I was already in bed when he knocked on my door.
As the TV delivered the calming Dun Dun’s of a Law & Order marathon, I sat on top of the covers rubbing my belly.
I had started my day with three (or was it four?) heaping bowls of Raisin Bran mixed with Life Cereal topped with drizzled honey and jumbo Jersey blueberries.
First bowl in hand, I turned on the TV, found the inevitable Law & Order marathon, and settled in.
Within a few episodes, it was lunchtime. Still flooded with fiber from breakfast, I waddled into the kitchen and prepared a plate of Sabra hummus and Stacey’s Pita Chips, string cheese for protein, and green grapes for something sweet. I ate everything, then went back for seconds.
The seconds turned into hours of sitting on the couch, drifting in and out of consciousness while the Law & Order episodes played on. When my mother came home, I helped her unload the groceries. I helped myself to a little of this and a few handfuls of that, delicious, irresistible snacks that she had just bought.
When it was time for dinner, I muted my marathon and met my parents at the table. The brisk fall weather had inspired my mother to make one of her hearty soups, tonight it was minestrone. I had two bowls, and half a loaf of crusty-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside artisan bread that I dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Between bites, my parents and I discussed our plan for tomorrow: Leave the house around ten. Get to the City by noon. Spend the afternoon setting me up in my first post-college apartment — putting together my bed and Ikea dresser and then shopping for necessities like paper towels and a toilet bowl brush. We had reservations for an early dinner at a trendy restaurant in my new Brooklyn neighborhood. Then my parents would drive home, back to Jersey. — I drooled a little bit when we got to the part about my not going home with them.
After dinner, I returned to my spot on the couch, and unmuted the TV. “In the criminal justice system…” Yessss. A new episode had just started.
“There’s banana cake!” My mother yelled from the kitchen over the din of the garbage disposal while my father finished washing the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
“Oh, I know,” I said, hurrying in to cut a slice of dense-choc-o-nana-gooey-goodness and pour myself a glass of skim milk before the commercials were over.
By the time the episode had transitioned from law to order (exactly thirty minutes later), I was burping up milk bubbles with bits of minestrone. My belly growled in protest of my gluttony.
To save me from myself, I retreated upstairs to my high school bedroom, where I turned on the TV/VCR combo set and continued watching the TNT [not-so-ironically named] Law & Order Binge-a-thon.
The verdict was in. Members of the jury filed back into the courtroom. All rise for the honorable Judg…
That’s when he knocked on my door.
“Are you still up?” I heard my father ask from the other side.
“It’s only eight o’clock,” I said, rubbing my bulging belly.
He opened the door and nervously took a seat at the foot of my bed.
“What’s up?” I said, slightly annoyed that he was making me miss the end of an episode, and probably the beginning of the next one, which would more or less ruin the entire next hour of scripted drama.
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” he asked, already knowing the answer. After graduating from college six months ago, I’d spent the last three months sleeping in my Uncle David’s basement. He and my Aunt Kristin lived just a thirty-minute train ride from New York City. I’d been commuting to the City for work with my aunt every day on the Metro North. I couldn’t wait for the freedom of my own apartment, and the convenience of taking the Subway home.
He continued, “So, I know you are living with your friend from college, and you’re going to meet a lot of new people. And I just want you to be…” he paused, taking a moment to strategically select the next word, “…smart. I just want you to be smart about who you spend time with.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, not really wanting to know.
“Well, you are going to meet different boys. And not all boys are the same.”
Was he trying to talk to me about “boys who only wanted one thing?” Or was this some kind of lecture about always having a can of pepper spray in my purse and a finger on the trigger whenever walking home alone?
My father continued, “I remember when mommy and I were first married and your Uncle David was dating all these different women.” I laughed, remembering the random woman in my parents’ wedding photos, my Uncle David’s date whom he had broken up with shortly after.
“Ok…” I said, still not seeing the connection between living with Megan and my Uncle David’s past promiscuity.
“Well, David never cared if the girls he was dating were Jewish. And eventually, he met Kristin and they got married. And now he has a Christmas tree.”
“So you’re worried that because I’m living with Megan, and you don’t like her because she’s not Jewish…”
“I like Megan!” He cut me off in defense. Of course he liked Megan. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania and graduating from college with honors, Megan was genuinely kind, humble, and hardworking with a pretty face and a good sense of humor. Everybody liked Megan.
“Yea, I know you like her,” I said, giving him back his inch. “But you don’t like that I’m living with her because she’s not Jewish.”
“That’s not true,” my father said coyly, as if correcting me but only on a technicality. “Megan is a very nice girl. All I’m saying is,” he took a breath, clearing the cache on the conversation thus far. “I just want you to understand that there’s a difference between blueberries and berries that are blue. Your aunt, Kristin, she’s a berry that is blue.”
“Huh?” I said, annoyed that he was inculcating my favorite fruit with his agenda.
“Some boys are blue berries. Two words. Jewish boys are blueberries. One word. You want the blueberries. One word. Not just berries that are blue. Get it?” He said.
At that moment, the only thing I ‘got’ was that I wanted this little father/daughter chat to be over soon as possible. My stomach spasmed, reminded me of just how many blueberries I had eaten earlier that day.
“Well, I do love blueberries. One word.” I said, not metaphorically.
“Exactly!” he said, so proud that his metaphor was a success.
The next morning, I skipped my bowls of cereal with blueberries on top and stayed in my bedroom until my parents were ready to leave for the City.
Hours later, my parents peeled away from the Brooklyn curb. “Remember, blueberries. One word.” were my father’s parting words.