“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” ~You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe
Given the state of U.S. politics, and the outrageous use of China’s virus to subjugate our population, I became wistful for the days of my youth, when telephones connected people, not data, and television programs ended at midnight. I longed to return to that time in U.S. history before technology — the Internet — enticed us into drug-like dependencies that turned a free-thinking public into easy prey for unscrupulous power-mongers, effectively changing our socio-economic landscapes forevermore.
Of course I didn’t realize this at first. Every morning after listening to the news, I switched the smart-TV to my DVR menu of satellite recordings for a few calming episodes of Father Knows Best, an American sitcom televised from 1954-1960.
I told myself I needed to escape the daily dose of modern trauma for just a little while, escape “back home” to a poignant past when family meant love and guidance and safety, when patriotism for one’s country was lauded, when people were well-mannered and treated each other with respect, when folks dressed in tailored clothing… The escapes of Time and Memory hold limitless lists.
Such is the way of illusions.
But I didn’t dwell on these thoughts. I was having too much fun searching through dusty storage boxes and reviving my mother’s hand-me-down formal dinnerware c. 1955. I hand washed sink fulls of cut crystal and fine china, and polished silver until my fingers stained black. I resurrected old recipes of complex dishes long forgotten and experimented with a few new ones; then I hosted festive dinner parties like the days of old.
The more dire the news reports became, the more I delved into baking fancy treats and cooking elaborate meals. I didn’t realize that I was in fact trying to go home again, to that place of time and memory, to “…old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting.”
It wasn’t until I attended a dinner party with friends who share my love of social graces and a table beautifully set, that I had an epiphany.
We had been talking about favorite television shows, and when I voiced my reasoning for a daily dose of Father Knows Best, our dinner host kindly reminded me of the terrible political struggles of 1954 – 1960 that caused major societal and economic upheavals, in addition to the obvious cultural issues of the time.
The truth is, there’s plenty of trauma in every part of American history and it is only when we look back through time with rose-colored glasses, or try to “run back home to the escapes of Time and Memory”, that nostalgia competes with history.
I would never want to revive 1950’s America! But I do hate to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’.
So for now, I’ll continue to enjoy nostalgic fine dining with good friends and family. It’s one way to cope during these troubled times, when civil liberties are disappearing as fast as civility.
I’ll also take the good parts of TV fantasy-land, such as in the “Thanksgiving Day” episode of Father Knows Best that I watched this morning, when the Anderson family gathers together at the dinner table. They clasp hands and bow their heads as Father recites this blessing:
“Oh Lord, we give these thanks from the depths of our humble hearts, for all the blessings thou has seen fit to bestow upon us.
We thank thee for the food which graces our table, and the roof which covers our head.
We thank thee for the privilege of living as free men in a country which respects our freedoms, and our personal right to worship and think and speak as we choose.
We thank thee for making us a family, for giving us sincerity and understanding.
But most of all, dear Lord, we thank thee for giving us the greatest gift a family may know — the gift of love for one another.
Amen.”~Father Knows Best, S1 E8 “Thanksgiving Day” (1954)