During our first meal together that summer, it was evident: something had changed. After spending all day cooking our favorite meal, home made Italian sauce, meatballs, spaghetti, garlic bread and salad, there was no response when she walked in the door. Usually as soon as Meg smelled my Italian sauce she would say, “Oh the kitchen smells so wonderful. Can I taste the sauce; can I steal a meatball?” But she said nothing.
Traditionally when we have a spaghetti dinner, I always filled our dishes from the stove, but Meg asked to fill her own plate for the first time. I watched as she artfully placed about ten strands of spaghetti, a tablespoon of sauce and one small meatball around her plate so they took up as much room as possible. She claimed she’d eaten during the ride home. At my prompting, she had what amounted to three tablespoons of salad, no dressing or garlic bread.
It was painful to witness Meg as she rearranged the food on her plate to mimic eating. She acted as if she’d rather be anywhere else in the world but at our kitchen table eating her formerly favorite meal. Since it was her first meal at home, I hated to start nagging. But what I had thought would be a celebration, of Meg’s return home from college and the beginning of summer, turned into the first meal of our summer of combat.
The next morning Meg wanted to go summer job hunting, since the New England schools got out later than the schools in the South, and she was afraid all the good jobs would be taken. When I asked her what she wanted for breakfast, she said she’d get something on the way. She wanted to get an early start. Meg came home after lunch discouraged; there were no jobs, never mind good jobs. She said she went all over but many businesses wouldn’t even let her fill out an application. It was 1991, during President George H. W. Bush’s administration, and the economy was terrible like ours is now due to his son.
People who had well-paid careers were working at jobs that were normally taken by high school or college kids. Meg said she had eaten out and now wanted to go to the base gym.