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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 24, 2005 3:42 AM. The previous post in this blog was The accident. The next post in this blog is Bruce and me, cont'd. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, November 24, 2005

"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.

Comments (12)

Thanks for this Thanksgiving story. I relate to your story both as one-time college student and now parent. What goes around comes around.

Your previous post, "The accident," is a wonderful story. As authorities on the subject, Bernadette (Montferret) and I confirm and enjoy your dead-on recollections of Down Neck. She is on the left in The last 30+ years have better to her than me. I am in the middle, gray-haired, and as far as looks go, interchangeable with my brother standing next to me.

After almost 40 years since high school days, I still recall a few conversations we had on the #1 "Exchange Place" bus coming back to Down Neck from the high culture of Jersey City and SPP.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Matty Jusinski, SPP '68

Great to hear from you, Matty. I remember you and Bernadette well.

Man, how I miss Buggsy and his sister (a/k/a mom) -- especially every Thanksgiving.

BTW, that's a great picture of him.

What about eyes AND names? That was a topic of discussion between my dad and aunt last Thanksgiving; from when they were kids. We celebrated the big meal three weeks ago, thinking dad and his reduced-size stomach would not last. He still went out and replaced the batteries yesterday on a couple vintage tractors in preparation for next year even though he won't be here to run them. Mom carries a voice recorded to capture little bits of advice on farming and stuff from the resident historian for all things related to the Damascus dating back to long ago.

I couldn't afford the quarter of a gas tank to get out there and help; and to just visit. You see, I died the day that the dean of a certain school said that a certain profession was not effectively a calling and that there are lots of other things people do other than to practice. Every day since is just frosting on the cake; even when there is not a dime to be made from it. It is not the money, but money would make life easier.

My battle with the entire legal profession is analogous to the life-time battle I have had with my dad on the nature of the world and society. (Call it transference, whatever.) And here I can't go visit very often cause I am broke. I would pity you if I believed that you thought that nurturing ends the moment some kid leaves the house. My dad says get a job and I tell him that I do have a job, I just don't get paid -- he might yet understand. The son of one of his house mates back at OSU sits on our high court, but does that matter?

Watch that chocolate factory movie that was just released. It carries a similar message. I watched it with my neighbors kids. Anyway, I get to go have a second big meal and stuff my face with stuff that once had eyes, but that likely did not have names and perhaps not even numbers.

I like your girlfriend's hair in a Joyce Dewitt kind of way.

I like the Amish beard, but the hair doesn't match.

Happy Thanksgiving, Jack!

You know, the first thing i thought of when i saw that picture was "Dorothy Hamill & Brian Wilson!"

Judith and I know how lucky we are that all the boys in our big blended family are still around and will be coming over soon to eat. My 80-year old mother lives just down the street, and right now she's rolling out pie dough. We'll have one girlfriend (although I've told her many times if she and Aaron ever break up, we're keeping her), another Jersey Italian to keep Judith happy, and a couple of old, dear friends.

Like many an aging boomer, I look back at the years with a sense of amazement. I wonder how I could've been so stupid, why I was so lucky, and what might've happened if I'd made other choices. But the gift of hindsight is that it makes the here and now even more precious.

The turkey's in the oven and the table's set. I once heard Jacques Pepin say that Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday because it's about sharing good food with people you care for. I'm thankful that we'll be doing just that.

Happy Thanksgiving


Well said, Jim.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and thanks for the story, Jack.

Hmmmm... I thought it was the three helpings of my mom's famous Italian meatloaf that did you in!!! Nice to see your smilin' face in the Tribune recently and your family too. Happy Thanksgiving, Bonnie

Bonnie, thanks for reminding me. That was the first red meat I had had in around three years. For you I would have eaten liver! My best to you and yours for the holidays.

I never heard that story, but it sounds like pop pop


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