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Campus empties as Thanksgiving nears

Eileen Duffy | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

During a much-needed academic respite this Thanksgiving, Notre Dame students are offering gratitude for family, friends, food and two-and-a-half inch television screens.

“I would say I’ve never needed a break more,” said sophomore Nicholas Krienke. “It’s just the daily grind, I guess. I’m feeling it more than ever.”

Morrissey sophomore Andrew Parnell was sneaking out early, walking to catch the shuttle to Chicago’s O’Hare airport Monday afternoon. He was planning to fly to Washington D.C., where his two older brothers have recently purchased a home, then carpool with them back to their hometown of Rockville, Md., on Thursday – where big plans await them.

Thanksgiving Day begins bright and early at the Parnell home, with the family running the annual 5K Rockville Turkey Chase. Back at home, Parnell said, he and his three siblings will help their mom cook before the relatives arrive in the early afternoon. Playing a football game or two in the backyard, plus watching one on TV, is in order, he said.

“The extended family comes to our house for Thanksgiving because it’s our holiday,” Parnell said. “We’re really family-oriented … I love Thanksgiving.”

And for the students lucky enough to have scored tickets to the much-hyped football game versus USC, Thanksgiving won’t be forgotten.

Senior Ashley O’Keefe is headed to Los Angeles, so when she went home to West Virginia for a visit last week, the family celebrated Thanksgiving early. Plus, she said, her older brother will be at the USC game with her.

Some students, on the other hand, are bringing Thanksgiving to USC.

Ten relatives are accompanying Katie Burns, a sophomore from Grand Rapids, Mich., to the game in Los Angeles – including her always-prepared mother, who will cook a feast at Burns’ uncle’s home in Irvine, Calif.

“My mom is actually bringing all of her cooking supplies, like her rolling pin and her apron and stuff,” Burns said. “I am honestly looking forward to spending time with my family. Since my uncle lives so far away, I don’t get to see him very often, so it’s nice that I’ll be able to have a pretty big Thanksgiving this year.”

If they can’t be at the game, students said they plan to watch it on television – or tape it, in sophomore Lennie Giannone’s case.

“It’s actually me and my girlfriend’s anniversary, to be honest,” Giannone said. “We don’t have concrete plans, but I don’t think they’re going to involve watching football.”

Other students, like sophomore Matthew Posluszny, will be watching the game no matter what stands in their way – even holy matrimony.

Posluszny is a groomsman in his aunt’s wedding Saturday afternoon, and his presence is naturally requested at that evening’s reception. In case there’s no television, he and his father have purchased a two-and-a-half inch screen television. If there is a bar with a television, he said, he’s certainly not going to be out on the dance floor.

“I’ll be getting a nice Bud[weiser] and sitting down to watch the game with my pops there,” he said. “It’s antisocial, but football comes first.”

While many students are planning on sleeping for much of the break, senior Kelsey Miller reported that she’ll be doing “about a billion” graduate school applications and research papers – though she did think she’d have time for some “straight chilling” with her extended family in Sacramento, Calif. (Miller applied for USC tickets through the student lottery, but was unsuccessful.)

Miller also expressed concern about the safety of her off-campus home on Corby Street during her and her roommates’ absence.

“I’m very afraid our house is going to get robbed. We live in a … a safety-handicapped, criminality-inclined neighborhood,” Miller said. “But we’ve been brainstorming … we’re going to lock all our doors and leave some lights on. We might also call the five-o to drive by at night.”

For students who are staying in town during the break, North Dining Hall will serve a Thanksgiving buffet Thursday from noon until 3:30 p.m., consisting of turkey, ham and “other Thanksgiving staples,” according to NDH manager Reggie Kalili. For students with a meal plan, the buffet is free, and for the general public, it costs $15.25 (though children under 12 are admitted for half-price).

“We don’t actively recruit non-students, but we do get a lot of guests who have heard about the buffet over the years,” Kalili said. “People come from town as well as faculty and staff.”

Freshman Natalie Burke, a native of England whose family now lives in the Cayman Islands, was just planning to stay in South Bend with her brother, senior Mike Burke -after all, their family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But hearing about her friends’ plans prompted her to purchase a ticket home at the last minute.

“I was going to stay here with Mike and we were going to try to cook a Thanksgiving dinner and probably fail miserably,” she said. “But I kind of got all caught up in the whole thing of people getting excited about going home. It started rubbing off on me, and it made me want to go home, in a way. It’ll just be a long weekend away for me, because we’re not going to be celebrating Thanksgiving at home.

“It’s probably not much-needed,” she said, “but it’s certainly much-appreciated.”