The carrying of Thanksgiving traditions

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Dec. 5, 2013

Tech-savvy kids know meaning of ‘handle with care’

On Thanksgiving Day at my in-laws’ house, I awoke from a turkey-induced nap to see my 11-year-old daughter, in a scrum of siblings and cousins, wielding my Nikon camera. I started to suggest she put it down, or at least be careful, when I realized that these kids have grown up with such valuable objects in their hands. They’re comfortable with phones and tablets and cameras used as pacifiers from the earliest age. Indeed, they expect to be able to walk from room to room while playing a video game or watching a television show.

I’m certain that I was never trusted with the latest technology in that way. I know for a fact I didn’t walk around the house carrying a solid wood Magnavox television console. It was as tall as I was and outweighed me by 80 pounds. Nor would I have been allowed to handle our new microwave oven, the latest in cooking technology. It was still called an “oven” then because it was nearly as large as one. We were told that just looking at it would burn our retinas.

After coming out of my second nap, I saw my 7-year-old daughter walking around with her new niece. There was no way that in 1977 I was left to carry my baby sister around our house. I wasn’t trusted with the television set or the microwave oven — a tiny human was out of the question.

And yet there they were, these siblings and cousins, taking pictures with a digital SLR camera and their grandfather’s iPhone of the little girl holding the little baby.

By this point, the children had already commandeered that phone to show their grandfather how to use it and to load the apps they thought he might need on there. Apps like Instagram.

I remember a Christmas when we were kids and my mother got a new Polaroid camera. I don’t think I was even allowed to handle the pictures that came out of it.

But this is a new generation, one for which the technology — this tiny technology — is the norm. Tending to their younger relatives appears innate as well, perhaps out of necessity since their parents are busy with their telephone apps and turkey naps.

They can still be as clueless and careless as any child at any time in history, yet they seem to know instinctively that you treat these valuables with care.

I might have dozed off a third time that day because I was rushed back to consciousness by the adults finally shouting at a child who had tried to carry dessert across the carpet. So that’s where the responsibility ends — cake. I watched that day as $2,000 worth of equipment and a 2-month-old baby were passed around like hot potatoes, but it was the chocolate cake that finally commanded the attention of the parents.

Was I allowed to carry sweets around the house as a child? I think there’s a Polaroid picture somewhere of my newborn sister and me in the living room eating a microwave brownie off a tray in front of that Magnavox television set.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal