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Where have you gone, Norman Rockwell?

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

In 1955, there were 24 people at the Wintwell house for Thanksgiving. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, Mom and Dad. Most of the guests walked to the house, since they all lived within a couple of blocks of each other. Except for the turkey and the Sunday clothes, it wasn’t much different than a normal day at the Wintwell house. Every day was a family gathering.

Last Thanksgiving, there were eight people at the Wintwells’. No one walked, no one lived within a couple of blocks of each other. No one lived within a couple of states of each other. Four of them had to fly in and two had daylong drives.

Fred and Karin flew in from Denver. They spend alternate holidays between families. Sally and Haywood flew in from Chicago.

None of their kids, the Wintwells’ grandchildren, could make it. The kids that grew up in Colorado wanted to go to college in California. The kids that grew up in Chicago wanted to go to New York or Boston. But mostly they want to go to the University of Getting Away From My Parents. Then they take jobs in Getting Away From My Parents’ State, then they marry people who are Nothing Like My Parents. Families haven’t drifted apart, they’ve exploded. And the strange thing is, they get their parents to pay for it.

“But you’ll be home for Christmas, won’t you, darling?”

“No, you’ll be paying for me to go to Cancun with my friends or I’ll never let you see the grandkids – when I have them.” That’s what goes for a tight-knit family now.

There are bars in New York where you can pretend you’re back in Chicago.

Alan and Lindy drove from their second home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where they live in the off-season and rent out in the summer.

“That way nobody robs us when we’re not there,” Lindy volunteered.

“But maybe they’re robbing your first house when you’re in your second one,” Fred said.

“It’s in a gated community,” Lindy said.

“Is that to keep you in or them out?” Haywood asked.

Gloria Wintwell came in from the kitchen and set a golden-brown turkey on the table.

“Doesn’t this look just like a Norman Rockwell painting?” she said.

• Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.

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