad giddily running around putting leaves in the table and scrounging up chairs for all the guests while wearing an Indian headdress.

It was expected that we all would be bathed, hair combed and dressed in our conservative finery when the first guest arrived. Everyone had their positions. The oldest child greeted the guest and pointed the way to the bar, where Dad was stationed with his second Bloody Mary under his belt. The youngest child took the coats, and the middle children passed the canapés while Mom was hidden away in the kitchen.

When did this idyllic day disappear? Was it truly the end of our innocence when President Kennedy was shot? Or was it when women decided that raising children and taking care of the house wasn’t as interesting as brain surgery or publishing a magazine? Maybe it began with a clandestine revolt in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. After all, as The New York Times notes, Thanksgiving dinner is really like cooking for a restaurant all clamoring for dinner at once. It’s enough to make me sing the Subterranean Thanksgiving Tabletop Blues.

How can we recapture the bliss of past Thanksgivings remembered from our childhood? For that we require mindless thought or daydreaming. When was the last time you daydreamed? If you are hooked in and part of the E.E.C. generation—the Electronic Era of Communication—I doubt if it has been recently.

Here’s the plan. BAN all electronics at Thanksgiving. Have a real conversation with your 9-year-old niece. Find out what your 17-year-old son is thinking about his future, and then ponder. Mindless thought is like an exercise, and your brain muscle will remember how to do it.

Luckily, our brain is programmed to put a positive spin on memories, so those Thanksgiving pasts that were seriously nothing like Norman Rockwell’s beatific painting, “Freedom From Want,” and more like Picasso’s Absinthe Drinker,” will be repressed. Unless of course, you’ve had therapy.

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  • Faye December 1, 2009 at 9:20 am

    This is hilarious and really reminds me of Thanksgivings in my youth.