The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Sam Pollak

May 19, 2012

I'm happy with our kids to a certain degree

This is my family:

It was several years ago, and I was in the kitchen, telling my eldest daughter and my then-teenaged son about the person who was taking over as publisher at The Daily Star.

"The guy's also a professional ventriloquist," I said about my new boss. "He's even got his own dummy."

"Well, Dad," said my young son, pausing for effect, "he's about to get another one."

I knew who he meant, the rotten kid. My daughter, meanwhile, sank slowly to the floor, convulsed in laughter.

That publisher came and went, and now works for one of The Daily Star's sister newspapers in Massachusetts. My son, meanwhile, is still proud of that put-down of his old man.

Biting humor having always been the weapon of choice in our family, I was proud of him, too.

I suspect I'll be even prouder today when I see him in his cap and gown during graduation ceremonies at the State University College at Oneonta.

I know there are those who look upon young people getting a college education as something to be taken for granted. I don't happen to share that opinion, and I'm pretty sure about what word my immigrant grandparents would have used regarding all four of the kids in our family having degrees.

Nachus.

The "ch" isn't pronounced like "nachos" in Spanish. It's more of a guttural clearing of your throat midway through this marvelous Yiddish word that roughly translates to "my son, the doctor." More accurately, it means the pride a parent or grandparent feels about the accomplishments of a child or grandchild.

There is no higher praise to a child _ of any age _ than "you give me nachus."

Through the years here, I have inflicted tales of my offspring upon an unsuspecting readership, and for that, I sincerely apologize. No matter how sweet a person you might be, deep down you know that there is nothing more boring than other people's children ... or grandchildren.

Trapped by even casual acquaintances into looking at baby pictures that evoke your frozen smile, you repeatedly nod your head, sincerely faking interest in the rapturous retelling of the tyke's latest exploits during his bath.

It's even worse when it comes to the accomplishments of your pals' older offspring. That's because it takes you longer to escape. If it's not the kid making the dean's list, it's her six-figure job with great benefits.

Thus, is there a question more fraught with peril than: "So, how's the family?"

Given all that, it's a continual surprise to me when, years later, folks bring up columns I've written about my progeny. Rather than seeing me and taking off like rocketing pheasants, they ask about that eldest daughter we put on a bus for a West Coast college 12 years ago while the whole family _ especially old Dad here _ couldn't control our tears.

Given her propensity at the time for minor collisions with parked vehicles while steering the family car, I expressed relief at the end of the column that while we would miss her terribly … at least she wasn't driving the bus.

As it turns out, after graduating summa cum laude, she actually helps support herself … by driving a school bus. In a few weeks, she'll have her master's degree in English.

Folks also bring up the column I wrote about daughter No. 2, who loved softball with a burning passion that lasted … about a year after she got to college. She got her degree in Theater, and for years has organized and performed in the most successful weekly open mic in New York City.

I don't know that I've ever written about daughter No. 3, but she got her degree in History last year by way of supporting herself through scuba diving school, trips to foreign places that scared the original hair color out of her mother and father, and an admirable amount of hard work inside and outside of the classroom.

And today, our youngest kid graduates, completing the set. Despite that crack about me being a dummy, I've somehow grown rather fond of the lad. He's never given us a lick of trouble, and he's leaving college with a black belt in karate, a nice girlfriend, several good buddies and a degree in Mass Communications.

Don't let that degree title fool you. He's into video editing and wants no part of newspaper work. Like his sisters _ and for that matter, his mother, who owns two college degrees _ he's a lot smarter than I am, and whatever career he will be pursuing will be far more worthwhile than his father's.

Four kids _ four graduates. If I didn't get big-time nachus from that, I really would be a dummy.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.

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