Painted With a Bristly Brush, by Art Buchwald                  December 24, 2002


One of the most famous American magazine covers appeared on the Saturday Evening Post. It was Norman Rockwell's painting of a family having a Thanksgiving dinner.

It was simple in those days to illustrate the family. If Rockwell were assigned to do a cover now for Christmas, it would be slightly different: Rockwell shows up with a beautiful roasted turkey and sets up the family for the dinner portrait.

He says, "The mother and father stand here holding the turkey."

"We don't want to," the mother says.

"Why not?"

"We're divorced, and it will look funny if we pretend we're still married."

"Okay. Have your present husband slice the turkey."

The man standing next to the woman says, "I always sliced the turkey. I'm not going to let her new husband slice it."

Rockwell asks, "Where is her new husband?"

The woman says, "He's down at the end of the table, and if he doesn't get in the picture then I don't want to be in it."

The man says, "Then I want my present wife in the picture, too."

The woman says, "Her hair is bleached."

Rockwell says, "All right. Wife and ex-wife stay in the picture and so do the husband and ex-husband. The ex-husband still cuts the turkey, but he looks like he is going to give the present husband the first piece."

"What about the children?" The mother asks. "You can't have a magazine cover without children."

Rockwell says, "You're probably right. What kids should I include?"

The mother says, "Mine."

The present wife says, "Mine. They will make better models than your kids."

"This is my house," the mother says, "and I don't want him to paint strangers."

The father says, "They are not strangers -- they live with me and I love them like my own."

The son of the ex-wife says, "I don't want to be in the picture."

His brother says, "Neither do I."

Then a son of the current wife says, "If they're not going to be in the picture, then I don't want to be in it either."

Rockwell is getting furious. "You'll be in the picture."

The husband says, "Even the dog?"

"Especially the dog. You can't have a Christmas picture without a dog. All right, now everyone line up in their assigned spots. When I say 'three,' start slicing the turkey."

Rockwell says, "Smile -- make believe you are having a wonderful family dinner."

He finally finishes. But when he submits his work to Good Housekeeping, the editors say, "Too many people. It will never fit on the cover."