[This Commentary originally appeared in the November 23, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
(The scene is a Norman Rockwell-like Thanksgiving dinner setting, complete with all the trimmings: grandma, mom, dad, two older sons and two younger daughters. Grandpa is in the family room sleeping on the couch and an old B-movie plays on the television set. Though dinner is nearly over, dishes are busily being passed and the clinking of silverware against a plate rings incessantly.)
Mom: Come on boys, finish the vegetables. There’s too little left to put in the refrigerator and we need room for the rest of the other leftovers.
Son #2: (Looks to his older brother.) OK, I’ll take the peas and mushrooms and you can have the corn.
Son #1: No problem. (Turns to his youngest sister.) Pass the salt.
Daughter #2: (Stretches her arm across the table, knocking over her glass of cherry-red Kool-Aid on the formerly brilliant white tablecloth.) It’s too far for me to reach. Could somebody pour me some more Kool-Aid?
Daughter #1: (Giggles.)
Dad: (Angrily.) That’s not funny. (Places all available napkins on the ever growing spill.)
Son #1: Oh, oh. I think I just saw the EPA pull up in the driveway. (No one at the table gets the joke.)
Grandma: (Consoles the youngest child, who is just about to cry.) Now don’t worry. It was only an accident. We’ll just clean it up and then you can have some pumpkin pie with lots and lots of whipped cream on top!
Mom: (To her daughters.) Why don’t you help me clean off the table so we can have dessert?
Daughter #1: (Irritated.) Why do we always have to clean off the table when the boys just sit there? (Daughter #2 has cleaned off half the table while Daughter #1 complains.)
Mom: Because they help your father outside all the time. Besides, when they were your age, they cleaned off the table – and washed and dried the dishes (emphasizes) WITHOUT MY HELP! (Still, in an attempt to delegate equally, she turns to her sons.) One of you ask Grandpa if he wants coffee with his pie. (The sons eye each other as if waiting for the other to do the deed. Neither budges.)
Son #1: (Growing more nervous with each additional second his mother’s order goes unheeded.) But Ma, he’s sleeping and you know how mad he gets when somebody wakes him up.
Son#2: (As if on cue.) Yeah! Grandpa’s sleeping, so can we change the station?
Mom: You can’t watch TV, we’re still eating.
Son #2: (With an artful confidence of a seasoned debater.) That’s all right. We can just listen to the game.
Mom: (Knowing that they “just listen” for only a couple of minutes before some big play sends them scurrying at the speed of light for the TV set.) Oh, ask your father.
(Both sons look excitedly to their ally, their father. Dad, quite aware of being placed in a no-win situation, stalls for time.)
Dad: You’re mother’s right, boys. We haven’t finished dinner, yet.
(At that moment, the sound from the family room changes from Errol Flynn to Pat Summerall. Grandpa immediately enters the room.)
Grandpa: (Speaking directly to his daughter.) That movie put me to sleep. Besides, I figured the boys wanted to watch the game. Can I have some coffee with my pie?
Son #2: Hey Grandpa, what’s the score?
Grandpa: Washington is winning.
Son #2: All right! I knew they would beat Dallas!
Son #1: That’s not what you said yesterday.
Dad: (To Son #2, the previous crisis totally forgotten.) I’ll bet you a dinner Dallas wins.
Son #2: Oh, that’s easy. Sure!
Son #1: (To his younger brother.) Don’t you remember doing this last year? You still owe him two dinners from that.
Son #2: Right! There’s only two minutes left and Dallas needs two touchdowns to win. After this game, I’ll only owe him one dinner.
Daughter #2: (Comes in from the kitchen drying a plate with a dishrag.) Hey everybody! Somebody from Dallas just threw a bomb!
(The two sons and Dad quickly pull out their chairs and rush madly for the family room. Once there, Dad laughs sinisterly while a moan of agony comes from Son #2.)
Grandpa: (Sighs and sips his coffee.) You know, (turns to his daughter) I really like a quiet dinner table.
Mom: (Conceding the events.) Happy Thanksgiving, Dad.
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]