My father has always seen the world as a place brimming with opportunity. Always looking for the next big break, he reads books like “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “Think and Grow Rich”.
He is a man in touch with his dreams.
“Do you know what we could do?” A lot of conversations with my father start like that: Do you know what we could do?
Why, we could make and sell pine cone wreaths door to door for the holidays! We could unionize the trailer park babysitters! We could sell everything we own and move to the Caribbean…
It is the Year 2000.
“Hey, Dad!” I call them, every now and then, just to test their memories; and it is as it has always been: they are sharper than I am.
“Right,” he says. I can hear him winking. “You should come ‘round the house,” he says, “just so we can see what you look like.”
I laugh. “What’s going on?”
“Here,” he says, his voice already trailing off, “Speak to your mother.”
Too late. “Mumma! It’s our first-born – “ He cuts himself off, speaks into the phone again. “You didn’t win the lottery, did you?”
“No,” I say. “I just –“
“Mumma! Phone!” There’s a good-natured, muffled bit of shouting and then the sound of my mother wrestling the phone from my father.
She says what she always says: “Why, Miss Pearl! So nice to hear from you!”
And I say what I always say: “Well, hello there, Mother!”
My mother is smiling into the phone. “Has he told you yet?”
“Your father he.”
“Oh,” she says, laughing in that what-will-he-think-of-next way she has, “We’re moving to the Caribbean.”
I shake my head side to side. Surely something large has lodged itself in my head. “The where now?”
“You remember when I bought your father sailing lessons last year?”
“Sort of,” I mumble. The truth is that I don’t. Those two are always doing weird things. Like the time I showed up at their house only to find them, leather-clad and in the midst of climbing on to their new Harley…
“Well, you know your father. He took right to it. Must’ve been all those years of crop-dusting, you know – “
“He was the drummer in an all-lesbian band, too, but that doesn't make him –“
“Pearl!” my mother scolds. “Nevertheless,” she continues, “I guess there are a lot of similarities between flying an airplane and driving one of those – Paul!” she shouts off stage, “What are we buying again?”
“A catamaran, Mumma!”
“Yes,” she says into the phone, “a catamaran. And you can come down and see us. Won’t that be fun?”
My head swims. Raised in a trailer, in home-made clothes with home-cut hair, where cereal that came in boxes was seen as extravagant and where there was never, as far as my mother could see, a time when you would need more than three pairs of pants, the idea of them having the money to move to --
Ah. Suddenly I see a little more clearly.
My mother is still talking. “… sell everything at a garage sale and that should pretty much take care of it.”
“So when are you leaving?”
“Just under two months now,” she says.
There is a sound in the background, perhaps of a tuba and an accordion falling down a flight of stairs. He's turned up the polka music for my enjoyment.
“Pearl!” my father is shouting, off-phone, so to speak. “Remember these guys? Remember the Slovenian All Stars?”
“Oh, for land’s sake,” my mother mutters. “Pearl, I’ve got a couple of boxes for you, so be sure to get me on your calendar in the next few weeks.”
She hangs up, no doubt to discover my father running speaker wire into the bathroom or something on that order.
Princesses of the New Age
2 hours ago