Thursday, June 18, 2009

My family: like living in the circus, only without the elephants and carnies running around

I thought about writing about my grandpa today, but I just don't have it in me right now.  I'm so tired of long, mawkish posts that are like an endless pity party.  So instead, I've got a funny family story that randomly popped into my head today.

I think it's safe to say that my parents never subscribed to the conventional wisdom about what was safe or not safe for children.  Some of it was the times -- my brothers and I grew up before car seats and worries about "stranger danger" and such, particularly overseas, where the standards were even more lax than in the U.S.  When we were little and I was maybe 4 years old and Josh was 2, my dad used to ride us around, sans helmets or any other safety features, on his motorcycle in the streets of Venezuela.  When we lived in Virginia and Josh was about 6 or 7, he had a friend over and my dad took them someplace and let them ride in the trunk of the car.  When the friend's mom found out, she went completely ballistic, but my dad never understood what the big deal was.  As kids, we used to roam around foreign cities by ourselves, build elaborate ramps for our Big Wheels that entailed careening down massive hills that ended on busy streets, pull all of the couch and bed cushions out into the yard and jump off the roof of the house, and on and on.  I'm not sure if we were lucky to make it to adulthood without serious injury, or if maybe today's hyper-safety-conscious standards for kids are overkill.  Probably a little of both.

Anyway, my brother Josh finished high school at a boarding school in small town in Massachusetts a little ways outside of Boston.  My parents were stationed in El Salvador at the time, and the American school there was really substandard, so it was decided that Josh would finish his secondary education in the States (I was already in college, so it wasn't an issue for me).  We all went up for his graduation -- me, my parents, my brother Sam, and all of our grandparents.  

My parents had rented a Lincoln Town Car for the weekend.  It was massive, and for the most part, getting around Ashburnham (where the school was) wasn't a big deal because it's not a big town and everything was close.  But one night, we all went out for a big celebratory dinner at a nice restaurant in Boston.  And notwithstanding the fact that the Town Car was basically an ocean liner on wheels, there was no way we could fit everyone in the car, even if some people sat on laps.

So Josh and I volunteered to ride in the trunk.

Imagine, if you will, that you are enjoying a leisurely dinner at a pleasant restaurant.  It's a beautiful night, so you've opted for a table outside on the sidewalk, where you can enjoy the starry skies and the fine cuisine and the people-watching.  

During your meal, a big Town Car pulls up to the sidewalk next to you.  Much to your amazement, the trunk pops open and out climb 2 nicely dressed young adults.  They're laughing and chatting, and they are then joined by another group of people (presumably their family -- they all look alike).  You and your fellow diners sit there, slack-jawed at the oddness of the scenario, but the people in question breeze into the restaurant as if it were the most normal thing in the world.  They don't even give you a second glance, or seem remotely fazed or embarrassed by the spectacle they've caused.

That was life growing up in my family.  A little reckless, a lot silly, but never conventional or boring.


  1. Oh, I'm so very sorry to hear about your Grandfather. Thinking of you.

    This is a great story! I love the visual. I've never ridden in the trunk of a car but drove a tractor on more than one occassion as a kid on my Grandparents farm. Then again, I grew up in Texas. Which can be like a foreign country sometimes :)

  2. That's the funniest thing i have read in a long time. Your parents are loons in the best way. The funniest bit is that I imagine it so matter-of-factly....I hope I can be so cool.

  3. I love this story. It's the quirks that make a family interesting, isn't it?

    I'm sorry about the passing of your Grandfather. Condolences to your family.

  4. Carolyn1:02 PM

    What a hoot! Thanks for the laugh.

  5. And that, my dear, is EXACTLY how I'd want my life growing up to be. :-)