Rheta Johnson: Thankful for things that don't change

November 17, 2012 11:15:25 PM

Rheta Grimsley Johnson -


I love the catalog covers with yellow dogs marching through the woods with their Marlboro Man owners, a Christmas tree in tow.  


The catalogs have begun to build their annual hill on my dining-room table, and, yes, I know I should take the trouble to save a tree and get off some mailing lists. 


But my glossy wish books go from here to my friend Barbara's house, then to her cousin's home, then who knows where else, so they are "recycled" in a sense. None of us order anything much. We get ideas. Barbara actually follows through on some of them. 


I mostly like to see these visions of sugar plums and know that even for really rich folks - people for whom money is no object, who order from Neiman Marcus, not the Vermont Country Store - the simple joys are hard to beat. Yellow dogs. Cutting your own Christmas tree. Tramping through the woods on a snowy day. Antique, if you will, joys. 


Madison Avenue never sold anything with a photograph of a man online studying his stocks. Or a woman staring at her telephone and the Dow Jones.  


I am thankful in this special season of thanks for verities, things that do not come and go with the wind and fashion, but endure. A friend's loyalty. An old dog's snore. A letter written on paper that comes in the mail. A book with real pages. 


I'm thankful that there are still a few folks around who'd rather have a real conversation than a Facebook exchange, that not all telephones take photographs, that a hard-copy newspaper remains available for a few hard cases. 


Speaking of technology and my Luddite ways, a friend emailed me - ironies abound - this Albert Einstein quote: "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." 


Imagine what Einstein would think of us now. 


This is about thanks, however, not "advances" that I consider to be without appeal. Is it my fault that for some reason I prefer small, chunky TVs, black-and-white photos, porches with screens, cars with keys and stoves with three-dimensional burners? I'm thankful that all of the above, to some extent, still exist. Let freedom ring. 


Speaking of which, I am thankful the presidential election is over and done, and that health care for all our citizens remains a possibility. I'm grateful for old newsman Bob Schieffer, who clings to the quaint notion of reporting the news reasonably straight. If I want commentary, however, I'm thankful for Rachel Maddow, who with brains and charm has been given dominion over some male cohorts, and who is openly liberal. Another quaint notion. 


I am most grateful to be alive in this whiz-bang age of Tweets and Twitters, but to have the perspective of age and to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I remember the eight-track tapes, good for goodness sake and stereo speakers the size of small condos. I have learned this much in life: Don't get too attached to anything with a knob; it will, sooner or later, be replaced, eclipsed, declared obsolete. 


I'm thankful to share that wee bit of insight with youth.