Semantics change but heartfelt tradition don’t

Only yesterday, a gentleman of indeterminate age and impressive girth made what in the old days we would have called a “pass” at me. At least I think that’s what it was.

Some thought he tripped while reaching for his cane, but I know I’m not mistaken. I’m not sure he was a gentleman, but I am sure it was a pass.

I know that as a modern liberated woman I should have resented his overt sexism and perhaps snatched the cane out of his hand and hit him over the head with it. I could certainly have done this, now that I’ve graduated from Yang Style Sword Form Summer Camp, but to tell the truth, I think he showed good sense.

I must admit I found the incident just a little comforting. At last, there’s something I understand.

We have to get used to so many changes. Words and phrases have lost or changed their meanings without any notice or explanation.

Take the phrases “all out” and “all in” for instance. “All out” used to mean participating fully as in “he’s going all out for this,” but now if you’re “all in,” it means you’re going all out.

“All In” used to mean you were dead tired. “All out” now means “all in.”

I think so, anyway.

And all of the words which used to be unspeakable are on the radio every day.

So I’m grateful whenever I find myself in a situation I can understand. I’m especially grateful for the familiar comfort when Thanksgiving season rolls around.

I’m surprised to find I miss the old Thanksgiving celebrations desperately. In those days, though the house was crowded with family and friends, we didn’t expect to like everyone who came to dinner. The theory was that if there was enough to eat, you could put up with anybody for an hour. My mom set the table with extra places in case someone might drop in. And someone always did.

Mother insisted that everyone was welcome. Once, an invited guest, working at Gonzaga University in Spokane, called to say he couldn’t come because he was hosting a student, a stranger to us, who had just arrived from his home in a native village in Alaska. My mom recognized no barrier.

“Why, Jim, you bring him right along,” she said, “ Don’t you know that any Eskimo of yours is an Eskimo of mine?”

Today, of course, we’d give the correct title of Inuit to the guest, to try to avoid offense, but in those days we were just glad there was food to share and we were decades away from even hearing the words “politically correct.” That phrase became family shorthand for the proud fact that there was always room for one more at our table.

One thing unchanged is that family time is a great time for dragging out the photo album. Plenty of changes there. Take this photograph of our younger boys getting Seahawks autographs in 1979.

“If I remember accurately, the players are Bill Gregory and Robert ‘Heartburn’ Hardy,” my son recalls.

In the picture, he is wearing a T-shirt — it looks home-made — that proclaimed the Seahawks would be champions of Super Bowl XIV (played in 1980).

“Of course I was premature by XXXIV Super Bowls,” says the still-ardent fan, who is now a Latin teacher, “But I was buying into the fancy that believing in something hard enough could make it happen. Really, the Seahawks did more than anyone else to disabuse me of that notion.”

Another very old picture shows our tarpaper shack by the great Kootenai River in Montana, where my father built an enchanting playhouse for me, with window seats by the glass windows and a porch with lattice work, much nicer than our home or any home in that tiny railroad town.

“Don’t you see,” our friend Sam said recently, “he was trying to show you that he wished for you something better than anything he had.”

Ah. I see. Then his wish came true. I’m thankful for that.

There’s plenty of food this year and plenty to be thankful for, though my mother no longer presides over the feast.

One thing remains unchanged. There’s always room for one more at the table. And, remember, any Inuit of yours is an Inuit of mine.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.


Join Dorothy Wilhelm for signings of her new book, “Better Every Day”:

Friday: 5-7 p.m., Lakewood Towne Center Barnes and Noble.

Nov 12: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., The Olympian.

Dec 5: 10 a.m.-noon, DuPont Library.

Dec 5: 2-4 p.m., Lakewood History Museum.

Dec 12: Sumner Public Library, times to be announced.

Dec 12: 6-8 p.m., “A Cowboy Christmas,” Puyallup.

Dec 15: University Place Library, times to be announced.