This is Us – The Big Season Finale That Wasn’t

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I was right there with you. This is Us, big season finale, the biggest question that loomed almost the entire season would be answered.  But it wasn’t.  This is Us pulled off the Big Season Finale that Wasn’t.

Or was it?

RUN AND AVERT YOUR GAZE IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW HOW THE THIS IS US SEASON FINALE – OR ANY OTHER EPISODE – WENT! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!!

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This Is Us

The Big Lead-In

We know from several episodes this season that the family patriarch of the Pearson clan does not have a neatly tied up, happy ending on the horizon.  We got the hint of it when Rebecca turned up at a family event with Miguel, Jack’s best friend.  There were other glimpses – a quick flashback to Papa Pearson’s funeral, with The Big Three seemingly in their late teens; an urn that watches the ballgame with Kate; Randall and his dad visiting that place where the family scattered Jack’s ashes; and Kate’s declaration that she is the cause of Papa Pearson’s untimely demise.

With all this big lead-in, I think we felt entitled to our answer.  We wanted to see the car crash and burn from Jack’s alcoholic road trip.  My mind quickly raced to Ben beating Jack, his rival for Rebecca’s affections, into a bloody, unrecognizable pulp.  He would end up in the hospital, and we would have to wait until next season to see that he didn’t survive.  Kate implied she was to blame for his death, so part of me thought he would come into the house after running away from Rebecca, and maybe Kate would accidentally shoot the unexpected intruder that turned out to be her dad.  Oh, I hashed this bitch out.  There was not a way this season was going to end that I hadn’t already figured out.

young jack

Jack Before Rebecca

Boom, There it Is

But then, where I least expected it, was the Big Season Finale.  We were so hell bent on this season finale answering the question about how Jack dies that we didn’t see it coming.  The cliffhanger. The set up for next season – maybe for the unfortunate passing of Jack Pearson.

Where do they go from here?

That’s the cliffhanger.  We weren’t watching and they slipped it right in on us.  Every eye was on Jack’s every moment, waiting for his last breath to finally be revealed, and like David Copperfield’s most skillfully executed illusion, boom, there was the cliffhanger.

What happens next for Jack and Rebecca?

People, she KICKED HIM OUT!! Is it over for them?  Does he move in with Miguel, leaving the door open for Miguel to move in on the Pearson clan?  There have been hints that the triplets don’t have the warm fuzzies for Miguel – is this why? Does Jack continue to drink?

And then, when those of us that weren’t stunned by the lack of Jack’s death collected our thoughts and turned them back to the living, breathing Papa Pearson, he gives the speech of the season. He professes his love for Rebecca and his wish that their children be told the truth about the state of the marriage.  He professes his love and his devotion to this marriage, Rebecca says nothing, and then it’s done.  And we’re left with this cliffhanger – is it over?

But Wait, There’s More

And if that wasn’t enough of a cliffhanger for you, there were mini baby cliffhangers.  Does Kevin leave his newly rekindled relationship to audition for Ron Howard, or does he stop short of getting on the plane, realizing this is what killed that relationship the first time around.  Will Randall’s wife agree to adopting a baby? And why does Randall want to adopt?  Is it to honor his father(s), to fill a gap left by his bio dad’s passing, or is it because he was entangled in establishing his career when his daughters were born, and now is his chance to nurture a new baby?  And what about Kate, who is seemingly ready to pick up the mic her mom dropped?  What does her decision to try a career in singing mean to her relationship with Toby?  Or her mom?

Jack and Rebecca fight

The most realistic TV fight I’ve ever seen

No Who Shot JR

I think we were looking for – maybe hoping for – a Who Shot JR? moment.  Television has so conditioned us to see Negan with the barbed wire bat, listen for it to hit someone in the head, and then spend six months in a mix of stunned silence and angry anticipation.  But this is a skillfully written, brilliantly acted, thoroughly engaging story.  Our love for this show comes from the real life shit it deals with.  The fight between Jack and Rebecca last night was the most authentic I have ever seen on television.  There was no his line, her line, his line, her line back and forth.  It was knock down, talk over, drowned out the other person real life argument.  Why would we watch something so artfully realistic presented, then expect Jack’s car to blow up as he drove away?

It was brilliant, the story fantastic, the authenticity unquestionable.  This is why we keep coming back to This is Us.

The Right Way to Celebrate an Anniversary

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Anniversary Picture

Is there a right way to celebrate your wedding anniversary?  I think most people would say there is.  Some fancy a romantic dinner at a favorite restaurant. Others would say a quiet movie without the kids. There would even be those who would take in a sporting event, do couples pottery, or see a show.

What is the right way to celebrate an anniversary?  I’ll tell you.

March 9, 1991

Second National Bank

For Better or Worse

We spent our anniversary more worse than better.  Both kids are sick. One insisted on going to the theater to perform her duties as assistant stage director. I bundled myself up, despite the mid-50 degree temperatures, took her for tea and breakfast, and got her to the theater.  My poor husband woke up this morning still sitting at his desk chair.  His crazy wife stripped the bed yesterday with the intention of letting it air out. Eventually, it was to be covered with fresh sheets. Except I fell asleep. And the bed wasn’t made.  And Jim had no place to sleep, because the other sick kid had taken over the sofa.  We had no sooner both gotten home and found comfortable positions, when our drama queen kid called in tears to be picked up.  She was too sick to go on.  No rest for the weary.  But the right way to celebrate an anniversary is immersed in the life we created in our 26 years together.  And so we did.

For Richer or Poorer

Emotions of the mother of the bride

For Better or Worse

Financially, it was a good day. That’s the right way to celebrate an anniversary.  We know the bills are all paid, there’s food in the fridge, and the car that always requires a major repair as soon as a big check comes in has just had all four tires replaced and brake work done.  But we also have multiple bank accounts, and at one point, my husband had to ask if I needed more than $175 before the weekend, because the one account we don’t have daily access to is where our most recent deposits went.  So while I know we’re good, I also know I have to watch my pennies on this, my anniversary.

In Sickness and In Health

Yes, well, here is where we really prove we know how to celebrate an anniversary.  Jim has spent MONTHS preparing to be part of a mock trial competition team.  Because of his vision problems, things that other competitors probably were able to do in a reasonable period of time have taken Jim triple the time.  He has sacrificed weekends with his family, dinners out with friends, events we wanted to or should have attended.  Then last weekend, I got sick.  It wasn’t just “sick” – it’s sick.  Fevers, chills, aches, unable to breathe from the chest pain of the cough, gastrointestinal distress – I have had it all this week.  And because he tended to every need this week, Jim caught it.

And today, when he was supposed to leave with his team to compete, he was too sick to go.  He has fever, chills, aches, and is unable to catch his breath from the cough.

He hasn’t blamed me once, although when the delirium from the high fever begins to dissipate, he may, but he has accepted this as part of being a couple. I’ll never lose the guilty feeling.

That’s the right way to celebrate an anniversary – not making things that go wrong the other person’s fault.

I Will Love and Honor You, All The Days of My Life

Sick as he is, my husband made sure I had a wonderful anniversary dinner.  He arranged for take away from our favorite Italian restaurant, complete with a delicious dessert.  We ate quietly, because when we talk we cough. He’s in shorts and a t-shirt.  I’m in sweats, zipped up to my neck. Today is day two without a shower for me. Yet he sits by me, not commenting on the lack of makeup or combed hair.  His olfactory senses are surely challenged by the cold, but still, no mention of my lack of “freshness”.  We are older, fatter, balder. We are parents to three children, all of whom are closer to leaving us empty nesters withe very breath we take.

Anniversary Picture

26 Years

There are arguments, that’s for sure.  But there is always love in this house.  Even when we don’t see eye to eye, we honor each other’s voices, trying never to squelch the other.  Well, at least not permanently.

This is where I want to be, all the days of my life. Oh, it may not be this home, this state, this country.  I hope it will not be still in these sweats, hacking lungs up.  But I want to always be where this love is.  I hope he does, too.

And with that feeling in your heart, my friends, is the right way to celebrate an anniversary.

 

Every New Beginning

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New beginning

One of my favorite song lyrics of all times is the line from the Semisonic song “Closing Time”, and it goes “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  It is actually a quote from Lucius Seneca, and it alludes to the sad feeling that comes over you, even as you take your first exciting steps towards a new beginning.  It means that something else that you’ve put your heart and soul into is ending.  It’s over.  It’s the end.

New beginning

Lucius Seneca

Friday marks my last day at Tatem Elementary school. It is the end of one of my new beginnings.  It was a fantastic new beginning for me just a few short years ago.  As I embarked in a new direction, and decided to pursue the dream of being a teacher that I had as a little girl, Tatem was my beginning.  They gave me the most amazing mentor teacher in Cathy Schilling when I was a student teacher.  Then they took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to work with the students.  All things considered, it has been one of the best experiences in my life.

My time at Tatem has not been without tears, both good and bad.  Teaching is way harder than they tell you in school. From the tears that rolled down my cheeks when one of my students wrote our principal a letter of recommendation for me to the ones that came because I felt like I couldn’t do enough, every day was filled with challenges.  Above all, some of the best people I think I will ever know in my life are Tatem people.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by educators who, even on days where they may not love their jobs, love their students.  They allow me to watch them at the art of educating young minds, and I continue to learn from them.

I am facing another new beginning, on the heels of this beginning’s end.  My life needs me more than I think even I realized until recently.  But I am taking away volumes of knowledge, a lifetime of memories, and, I hope, forever friends.

Every new beginning…I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings.

 

Zeppoli Collingswood – Sicily Without Family Charm

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Entrance

Food is romantic.  It’s about love and family and flavors.  Jim and I long ago abandoned chain restaurants and began eating out with purpose – to find good food in comfortable environments that we would want to go back to time and again. Zeppoli Collingswood was like being in Sicily, except there was no family charm that is a signature of any Italian dining experience.  This restaurant had so much potential in that area.

Entrance

Sign on the window

This tiny restaurant (it has about 11 tables, with a dining capacity of 35) is all about big flavors, to be sure.  We waited literally months to find a table at Zeppoli, dining at numerous other Collingswood restaurants in between.  We had it hyped up on our minds by the time our anniversary dinner rolled around, and that may have been to the detriment of the restaurant itself.  We expected an experience, but what we got was a huge let down.

The chef, Joey Baldino, has captured the essence of Sicily.  The emphasis here is on the flavors that remind you of family and home.  Fresh pastas with incredible sauces, antipasto that was the best I have ever enjoyed, and the emphasis on fresh seafood remind me of dinners in Italy with my family.  I had the pasta special for the evening, a potato gnocchi in a lamb ragout, which I could have licked from the plate.  My fisherman’s stew had perfectly prepared calamari, and the freshest clams and mussels I think you could get this side of the beach.  The sardines, a dish we have never seen outside of Italy, were perfectly grilled, seasoned with an expert and knowing hand, and absolutely amazing.  Even the breadbasket, with an onion tart type of bread and a Jersey original tomato pie, was well thought out, perfectly executed, and delicious in every morsel.

But dining is an experience.  There is more than just food to a dining experience.  You want to be comfortable.  You want to have pleasant conversation.  You want there to be warmth from your server.  Those are the things we were missing at Zeppoli.  We were there for our 26th anniversary dinner.  I commented to my husband that if it had been our first date, it would have been too awkward to have a second.  We had minimal conversation, because we couldn’t hear each other.  I mentioned when we left that if that antipasto had been served to me at a different restaurant, I would have been raving about it as I enjoyed it, but the truth was, Jim couldn’t hear me, so I just sat quietly.  Our table butted right up against another table, and every time the man in the end seat of that table leaned back in his chair, he tipped our bread basket.  I was at first glad he didn’t have long hair, because the entire time, it would have been right in the basket, but at the same time, the only alternative was to put our drink glasses on that side of that table, and with him tipping the bread, we didn’t want to risk a pool of wine on the table.

The room itself was also pretty dark.  The dark walls and dark wood tables and chairs certainly could provide warmth to the restaurant, but they make it feel almost claustrophobic.  Jim, who of course has vision problems anyway, couldn’t order himself, because he couldn’t see the menu, but then when I had to serve him the antipasto because he couldn’t see to serve himself, I knew it was too dark.  We had another dining experience recently where the room was dark, but the walls and the decor was white and bright.  While he still couldn’t effectively read the menu, he could see things in the room.

Inside the restaurant

The Zeppoli Collingswood dining room

The servers here are not dedicated to any one table, so over the course of our meal, we had four different servers.  There may be an advantage here in terms of efficiently clearing the table or delivering meals, but there’s not connection to any one server.  You aren’t quite sure who to ask if you want something or need something, because while technically EVERYONE attends you, no one really attends YOU.  The one server who actually introduced herself to us at the beginning, never came back to our table for anything over the course of our meal.

We ended the meal feeling full but not satisfied.  We hadn’t enjoyed our evening together.  The food was definitely delicious, but without conversation and without any feeling of warmth from our servers, who robotically moved throughout the dining room removing and placing dishes, it just felt like food – not a meal.

I would say that Chef Baldino more than earned his James Beard nomination, but Zeppoli is not the kind of dining experience we will return to.