November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving 1978

Yesterday I was talking to a friend at work about Thanksgiving, and she outlined her schedule for the weekend: pick up daughter at college Tuesday night, pick up daughter's boyfriend at college on Wednesday, take boyfriend back on Friday, take daughter back on Sunday. The kids go to the same school; he's on the basketball team, so he has to be on campus longer before the break and sooner after Thanksgiving. The daughter has to be off campus all weekend. Given the weather that's heading our way from two directions, I'm hoping all of her trips back and forth to Buffalo are uneventful.

When we were talking, I jokingly suggested that The Boy take the bus, and it made me remember one year where I did exactly that, took the bus to spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend's family.

Ah, the memories. I was 19, he was 25. I had dropped out of college and was working in Syracuse. He had graduated from the same college a couple of years before I got there, and was working in Painted Post, down in Steuben County. I was small town, Methodist, 'teacher-middle-class'.  His family was wealthy, Jewish, New Jersey real estate business.  He and I were very much alike, but his family and mine were worlds apart.

I remember being dropped at the bus station, and wondering if I was doing the right thing, not being home for Thanksgiving. I remember getting a small floral arrangement, a peace offering for his mother. And holding it on the bus from Syracuse to Jersey, trying hard not to spill it (it spilled).  And it seemed so puny once I handed it over to her.

I remember agonizing over what to wear, what to bring, what on earth to say, and hoping that his folks were 'normal' like I knew normal to be. Oh, how I hoped. 

I thought his dad was nice, his mother scary; his brother was a hoot. I remember being exceptionally grateful that 'the kids' were allowed to be kids and not required to spend inordinate amounts of time with the 'rents.

I remember the house, with a great (giant!) room in the center, parents wing off to one side, kids wing off to the other. In the middle of the great room was a pool table, I think, which was transformed into a glorious dining room table, absolutely gorgeous.  There were high school kids who helped serve, clear, clean up. It was all very tasteful and frightening to me. I think I might have said ten words at dinner. I remember an art opening for his aunt, a painter. And cousins I would never see again.

I was happy to be home, when the weekend was over - not happy to leave him, but happy to be home.

We didn't make it as a couple -- not because of that Thanksgiving - but many years later, we reconnected, and still are in touch. We talked about that weekend once, and I mentioned how I had thought his Dad liked me and his mother didn't. He told me with a chuckle that his father liked everyone, so that didn't mean much, and that his mother didn't dislike me specifically, it was just that like many moms, no one was good enough. (My mom thought he wasn't the right one for me, either, naturally.  Apparently, the moms were right).

This Thanksgiving story is not really about the bus trip and the whirlwind  fish-out-of-water weekend in New Jersey: it's about coming of age, leaving the family for the first time on a holiday, taking the step towards independence.

It's about coming home, and finding comfort in the familiar, which helps us get through the unfamiliar. It's about memories, and how they grow softer sometimes, and fonder, as time passes.

I have much to be thankful for - all the things I mentioned last year and more, including memories of holidays past - and hope you do as well.

Happy Thanksgiving.