"You know you love it"
There was an interesting article in The New York Times a couple of weeks back (gone now, unless you're a subscriber), about how parents of college freshmen are often disappointed, if not rudely surprised, when their sons and daughters come home for a break around Thanksgiving. Often the parents' plans and visions for several days of family togetherness are quickly and unceremoniusly dashed by their newly emancipated offspring, who want no part of it:
At the core of the conflict are often-unspoken expectations on both sides. Parents are still aching over their child's departure as well as the sense that the nurturing stage of their lives is over. To allay that sadness, they focus on Thanksgiving's reassuring rituals -- the elaborate meal, the hang-out time, the late-night leftover pig-out. But students, who have spent the past three months exploring new intellectual and social terrain and reveling in the freedom of dorm life, often find it impossible to step back into their old roles.Reading this reminded me of my first Thanksgiving dinner back home after I left to go to school. It was a memorable one.
I lived at home all through college, and so I didn't move out until I was 21 years old and in law school. In the first year of law school, I was too broke to go cross-country for Thanksgiving, and instead I spent some quality time with my mother's sister and her wonderful family down in L.A. But in my second year, I did head back east, for interviews with law firms in New York City as well as a long weekend with the folks over in Jersey.
And I had my new girlfriend in tow.
This was one of the hottest romances that had ever been seen on the planet, and it had been that way for several months. We were joined at the proverbial hip, rarely apart and determined to stay fused together forever.
Oh, and were we ever the idealists. She was a vegetarian, and of course I had become one, too. "Lips that touch meat will never touch mine," was her statement. We both laughed, but she was only half-joking. And so I had become a strict veggie as well.
This was quite a sacrifice. I was living in a frat house, where I was the resident assistant that year, and just about the only nourishment among the items that passed for food in the dining room there was meat. Oh, there were vegetables, all right, but never the kind that had any protein in them. Moreover, the house cook was from the south, a wonderful lady, but she boiled every last vitamin out of those vegetables long before they made it to your plate. I dropped a good 10 pounds in no time, and it wasn't as though I could afford it. I think I bottomed out in the 130's somewhere, on a frame of 5 feet 10.
Mary's and my dietary code allowed us to eat dairy products and eggs, but "nothing that had eyes." And so it was that we headed over to my Aunt Margaret's for Thanksgiving dinner, which included us two law students, my dad (who was separated from my mom at this point), Margaret and her husband Andy, and maybe a couple of others.
I forget exactly when it was during this event that we broke the news, but I remember that it had not been announced beforehand. Our refusal to eat the turkey, the gravy, or the stuffing was, shall we say, not well received. We were used to explaining ourselves to the many heathen non-vegetarians among our acquaintances and friends -- we had the whole "animals are people, too" rap down, along with the observation that raising animals for slaughter was an inefficient use of land. We delivered it with our trademark sincerity.
But my father and his sister, both raised during the Depression in Down Neck Newark, were having none of it. Particularly from me. They didn't care that much if the girlfriend would starve herself out of goofy sympathy for animals, but what the h*ll had gotten into Jackie? "You're kidding," they kept saying. But I wasn't. Finally, Dad put a steaming Polish sausage in front of me, horrifying my new amour, and with widened eyes, he commanded: "For chrissakes, Jackie, eat the kielbasi! You know you love it!"
That romance made it only until the following summer, but I stayed the vegetarian course for almost two years. I finally broke the ice with some nice fish at a restaurant called Chez Jay in Santa Monica. When I got to Portland, it was on to chicken, and eventually back onto the hard stuff, red meat.
Anyway, Pop, Buggsy, wherever you are: Yeah, I knew I loved it. But at the time, I loved her more.