Tuesday, September 22, 2015

50 years after college graduation

50 years after college graduation

1965 After graduation, I found a job in New York City. Nothing worth pursuing. I saw Jay, we parted ways, we….
1966 got married. He was already in the Army, and by September he was on his way to Vietnam, with enough sense to get office work. I got another job while I lived with my parents. We meet in Honolulu for a week – and his parents came too.
1967 Trip to Japan to see Jay shortly after our 1st anniversary. In September, Jay returns, I quit the job and start subbing in Jr High. Not so good with no training! We share an interest in cooking, which becomes a passion.
1969, 1970, 1973, 1975 and 1979 – children arrive and bump the cooking passion to #2. We move from apartment to apartment to house. I’m a happy housewife, mostly, and gardener.
1977 We become initiates of an Indian path which shapes and comforts me. I embrace vegetarian eating and cooking with pleasure.
1978 As an involved co-op member, I see what’s happening in the nascent natural food products on the market, and Jay pushes me when I say I can do better (and at lower cost).  I develop a line of mixes which we find a packer for, and a marketing direction. Manna Meals is born!
1981 The business has reached a stage where we and our 2 sales people decide to become partners in a natural food store in New Hampshire. We pack up, put the house on the market, and (coincidentally) fulfill my longtime vision of living in a small college town in New England, in sight of mountains. Foodstuffs in Keene NH is the right place for us!
We are excited to be there, doing that. The kids love the new freedom they have. However, our inexperience leads to letting a partner overstock and overspend, to the point where we had to buy him out. The other partner went, after a couple years (and an egg throwing episode by his wife… but that’s not ‘about’ me).
I gradually became more and more involved in running the business, and when we opened a 2nd store, completely took on the management – after being bookkeeper, produce manager, deli manager, grocery buyer, etc. Nice run up the ladder.
More years like that: business growing and changing, a restaurant called Butternuts that people still talk about, kids growing and changing. The words of our first pediatrician, ‘Little children, little problems’ are proven true over and over.
1975, 1994, 1996, 1998 – I visit Israel, where my sister and her family live. First with 2 children, pregnant; then for the oldest son’s wedding; then for 1st and 2nd grandchildren.

More of the same, until 2010 when we retired. By this time, all of the kids were on their own, populating the world with our grandchildren.
I returned to cooking with a new sense of competence and freedom. I found a website where some of my original recipes are posted (www.food52.com, as ‘susan g’). We took short trips around New England, finding large and small museums with treasures in towns with good restaurants. I read a lot in a very undisciplined way, leaning and enjoying virtual travel through time and space. I take a variety of courses, from the Great Courses company and on Coursera.
We live in an even smaller town near Keene, in a house with beautiful trees that preclude lawn or garden. At the price of recurring power outages, I love the sight of the changing seasons through our windows and outside our doors.
My life has not been one that has changed the world, but I know I have changed or improved some people’s lives. We have become involved again in Judaism on the small close scale of a Chavurah group. I am grateful for my ‘own’ in-house St Johnnie who still has opinions and retains a perceptive view of what we read and hear, and even if I don’t agree with him, he can provide the stimulus to open my mind.

After 49 years of marriage, we are parents to 4, in-laws to 4 more, grandparents to 10, and happy to have each other. Age has brought its intimations of a  physical body yielding to stress. In the past year I have had a mild stroke and Bell’s Palsy, as well as served as caregiver to Jay during a year of cancer surgery and after his recent stroke.  50 years after our St John’s graduation, I am grateful to the college for opening my mind, opening up worlds of ‘great’ thought in great books, and (I think) teaching me to listen with a critical mind, and sort what is important from what is less so. 

Written for a collection of personal essays, Class of 1965, St. John's College, Annapolis MD