MRE ("meal ready to eat") from 1986.
We slit it open to reveal individually wrapped packages of turkey, hash brown potatoes, giant cookie, crackers, hot cocoa mix, instant coffee, sugar, salt, matches, even chewing gum. Then we opened a couple of the individual food packages and tasted a bite of cookie...a bite of cracker...and lived to tell the tale! The youngest relatives were especially captivated by handling and tasting packs of food that are way, way, way older than they are.
This hands-on experience sparked a long and fascinating group discussion about Army life in two different periods. The family member who served in the US Army in the mid-1980s had supplied the MRE, and he reminisced about eating the best (and worst) of these meals. He also told anecdotes about Army life, with just enough detail to keep the younger crowd engaged.
My husband had served in the Army three decades earlier, and he described eating C-rations in the field, adding a couple of his own brief anecdotes. The stark contrast between our 2018 holiday meal and the 1950s/1980s Army meals was an important part of the experience.
Everyone around the table listened intently and asked questions. Several eagerly tried their hand at opening a can using a P-38 opener kept after the 1980s Army days. (Hint: You need to literally "get a grip" to get this right.)
I came away with a real appreciation of the power of hands-on family history experiences. From now on, I'll look for additional opportunities to get relatives involved in handling an heirloom or something else key to a family event or an ancestor memory. With luck, the stories will flow as hands touch the object, and family history will be passed down to more descendants! And isn't that the point?
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