home for the holidays
I’m back ‘til the weekend, but what a wonderful few days in New York—as much for doing and seeing new things as repeating those I’ve done before. I used not to understand the value of rereading the same book year after year (though I once read a lovely essay about someone who took Pride and Prejudice from the shelf every summer) or going to see a movie more than once (I just thought—why not wait to rent it). But every experience really is different the second, third, fourth time around. Spent Christmas morning making potato latkes with mom and I felt a certain sense of empowerment—not just as the chef’s helper, but a cook in my own right. When I was little, my jobs in the kitchen included either peeling the carrots or making the salad and some “special” dressing (read: mixing various pourable substances from bottles in the fridge to create something that tasted like a cross between soy sauce and Russian dressing.) But Sunday, I just may have mastered the art of clicking the Cuisinart into place, blending the potatoes and onions so that they were somewhere between a grate and a mush, patting down the mixture in the strainer to release the liquid and potato starch and flipping the mixture in the peanut-oil filled pan so that the pancakes were just perfectly speckled with golden brown.
I also watched “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Casablanca” both for the second time—the former after a year that included discussions about how to characterize and periodize Civil Rights and the latter after a semester studying the Third Reich. I certainly didn’t know who Gregor Strasser was the last time I watched Casablanca—and I don’t think I fully got the following line by Tilly last time I watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Joey tells Tilly (the African-American family housekeeper) that Dr. Prentice’s parents will be joining them, and Tilly says: “Civil rights was one thing but this is something else.” Somehow the mother-daughter relationship also struck me more this time as well—the way that mothers might think more about love when helping their children—and particularly their daughters—make decisions. I also thought about the progression of society—the way the Monsignor Ryan (at least I think it’s him) tells Spencer Tracy that the children are the future. Made me think about how children/the younger generation can’t always and shouldn’t always take the advice of their parents because not only the world they grew up in but the world they’re entering is something entirely new.