By Bob Holeman
This Viral Pandemic had brought an uncertainty to the world which we’ve not seen in generations and that uncertainty has been fanned into anxiety and fear by the media. Ironically, there may be a positive spinoff if you are witnessing some of the same that we’re seeing with the Holeman Family.
I’ll call it a return to Family Time.
Laura and her brood have a home near Knoxville on a large Tennessee Valley Authority lake. They’ve spent their past three weekends camping on small uninhabited islands on the lake, just letting the kids explore and play, fishing, reading, sleeping in hammocks. Interestingly, the first weekend it was like nobody else had thought of it and they found “their” island not far from the public launch near their home. The second weekend saw many boaters out but our crew still found an island of their own, though farther out.
Meanwhile, Chris and his family have discovered camping in their spacious and fenced back yard in east Texas. It’s got a grand view of an open and star-filled night sky. There are woods on the other side of their fence that lead to the reservoir which bounds their community. But issues of snakes and wild hogs on the outside seem to make the back yard a more appealing choice.
I’m not suggesting that we as a nation may have suddenly returned to a pre-television (and internet) time that Norman Rockwell might have painted of folks sitting on their front porch evenings, talking to neighbors as little barefoot children ran and played together in the streets.
But I am saying that as parents daily haul their children to baseball or basketball practice or dance and tumbling sessions or piano lessons or judo training or even church or school activities, there’s not a lot of time left for family. I agree that all these extra-curricular activities plus anything else your children or grandchildren may be doing are building their character and friendship skills. Just saying it may not leave much for Family Time.
I recall that, as Baby Boomers, our night meal (we’d call it dinner or supper, interchangeably) was a special together time. Everyone was there…you didn’t miss it. Sunday lunch after church was generally the showcase meal of the week. Sometimes we’d have board game nights. By my teen years, I recall we got into some card games that were so competitive that we could hardly wait for dinner to end and dishes to be washed before that first card was dealt.
Back to now, to my surprise it has actually been technology that’s brought another family connection back. Many churches, schools and groups have discovered Zoom and similar apps to bring about face-to-face communication when face-to-face contact is not possible.
My youngest brother, Jim, works for a company that specializes in high-resolution, larger-than-usual video conferencing for big companies. During this national lock-in, they opened the doors for regular folks to have free video conferencing capability. Jim set up a “room” for us Holeman brothers, four in all: Winnfield, Baton Rouge, Austin and California.
Monday evenings at 8, we now go to our LifeSize room and talk for an hour. Wives, children and sometimes grandchildren join us. This is a level of family communication we have not enjoyed since we lived under the same roof or got together for family reunions. We do have to endure an opening volley of puns from little brother Jim but since we appreciate the conferencing opportunity he afforded us, it’s OK.
We Holeman boys are famous for not remembering or at least not verbalizing much of the detail from our childhood. My children in fact assert that “Dad didn’t have a childhood.” Well, now that all of us senior citizens are getting together on our computer monitors, some tidbits of memory are being tossed out and discussion by other brothers may build and elaborate that bit into an entire thought, a memory, a story from our childhood.
Wow. But not often. Mostly we’re discussing immediate happenings. One of our regular participants has been Shannon, Ted’s daughter who, like Jim, is a bit of a technology wiz. Recently she purchased a new condo not too distant from her folks in Walnut Creek (east of San Francisco). With her hand-held device and the LifeSize app, she gave us a virtual tour of her new digs. The just-moved view of Spartan furnishings and open boxes of kitchen items and clothing (sorted to their proper rooms, mind you) was expected. She was beamingly proud.
Between a busy work schedule and settling in to a home of her own, Shannon admits she hasn’t yet gotten into any regular cooking routine, mostly eating sandwiches or eating out. But ole Uncle Bob here thought he heard the door open on Shannon’s interest in developing some kitchen skills so I sent her the River Roads recipe for Crawfish Etouffee.
I really enjoy cooking, though I may have been more experimental when the kids were around than I am today. I could talk about how Julia Child pulled me in but there’s not enough room left in this column. Maybe another. Anyhow, etouffee is quick and simple and the result tasty. I told Shannon in my email explanation that I realize crawfish tails may not be available on the west coast due to lack of demand. I also included a note that Boudreaux’ Cajun Crawfish, if she finds it, has nothing to do with the South. That’s a Product of China. But she can create Shrimp Etouffee if needed.
Folks, it looks like we may finally be coming out from under this Virus Stay-at-Home cloud but it’s not too late to hang on to any Family Time it may have engendered.