Thanksgiving and other holidays that are centered around a table full of family, friends and festive foods are a most welcome time for sociable conversations. And, boy, could we all use plenty of that right now. We have lots of catching up to do with post-fire and post-outage and pre-holidays. We don’t suppose everyone could leave their smart phones behind and drop any impulses to interject political chatter at the holiday table, could we?

Rollie Atkinson Column Photo

Rollie Atkinson

We crave story swapping, real conversation and personal news shared by generations of different ages, with out-of-town relatives and even crazy, old Uncle Joes. We do less and less of all this on all our non-holidays when we’re too busy for each other or held captive by whatever is scrolling across our Facebook page moment after moment, hour by hour.

Families have their various Thanksgiving customs, and most of us still watch too much TV football. But we do take pause and give thanks in our own ways. All of us this Thanksgiving will be giving extra thanks for the return of rains and the end (finally) to our fire season.

Here, and all across Sonoma County, there will be charity Thanksgiving meals at churches, vets halls and community centers. Sonoma County is a place where volunteerism and philanthropy are not reserved only for holidays; they are practiced year-round. We are a very affluent population, but we also have thousands of families and children living in poverty. There are about 3,000 homeless individuals living on the fringes of our towns and social networks.

Our recent Thanksgiving gatherings have been marked by two wildfire tragedies, and before that we were rebounding from the 2008 Great Recession. Next Thanksgiving, without doubt, we will be consumed by whatever had just happened three weeks prior on Election Day 2020. Either we will have just witnessed the re-election of President Trump to further his self-avowed vision of “carnage in America,” as he outlined in his 2016 Inaugural speech, or we will be waiting to see which different direction a new Democratic president will be attempting to lead us. No doubt, Thanksgiving 2020 conversations may be only about politics and little else. All the more reason to stay away from such topics this year.

For alternatives, where did we hide all those old family photo albums we used to lay out on the coffee tables before the big meal? Wasn’t it always fun to see youthful photos of Uncle Joe before he got crazy? Remember when this year’s family dinner hosts were still sitting at the “children’s table?” We used to marvel at how the years flew by. Now we count our changing lives by Tweets and can’t remember what was in fashion just a year ago.

This is why Thanksgiving conversations can be so important to our younger generation. This all-digital age we are living in now is robbing them of the capacity to make, remember and learn from both their own memories and the wisdoms of their elders. We can’t really share wisdom, customs or traditions with smart phones or what we call “social media.” Yesterday’s family photo albums are being replaced and lost on the smart phone we just replaced or accidently erased.

At least the turkey is still here — and with all the fixings. And, we have lots of great wines to share as well. Sonoma County is full of great cooks, and just about every family has one. Many of us are sad that we will not have our Dungeness crabs this Thanksgiving while our local fishermen have to wait for the delayed opening of the crabbing season due to various ocean conditions and a concern for the safety of migrating whales.

See, there’s lots to talk about this Thanksgiving without even getting close to the topic of impeachment. So, maybe don’t ask Uncle Joe to do the prayer, OK?

-Rollie Atkinson


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