The Suitcase Lady


November 23, 2010, 8:38 pm

In these pre-Thanksgiving weeks, elementary school children all over America have been busy writing assignments on “I am thankful for”. At this stage in America’s history, when “no” seems to be the most fashionable word, I think it would behoove all of us adult Americans to write a similar essay.

Given that assignment, I would focus on my parents and my thankfulness for the world view that they gave me.

The apple incident is as clear in my mind today as when it happened over sixty years ago. I choose a large apple, took a few bites, felt full and tossed the remains in the kitchen garbage. A while later my father spotted the apple, retrieved it and found me. He was not angry but profoundly sad. “You can’t do this,” he said. “Many children in the world go to bed hungry. You are lucky to have enough food, and you may not waste it.”

He also told me what I should have done. “Take a small apple (schoolboy size as they were called then) and if you finish all of it, you are welcome to have another.” I got the message, and it has remained with me all my life.

My father’s view on peanut butter sandwiches has stuck with me as well. He was against stockpiling food, overbuying and overcooking, “just in case someone drops in”. We had a week’s supply of food which was carefully planned and cooked by my mother. She was extremely skilled at cooking the right amounts, but occasionally  fell short.

“You can always have a peanut butter sandwich if you are still hungry after dinner,” my father would say. He saw this approach as far better than throwing out extra food cooked “just in case”.

Because of my parents, I am grateful for food. Grocery shopping, cooking and eating regularly are reminders of my privileged position in the world. I remain one of the lucky ones.

We will host two Thanksgiving feasts on Thursday. Our family dinner will be followed by the beast feast in the Tooley Cafe. Every leftover spoonful, burnt crust, bone and scrap will vanish before dawn.

Comments are closed.