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Literary Community: The Silver Lining of the COVID Era

I finally had a hair appointment and while the grey is back under control and the cut is cute and bouncy, the best thing about the appointment was somewhat unexpected. The act of reclining back toward the sink to have my hair shampooed brought on a state of near ecstasy I hadn’t anticipated. It wasn’t just the perfect water temperature; it was the caress and massage of another’s hands on my scalp.  I have always enjoyed that part of the process, but it’s possible at a pace of every 6-8 weeks over the past twenty years, I had begun to take it for granted.  Gloved hands working the soap through my hair made it perfectly safe for both of us (of course that was first thing that went through my mind before I could relax into the experience.)  But then it was all about another’s fingers spreading and applying pressure to a head that had been reeling, fretting, aching.

To be touched. It is a primal human need. I’ve gone six months turtling into my shell, shrinking back when others come too close, my circumference of acceptable personal space swollen and awkward.  That shampoo was a Godsend. I know what I have been missing and what might have me come alive again.

Since that afternoon, I’ve been wondering what will be the occasion and who will be the recipient of my first ungloved handshake once this has subsided, in the new-normal?  It probably won’t be planned or foreseen, but I hope it elicits the same awareness I had while my hair was being shampooed and rinsed.  As opposed to never knowing when an interaction with somebody or something is going to be your last, I look forward to being aware of that first.  I vow to be grateful for human touch and the generosity and connection it exhibits. May I never take that for granted again.

But even as my hair grew unruly and turned its natural color while at home, some things became more accessible in the virtual world, including literary events. Of course, they are always more fun in person, but never before did I have the option to attend one every day in locales near and far.  Like a kid in a candy store, I binged on them in April and May, doing my best to support authors who had the shit luck of launching a book during the pandemic. I found new favorites and ordered books from Bookshop.org to keep indies in business.

literary-community-during-covid-family-watching-computer copyThe summer months brought more events, and I was able to drag family members along in ways I never was able to before.  While working on a jigsaw puzzle, my son and I tuned into a Sarah Broom and Thelma Golden in discussion about THE YELLOW HOUSE through the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival.  Our local bookstore featured Colson Whitehead’s discussion of THE NICKLE BOYS and THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and while my adult children went on about their business preparing dinner in the kitchen, they stopped and listened—and then actually read all of Whitehead’s work.  I binged on Europa Edition’s worldwide panel discussions of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, the Boston Book Festival’s event with Ella Berthoud, who streamed in from the UK to prescribe her NOVEL CURE

I’ve also taken many classes and attended writing conferences, thanks to Grub Street, The Southampton Writers Conference, Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, and Mary Carroll Moore. What’s more, I taught my first fiction workshop, an 8 week generative class on Monday evenings through the Westerly Writers Workshop and the Ocean Community YMCA. What used to be an infrequent respite from a busy life has become a weekly pleasure, filling in the distance between us and the encircling arms of friends.

jeanne-blaserbg-at-computer-for-literary-eventAnd I am not alone. If you are a book lover or lifelong learner, I’m sure you have had similar experiences.  If you want a few tips – please know it is Book Festival Season. I am biased toward the Boston Book Festival, but the Brooklyn Book Festival and the National Book Festival are also coming up with events open to all online.

We are at a strange moment in time, with technology making our world smaller and more accessible even as world events balloon the distance between us. But don’t take it for granted. Indulge now because the pendulum is sure to swing once more.  

Even as I look forward to that first handshake, the next shampoo, the opportunity to hug friends outside my bubble close once more, this communion with fellow book lovers is a different kind of needed touch. For now, may I take as much pleasure in the brief caress of each literary event as I did in that simple moment at the salon. 

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Graced by the Hummingbird: Sylvia Plath’s Legacy

This essay originally appeared on Medium.com.

I propped my head on pillows this morning, listening to the sound of the rain on the roof. Still early, I picked up The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and finished it in one last gulp. It’s a classic I rued not already having read, if not for its importance in the cannon of feminist literature, then for its ties to my alma mater, Smith College.

COVID has provided time to address several gaps in my education and I was pulled to Sylvia after references kept popping up in contemporary work. In My Dark Vanessa, Small Fry, The Dollhouse, there she was again and again, a signpost pointing to what to read next. When synchronicities appear, I generally pay attention.

With the rain still falling and a grey morning unfolding, I splayed my copy of The Bell Jar across my chest and felt grateful to have waited the thirty-five years post Smith to read it. Back then, it would have given me even greater reason to despair.

***

John and I had no idea in 2012 when we bought the land and built that house that we would be positioned in the midst of incredible bird life. The osprey nest should have been our first clue, but there are also gulls, swans and herons and duck and geese that flock around us. Last fall bald eagles perched on our pilings. Hawks glide above and I worry sometimes about the puppies alone in the yard. There are swallows feasting on swarms of insects and now hummingbirds sparring for position on the feeders filled with “Perky Pet” nectar aka hummingbird crack. There are red cardinals and yellow goldfinch. The gulls drop fish and crabs on the lawn which the dogs like to scavenge.

This summer, while addressing further gaps in my education, I was reminded our house sits on land inhabited by the Eastern Niantic. Chief Ninigret may have knelt in the spot that is now our yard and peered across the Pawcatuck River to the land of the Pequot and Mohegan. His tribe named this land Misquamicut, the place of plentiful red fish. Misquamicut is also the name of the state beach where people flocked during this summer’s heat, not wearing masks, and the name of our country club.

***

sylvia-plath-legacy-inheritance-hummingbird-jeanne-blasbergSylvia Plath was born in Boston in 1932 and graduated from Smith College in 1955. She was the beneficiary of a scholarship from the Smith College Club of Wellesley. She died in England in 1963, the same year The Bell Jar was published. Sylvia married Ted Hughes on Bloomsday, June 16. From what I have read, their marriage was troubled early on.

My great-grandmother, Florence Durgin attended Smith College between 1895 and 1897, and then as if our birthright, three generations would follow. Sylvia was sandwiched in between my mother and my grandmother, as a student and later as an instructor in the English department between 1957–1958.

Although my DNA did not physically overlap with Sylvia’s, the mood conveyed in The Bell Jar certainly did. Struck by her description of Esther Greenwood’s mental state, I recognized the darkness that creeped into my chest while living in Northampton. It was a loneliness, probably not unlike what most young people feel when first away from home, but it was exacerbated by the lack of typical college-age distractions and a feeling I did not fit in. There was just me and the work and an uncertain future looming in the distance. Immersed in athletics, I spent many hours inside my head. When I starved myself in an attempt to exert some control, my father said he would pay my tuition only if I kept a standing appointment with a psychiatrist. So I showed up dutifully at the health center once a week where a nurse inquired as to whether I might be pregnant, did I need any birth control?

***

We have a pair of binoculars in the kitchen with which to watch the osprey traverse from their nest among a small outcropping of rocks in the river to a grove of trees across the cove. Bass are plentiful and in summers when they have mouths to feed, we listened to the babies cry for more. The babies will be kicked out of the nest before summer’s end and I wonder if they know what is coming, if they worry about their prospects in the world. How they know where to go?…

Continue reading Jeannie’s reflections on Sylvia Plath here.

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“Are you in a pantry?” My Office during COVID Quarantine

This essay on my quarantine office was originally published on Medium.com

Because when we built the house, the room behind the kitchen represented the structure’s fulcrum,

Because I became enamored with the bright layout in a design magazine (or maybe it was Pinterest or Housz) representing a bespoke moment of well-rendered functionality, a desktop that at first glance was no more than a continuation of the kitchen’s long, white, marble counter,

jeanne-blasberg-office-covid-isolation-workspace-pantry-work-from-homeBecause a workspace in the pantry was domestic aspiration, enabling a seamless glide between ideas on my laptop and soup simmering on the stove,

Because it would house the coffee and espresso makers and a cute little appliance that froths milk, drawing in family members through morning ritual, with an inevitable good morning to me,

Because in an empty nest, the hum of a refrigerator and the dog lapping from his water bowl make a comforting soundtrack by which to work,

Because a pantry doesn’t take itself too seriously, messy with shopping lists and unread mail, and old photos of the kids jumping from boats,

Because this would be a summer house where we lived on fresh veggies and seafood, because we ate out with friends, and the pantry shelves were another luxury, haphazardly stocked with tea and candied ginger and nectar for the hummingbird feeder.

But on the vernal equinox, March 21, 2020, this summer place would become our port in the storm and the pantry would become command central.jeanne-blasberg-office-covid-isolation-workspace-kitchen-pantry-work-from-home

And the adult children would return to fill more than coffee mugs, looking to me and my pantry for three square, that would make five adult appetites folks, fifteen meals per day plus snacks going on eighteen weeks now.

And in my daughter’s despair she expressed a desire to adopt a puppy, and I said “okay,” and that it would make the most sense to contain this little creature at my feet, in the pantry,

And before I mastered virtual backgrounds, people I met with on Zoom would ask, “Are you in a pantry? Please mute yourself.”

And I would provision the pantry shelves with military precision, but also guard them…

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Reopening (Our Hearts) After COVID

This post was originally published on Medium.com.

 

My children are my best teachers. Having been in quarantine, in isolation, and cohabitating with them now for what is going on four months, I truly appreciate their perspective and ability to suspend judgment over what has been a very difficult period. My son was quick to evoke “The Parable of the Horse” early on and it has been a good reminder as we have moved forward, doing our best with what life is handing us.

The old Taoist story goes something like this:

An old farmer worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Who knows what is good and what is bad,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Who knows what is good and what is bad,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Who knows what is good and what is bad,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Who knows what is good and what is bad,” said the farmer.

The lesson is that assigning meaning to everything that happens to us just invites suffering. It’s better to suspend judgment until we know (that’s assuming we’ll ever really know) what there really is to be thankful for and what is inconsequential.

Sometime in March, while my sons were abandoning their apartments and offices and my daughter was leaving her college campus, I heard Bill Gates say that he believed there was a spiritual reason in the universe for why things unfold as they do. That made me pause. I wouldn’t have expected a statement like that to come from him…

 

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The Life-Changing Art of Letting Go: A Midlife Reckoning with my Stuff

This essay was originally published on Zibby Owens’ We Found Time.

I once took a class in the art of memoir where the assignment was to write about an object and its meaning. I bristled at the prompt. Objects are only objects, I told myself, and imbuing them with meaning was materialistic and shallow. It was akin to idolatry, which is against my religion, by the way. Besides, I was a mom trying to keep up with the stream of macaroni art, woodshop creations, and paper-maché coming through the door.

Eschewing sentimentality, I had been known to sweep entire table tops of clutter into garbage bags. Oh sure, I’d hang my children’s masterpieces on the refrigerator for the requisite number of weeks, but they’d eventually get sent to the circular file…wink wink.

In hindsight, I’ve realized that curation is a luxury for late middle-age, when the kids are out of the house and the mind is quiet. In my thirties and forties I’d vacillate between two extremes, either going on a rampage of throwing things away or pasting mementos from obvious milestones into albums. Now in my fifties, I fear I memorialized the wrong things and tossed the right ones. What I wouldn’t give for more samples of my kids’ poetry or handwriting. I wish I had recorded the peal of their laughter, their voices in the backseat of the car, the knock-knock jokes, the potty humor.

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COVID-19 Rituals: Getting Grounded in the Morning

This article was originally published on Medium.com as “Time to Adopt a Morning Ritual.”

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a small commission (at no additional cost to you), which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston. Thanks!

I am often asked about my writing practice and whether I have a certain routine. The answer is yes, I am, for the most part, a morning writer. What I don’t really talk about, however, are the steps I must take before sitting down at my desk. About six or seven years ago I incorporated morning ritual into my life, intentional actions beyond brushing my teeth and washing my face and getting dressed that have fueled not just my writing but my life.

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Early morning near Fisherman’s Wharf

During this time of self-isolation while anxiety and fear seem to hover like a dark cloud, my morning ritual has become even more sacred. Expressing control over the day’s beginning sets me on the most positive trajectory possible. The quiet of early morning is also very beautiful and taking it for myself is a wonderful act of self-love.

Even under normal circumstances my morning ritual provided a mindful entry into creative work. On days when I have a busy schedule, the ritual brings me back to calm clarity and away from media distractions.

Since many are now working from home, possibly craving a more deliberate delineation between “self” and “work” mode, I’d like to suggest morning ritual as a way to transition. If you have pets or children who make early demands, getting up before them is an option, as is making a deal with a partner to cover for you. The best option will be training your children and your pets to be patient, but that will take time.

There are days when I need to be flexible and do a condensed version, but I set out my complete morning ritual below. You will see that it is meant to not just boot up the mind, but the body and spirit as well.

1. Peaceful Warrior routine on a yoga mat. I learned this from Dan Millman, Author of “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” in a class he gave on Mastery at Kripalu about 6 years ago. In the video I’ve attached it takes 5 minutes, but I’ve seen Dan do it in 3, or it can be extended to a 15 minute routine.

2. A few more for good measure — I add about 5 more minutes of floor exercises prescribed by a physical therapist to combat some of my chronic sports injuries. Use this time for any additional stretches or movements you like, but do them in a specific order, so that you create a true ritual. All you need to do is focus on your breath.

3. Go upside down — I invert for several minutes on a yogi stool which settles the weight in my shoulders and off my head and neck. The reversal of gravity on my spine and oxygen to my brain are two benefits. I also tuck my knees into my abdomen for a few upside down crunches.

4. Meditation — I go right from the inversion to sitting on a bolster. I rub essential oils into the soles of my feet, light a candle and then begin. Ten minutes is my sweet spot….

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12 Top Boston Spots for the Working Writer

This post was originally published on the Boston Book Blog.

A writer’s day can be a mixed bag. Yes, my ideal is four uninterrupted, morning hours at my desk, but writers can’t always be writing – there are many other activities that go along with the job. Some days I take a class, meet with a writing group, do research, or attempt to solve technical problems. I’m fortunate that the Beacon Hill and Back Bay neighborhoods offer many locales for staying  productive. Come along with me as I take a writerly walk through Boston.

 

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Boston Athenaeum

When I need a change of scenery, writing at the Boston Athenaeum is truly inspiring. To work here, you will need to become a member of this magical private library, but fun fact: dogs are allowed.

 

 

 

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Panificio

My favorite writing haunt on Charles Street is Panificio at number 144. The soups are heavenly and their big windows let in tons of light. It’s also close to my local post office where I often have an errand to run!

 

 

 

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Family Reunion Just Cuz

My earliest memories of family outside the nucleus of my mother and father was my mother’s family: her father, three siblings, and my cousins.  My eldest uncle and his first wife had three children and we were often sandwiched together during the summer, swimming in Lake George, singing in the back seat of the car, and scouring the attic in our grandparent’s home for dress up material for skits we’d put on for the whole clan as they sipped cocktails and pulled dinner together.

The next crop of cousins would appear when I was ten years old, creating a span between we four older cousins and the seven younger ones, but I always remember marveling when they were born and playing with them when they were little.  My aunts and uncles often served as surrogate parents, taking care of me for long stretches of time.

I’m going to do a huge fast forward, but a lot of things would come to pass, not between the cousins but in our parents’ generation: hurt feelings, relocations, distance, divorce, death. The result was a chasm in my relationship with my aunts and uncles.  I even went so far as to walk away from my mother’s side of the family for a period of time after her death, like it was my duty to continue to carry her baggage, with a side order of who needs them anyway.

Three years ago, my cousins invited me to my aunt and uncle’s 50th Anniversary party and I attended. I was so nervous going into the evening, I made my daughter come with me.  I would be seeing the whole crew after a fifteen year separation.  My aunts and uncles were all welcoming and kind, but the best part of the evening would sitting at dinner with my cousins, and  introducing my daughter to women with whom she shared so much in common. It was more than fun – it was incredible.  In adulthood our age differences melted away.

Last year I bumped into one of my cousins in Utah (thanks to Facebook) and after spending time with her, was finally ready to admit to myself I had a yearning for family. Family with a capital F,  as in blood relatives.  My mother had been gone fifteen years and it was remarkable how being in the presence of her DNA was strangely comforting.

Riding a chairlift together in Utah, we hatched the idea of a cousins ski trip.  Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, our parents all shared a true love of the downhill, speed, and risky behavior.  Skiing is not just a sport, but sort of a family value, and one that everyone could get behind.  After requesting preferred dates from a few of the cousins,  I went ahead and reserved the condo, then threw out the details to the group….  people seemed up for it in the springtime, but  I wasn’t sure anyone would show when the time came.  Let’s just say I bought the cancellation insurance. 

Well…. I am happy to report that a week ago, seven of the eleven gathered in Deer valley for a long weekend. I am still glowing!  We laughed and skied and talked on the lifts and over dinner. We compared our varying versions of the family history, what was once vitriol in our parents’ generation seemed like a virus we were anxious to be rid of.  We resemble each other and act like each other and, as the one only child in the group, maybe I felt it the most – but being around others I recognized in myself planted me to the earth in a way I haven’t been for a very long time.

I see my mother in my cousins, I see my children in my cousins and they see me in their parents as well.  Without the cousin’s ski trip, it may have taken a wedding or funeral to get us all together again.  The effort everyone made (in most cases leaving spouses at home to take care of young families) was tremendous.  The commitment  to attend was a demonstration of love for each other and desire to to stay connected. 

Before the weekend I felt a little sheepish and separated, but now I feel like I have six new friends.  I even met one for the first time (as we are almost 20 years apart in age).  The message here is: Don’t wait to get people together.   Even the busiest of people will make the effort if you plan far enough in advance.  Make it a destination to give people an extra incentive, maybe centered around an activity most of the people enjoy.  A weekend is plenty of time to come away feeling connected. Let everybody pitch in with meals, cars, etc.  Then sit back and drink it in.  It’s even possible your grandparents will also be up in heaven, rewarding you with serendipity and and helping to orchestrate the fun.

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Patience: The Ocean as my Teacher

This essay was originally posted on Medium.com.

jeanne-mcwilliams-blasberg-travel-blog-ocean-teaches-patienceJohn and I flew down to the Dominican Republic to spend New Year’s with friends at Casa de Campo. It was the afternoon of our arrival and we were enjoying cold drinks and their view of the sun lowering over the sea when I reached for my phone to take a picture. My head flashed with heat as I realized the phone, credit cards, and drivers license attached were missing. A quick back-track of our steps had us returning to the resort’s security gate where I had been so excited to see our friends pulling in to greet us, that I stupidly left the phone behind. I was extremely grateful to learn it had been found and turned over to resort security.

By the time we arrived in the DR, we were already nearing the end of our holiday and I couldn’t help feeling like this little mishap was a final test of sorts. Getting reunited with my phone became almost a comical exercise in patience — primarily because I was embarrassed and concerned I’d thrown off our hosts’ evening plans more than any mistreatment by the very conscientious resort staff!

jeanne-mcwilliams-blasberg-travel-blog-friends-on-beach-learn-patienceI’ve been given many teachers in this life when it comes to cultivating patience. Some of the most poignant have appeared while traveling. At home, it’s easy to construct a predictable daily structure, everything under my control (haha). When I lose my patience at home, I often brush it off as justified. I think, “how dare xyz not serve my needs as I want when I want?” But travel takes me to places where my ego has to admit I am insignificant and invisible. Travel separates me from my well-curated routine, creating obvious opportunities to practice patience. Travel holds me accountable to family members — who won’t let me get away with anything.

The first half of the holiday break had us traveling to Punta de Mita, Mexico with our three adult children. There, we enjoyed the Pacific Ocean, cooked simple meals in the villa, lit Hanukkah candles, played games, and talked…   Read More

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Pass the Vegan Meatloaf: Navigating Thanksgiving Traditions

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a small commission (at no additional cost to you), which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston. Thanks!

jeanne-blasberg-thanksgiving-turkeyIn Jonathan Safran Foer’s recent book, We Are the Weather, he reports that “Ninety-six percent of American families gather for a Thanksgiving meal. That is higher than the percentage of Americans who brush their teeth every day, have read a book in the last year, or have ever left the state in which they were born.  It is almost certainly the broadest collective action… in which Americans partake… forty-six million turkeys are consumed on the third Thursday in November every year.” Although Foer goes on to make a larger point about what makes a movement, I use his findings to emphasize something about the holiday menu: turkey is Thanksgiving. 

Dietary changes in our family mean that a majority of us now adhere to vegetarian or vegan regimens. So, in an effort to provide something for everyone, my husband suggested a vegan option this year.  He asked one son to make the mashed potatoes, one son to make the squash casserole, our daughter to make the Brussel sprouts, he’d stuff and roast the bird, and when it came to my assignment (and I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly) he said  something about a vegan meatloaf.

“What? Read me the recipe,” I said from the couch, where I was steeped in a novel.

Everyone was listening as he put on his reading glasses and listed the ingredients: tofu, lentils, oats, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce….

jeanne-blasberg-family-thanksgiving-traditions-turkey-vegan-meatloafNow let me say, that while my husband was the one to suggest this addition, it seemed I would be the one making it, the one to go down in infamy. (read: Mom always takes blame)  John’s dad had reminded me of this fact only earlier that day. Despite his battling the same heart disease that plagues all the men in his family, that very morning we were making plans for his 92nd birthday party at his favorite Chinese restaurant. 

 “When you call to make the reservation,” he had said to my husband. “Make sure you let them know about Jeannie’s dietary issues.” 

You might think his mentioning “my” dietary issues as a sign of his concern and  thoughtfulness, but in it I heard the reminder that for the past thirty years I’ve been the one imposing all brands of “picky eating” on his poor son.  

As John handed me the instructions for the vegan meatloaf,  I cleared my throat. “No way.”

“What?”

 “I am making the executive decision to nix the vegan meatloaf.”  The reason I gave had something to do with keeping it simple, but there was also something of not wanting to be the spoiler mixed in there too.  What Foer writes about is real – the Thanksgiving meal is like a heavy, warm blanket. Even for vegans, a proper Thanksgiving buffet provides a certain visual that is comforting. I knew vegan meatloaf on the Thanksgiving table would not be like an orange on a the Seder plate – rather it sounded like the punchline to a stupid joke.  

As a mom (and a daughter-in-law entrusted with the meal),  it has become increasingly clear that the greatest thing I can offer my family, what everyone really craves, is stability and tradition. After the schlepp home, weary from the cruel, cruel world, the Thanksgiving menu does more than fill one’s stomach.  The kids look forward to, and indeed get a boost from our adherence to the prescribed menu. Tradition was hard enough to sustain during the years we lived overseas where finding a turkey was near impossible and we had to assign our eldest son with smuggling Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and ocean spray cranberry sauce through customs on his way home from boarding school.  Certain staples of our menu are tributes to mothers who are no longer with us. Even the squash rolls take on importance. My father-in-law orders them weeks ahead and stands in line to pick them up at a farm stand on the Cape.

jeanne-blasberg-thanksgiving-dinner-traditionReading the figures in Foer’s book suggests we aren’t the only family clinging to tradition.  Even as we Blasbergs are accepting of change and differences in other aspects of our lives, I was surprisingly suspect of letting change creep onto my Thanksgiving table.  I mean it’s not like we weren’t going to have the turkey too… John just suggested adding a dish. You may accuse me of just wanting to read all afternoon (true), or avoiding the additional dishes that would need to be washed (true), but there was certainly something about the aesthetic of a brown log, and the taste (soy sauce??)…  and the feeling like I didn’t want to risk even one little crack in our tradition. Maybe there was also a tinge of that fear that since my children have all left home there might be a time when they don’t return – “she actually made a vegan meatloaf one year.”  

I’m guilty of blowing apart various aspects of my children’s lives, but I’ll draw the line when it comes to Thanksgiving.  Plant-based, low-carb… forget about it or pick around it. God forbid I fall into the category of a family member who once insisted our only stuffing option be gluten-free…  My family has a long memory when it comes to such transgressions and can be pretty unforgiving. No, a vegan meatloaf wasn’t happening on my watch. We vegetarians would survive on side dishes (and a guaranteed late night snack).