Thanksgiving always reminds me of the first Thanksgiving I brought a boyfriend home from college. There was much excitement and anticipation. He was in law school (Oh goody, mission accomplished. The main reason for a girl to go to college in that day was to find a nice doctor or lawyer to marry.) and from a nice Lutheran family in Northern Iowa. The family was not from the same Lutheran Synod (which could be a significant issue) and they were of German descent, not the preferred Swedish variety. But it looked like we had a winner – Law student, Lutheran and dare they hope, White. WhooHoo! Our girl is on her way!
There were a few warning signs that this was not my prince charming, but I was 22, thought I was in love and if a man (law student, Lutheran and white) said he loved me, well I should just consider myself darn lucky.
In the mix were also the confusing moral questions of the day. I had been raised, most emphatically, that I would be a virgin till after marriage. All indicators were that every woman related to me throughout history had done this and I was not to be the one to break with tradition. Well, too late now, the cow was out of the barn as they say. So, regardless of the signs, this had to be the guy and I needed to make this work.
Later in the relationship when we visited his family home, I noticed their small home had signs about Jesus everywhere. The one on the back of the bathroom door read, “If Jesus came today, would you be ready?” More than I cared to think about in the bathroom where I had gone for a little escape from the rigidity of the household and the not so subtle criticisms of living in sin and “Not under my roof” inuendoes.
The Christmas after his parents had visited our apartment, my gift was a toilet bowl brush. Yes, it was in a plastic container shaped like a cat and his mother said she thought I liked cats. How thoughtful that I could also use it to scrub the toilet instead of something to just admire on a shelf. When radio shows have call-ins about worst Christmas gifts, I just figure who’d believe me.
Then there was the time our parents were talking about our potential future and his father oh so thoughtfully said to my father, “Why would someone buy the cow when they can get the milk for free.” Yes, there were signs, I could have saved myself from all of this, just following the first sign that Thanksgiving.
We had been living together for about 3 months and it was excruciating to think of being apart for the full 4 days of Thanksgiving break. Our parent’s homes were about 3 hours apart and he was obligated to spend part of the day there and then we planned that he’d drive to meet my parents for the first time and have dinner. He arrived on time.
There was excitement mixed with a bit of nerves as I took his coat and had a little time to chat and welcome him to my family home. While doing this, I looked down and realized that prominently on his shirt, he was wearing a button displaying a raised defiant black fist .
I gave him my best girly-puppy-dog-face and asked if he could pleeeeease put the button in his pocket for dinner and just give my parents a chance to know him before we jump into the politics. He refused because it would be too much to compromise his principles. So count the first of several awkward dinners. My parents had no idea what they had signed up for.
His principles caused much not-good-boyfriend behavior, not to mention that soon after that Thanksgiving he dropped out of law school and declared himself an atheist, still white though.
We shared a commitment to help the oppressed and worked in factories with the proletariat, marched at grocery stores in support of Cesar Chavez and demonstrated for Women’s rights. Although at home, even though we shared the jobs of tuning up the car and changing the oil, I also got to cook, clean and do laundry, just cuz ‘I was so good at it’.
Then there was the visit we made home to my parents when I noticed that our car in the driveway had a flat tire. In the spirit of sharing tasks, I went out to change the tire while boyfriend was watching the game. I never before heard my father curse so creatively and extensively. Boyfriend ended up changing the tire and we left soon after that.
Shortly after our third Thanksgiving, boyfriend’s principles led him to the need to sleep with two of my “friends”. Something about how backward monogamy was and I should know that he really didn’t want me to leave, I was more than welcome to continue living with him, just sometimes he wouldn’t be there – whenever it suited him. I decided to not accept this opportunity to be progressive and we broke up. As Thanksgiving triggers these memories, I give great Thanks that I moved on!
Oh, and to seal the deal. Christmas was coming and he said he wanted to give me a parting gift and asked what I wanted. I told him I’d like a turquoise ring or something similar to commemorate our 3 plus years together. Well, per usual, something got lost in translation. He gave me a stainless steel thermos and a sleeping bag lined with cowboy motif flannel. My mother gave me the turquoise ring, so I could always remember the lessons learned.