Come Back, You Summer Revelers

Tell me, how can it be that my husband wants to go back to the cottage this weekend and take the motorboat out of the water.  As usual, as is my role, I protest.  “No, no, no, it can’t be time to take the boat out.  Summer is hardly over.”

It was only a month ago that we had sixteen people at the cottage, some bedding down on air mattresses or couches, others wondering if they could sleep in the boat, rocking on the water through the night.  And a few weeks after that we had loads of folks again, and in exasperation of emptying the dishwasher another time from meals of fresh buttery corn and juicy burgers and failed popsicles – I declared – “When will this end?”

And then it did.

Come back, you summer revellers.  I don’t want to put the floaties away and stack the outside chairs and tie up the canoe against the rising water of next spring.

Let’s squeeze our eyes shut from the smoky fire and then squint into the night sky at the mid- summer comets.  Let me get mildly upset that someone’s used my beach towel in their impatience to dry off from a swim so that they could slice the last peach in the box, before dribbling it with cream.

I want to not be able to decide between reading my book on the dock (yes, that silly book), and chatting with my visiting kids and their gregarious friends, or trying again to make those popsicles.

Even more so I want to take another solo early morning kayak ride on the lapping lake, watching in awe as the osprey flies over.

And so I wish now, that with each swim I had stayed in the lake even longer, floating on my back, adrift in water that was ever so, never so warm.

Ding Ding – You Have A Text

Texting has been a part of the way I communicate for so long I can’t remember doing without it.  The urban dictionary’s sassy and irreverent definition of text is “text messaging is the act of sending a typed message via cell phone; a very efficient and addicting way of communication,”  but their alternate definition is, “The dumbest thing in the world, why would you spend 15 minutes writing something on your phone, when you can call them up and tell them in a minute. F – ing waste of time and money.

I have to say, I agree with both definitions.  But if it is a waste of time, and I could talk instead of text, why did I glum onto to text and never let go?  Because with our boys it was their preferred way of communication – fast, efficient and when they were younger – one of them hanging with his snowboarding crew at Whistler, or the other during his first months at university, I imagined they could hear the little ding ding of a text and swiftly text me back.  I do think they wanted to communicate with home, and in the new world of texting that they were part of, they could whip off a message to me, just to let me know that everything was cool, and none of the guys around them with bent heads and tapping thumbs knew it was mom they were updating, it could just as easily be a girlfriend or someone getting directions to the next party they were off to.

My first feeble attempts to text back when Hudson, our youngest son, first started university away from home had him sending me a mocking text, Mom, lernt to text and spel. My keyboard was tiny, three letters to a key, and my thumbs inexperienced.  Plus I had autocorrect and my messages were constantly being autocorrected to autowrong. When my three youngest let me into their texting world they used abbreviations with me, but after too many texts saying, Hudson, I don’t know what rofl (rolling on the floor laughing), or Cole, I’m stymied. Did you really mean to type PMS?  And him explaining, Mom it’s P.M.S. meaning Pretty Much the Same.   I thought I was catching on to some of the lingo and at the end of a sentence to our youngest daughter, Lily, wrote Peace.  She had to text back, Mom, Peace is like Peace Out, when the conversation is over.  It DOESN’T mean its the other person’s turn to talk. 

I once texted Lily a funny story about her dad and I finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning when we didn’t have to play the parent role in a house empty of kids, and she sent me back this – “Oh Mom MSOOMN”.  I was finally onto the Urban Dictionary and looked that one up –  “An acronym for Milk Shooting Out Of My Nose. An alternative for ROFL or LMAO (laughing my ass off).” Wow, MSOOMN – I’ll use that one, I thought.  But the kids stopped using text abbreviations with their old school mom.  They spell it all out.  I spell it all out.

Our oldest, Zoё, would rather talk then text, maybe because her hands are busy creating art, and she can tuck a phone under her chin.  Cole is a fast efficient texter, and almost always responds to my text queries.  Hudson, like Zoё, is text stingy, but I can get his attention, and if asked a direct question he would sooner text me back then listen to my voice mail message.  In fact, he’s let me in on a youthful secret.  Don’t leave voice mails, Mom.  Nobody does that any more. If I see you’ve called.  I’ll call back.  But if you leave a voice mail, then I know what you want and I’m less curious.  I think I get it – it’s a lesson in technological manipulation.

During our years of texting I have been guilty of many infractions, as defined by my new resource – the often helpful, but occasionally annoying Urban Dictionary.  Cole, Lily and I might be text addicts, but not textaholics, though according to Urban Dictionary definitions during our text volleyball we have of course, engaged in text tiffins (arguing via text messaging), and even text tirades, which has of course, caused text anxiety defined in the Urban dictionary as- “when you are texting someone and they don’t answer creating anxiety of why they aren’t texting, are they mad, are they being arrested, or what is taking them so damn long?

I have been entertained by lively text-versation, have sent countless text-minders (“Grampa’s birthday tomorrow – call him, he doesn’t text”), and on days when I was busy with my own work, or trying to avoid it, I’ve sent all my family different text missives, having learned on my own to only ever ask one question at a time to receive an answer, and then waited for the little ding dings indicating one of them have answered me.  I have sent far too many text pas, usually involving sending a text to the last person that texted me, instead of the intended recipient – yikes!  Hudson has frustrated us all with his many textascapes  – an escape from all texting or other text based communications. Commonly occurring due to losing ones phone, and realizing shortly there after just how relaxing the break from technology is. 

    I’ve witnessed my kid’s blossoming text romances right from the text mackaginga message sent with the purpose of ‘macking’ or ‘hitting’ on a person of desire. Flirtatious in nature, usually cryptic or ambiguous in hope for a response. And then seen them go on to engage in back and forth text flirting.  And let me tell you, any text sex better have taken place behind closed doors.  If I have butt into their text business it was to warn them against ever being so pathetic as to commit the text relationship dump.

Myself, I have tried not to be a text stalking mother, or to suffer text blindnessA person afflicted with text blindness is so absorbed by walking and texting that they have lost the ability to see oncoming danger. I have caused textafusion with unchecked typos.   I know I have used the text stretch or even the text embargo to try to illicit a response (usually to no avail – it was probably in my first enthusiastic days of texting and some quiet from my cell phone was what they wanted)

On the other side of that I have been the recipient of the text that said simply, “Mom, I’m lonelyOr the more practical, “How much milk do you use to scramble two eggs? I’ve gotten a photo with a text that said, Does this raw beef look edible or like it’s gone bad?”  And of course the, “Please help, I’ve got 58 cents in the bank and my phone bill is overdue.”  There has also been the late night text, “Mom, you awake?” before a long conversation in the dark living room. Best of all I have felt the thrill of the text surge on a quiet day at home, missing all the chaos and noise of a house full of our family, when I’ve heard the repeated ding-ding of a new text, and then – oh joy – another and another.

Helicoptering and Bubble Wrapping

There has been so much criticism for my generation’s parenting skills – for our hovering and our helicoptering and bubble wrapping our kids. Certainly I have done enough of that.  But somehow my four kids have managed to zigzag through the helicopter blades and pop the bubbles in the wrap with a loud smack.

I thought about my hovering while trying to sleep on my youngest daughter’s couch in Montreal, listening to the chaotic street sounds outside of the stifling hot apartment we’d rented for her first year of university.  When friends had asked how long I intended to stay with Lily to get her set up I squelched the numbers a bit –a little over a week, I’d say, rather then the truth – twelve days.

Lily’s brother, Hudson, had accompanied us to Montreal on our red eye flight from home. After trying to get back his lost sleep in the rental car in the Ikea parking lot, while I was studying other mother/daughter sets shopping together, and Lily was studying the Swedish twenty-nine dollar desks and twelve dollar lamps, he uncomplainingly helped load the goods up two flights of stairs to her tiny apartment and put the Aspvik and the Leirvik together with only two cold showers to stop his Alberta blood from boiling in the late August Quebec heat.   Having passed up the Ikea mattresses out in the suburbs, mattresses now eluded us in downtown Montreal, and while our search continued we slept on pumped up camping mattresses from Canadian Tire.

On the third day after we had arrived my husband, Will, flew in for the September long weekend, promising to whisk me away from my restless sleep near the floor in the stifling apartment to an air-conditioned hotel room.  Will and I wanted to explore the French-ness of Montreal, kick back and enjoy a tête-à-tête and some joie de vivre over aperitifs on the café patios of Rue Crescent, giving Lily an to opportunity to rendezvous on St. Dennis with its je ne sais quoi appeal, while she had her frère, Hudson, to watch out for her.

While Will and I sipped our icy drinks during what was supposed to be a pleasant, if slightly  melancholy soiree, in our carefully chosen Rue Crescent café, he said that he didn’t know if he could do it, he wasn’t sure he could actually leave Lily in Montreal. “I know she lived without us in Rome at sixteen,” he said, his cowboy boot drumming nervously against the patio floor, “but she still had that host family keeping track of her.”

That comment was the coup de grace to our joie de vivre.  We returned to the sanctuary of our cool hotel room away from the mounting noises of the crowded street.  Lily and Hudson phoned us as we entered the lobby, wandering if they could come up for a late movie and to raid the mini-bar.  Will, so relieved to have them there with us, especially his eighteen-year-old baby, who cuddled with him, and called him Daddy when she asked if he could order them up a pepperoni pizza, let them find a space on our crowded bed and choose the flick.

During those few days together we drove to Montreal’s Little Italy where Lily stocked up on olive oil and bought a basil plant. We ate more pepperoni pizza in the Latin quarter and toured most of Old Montreal by attempting to find parking there.

Lily proclaimed that she loved Montreal.  Word, Hudson said in agreement, using one of the kid’s expressions from an era before my time that I am fond of – word, I told them. While Lily’s huge adventure and lifestyle change was to start university in Montreal, Hudson’s upcoming adventure was an immediate plan to move from our home in Calgary to Vancouver, where he’d share a house with his band members.  He and I were leaning against the rental car in another no-parking zone, while Lily and Will went up to the apartment to take measurements for a piece of wood to hold the slide-up window locked on the inside from bad guys on the fire escape, when Hudson got the call he’d been waiting for. His crew had found a place.  It was far from the action of downtown Vancouver and was going to cost more then they hoped (and likely more than they would discover they could afford), but despite that he was elated.  That sounds great, I said.  Wow.

Wow, indeed.  Screw all that talk of hovering and helicopter-ing and bubble wrap.  My kids were leaving me.  Soon, for the first time since the summer of 1984 it would just be Will and I at home.  French women link arms when they walk in the streets of Montreal.  I wondered if Lily would mind if I carried her?

(Final few installments of Text Me, Love Mom coming soon.)

Embrace Technology Because I’m Too Young for a Paper Shredder

I’m not old – not some little granny – well, I’m a grandma, but a young grandma – just fifty-one.  That’s just eight years older that Julia Roberts who just finished eating, praying and loving, and it’s ten years younger than Merly Streep.  And I’ll be any age that lets me sing my heart out to Pierce Brosnan ( age fifty-six)) on a mountain top in Greece.

But I breezed into my local office supply store to update my printer because it ‘thinks’ way too long before it will respond to my tapping the print button, and in no time I felt like I was born in ‘the early days’ as my grandmother used to say.   I had to direct myself to listen really, very carefully to the twelve year old sales clerk who was so patiently telling me why it wasn’t the printer that was at fault, but that the printer was too fast for my much older tower computer’s USB port and what I needed was not a printer, but to replace the ancient computer with a small lap top which I could buy for not much more than the high tech printer I wanted (but didn’t need) and if I wanted the teeny tiny laptop that would fit in my purse, all I needed was a exterior hard drive which was the size of a deck of cards or I could even (be patient, I could have this confused in my addled fifty-one-year-old mind, as my  concentrating was further impaired when the baby clerk mentioned something about the system his wife used – did twelve-year-olds have wives – was he possibly twenty-four?) …yeah, I could even sign onto a hard drive warehouse thingy where they (were they robots) could keep my hard drive contents on a shelf somewhere far away.

We have a same age friend who tells my husband and I that we have to “embrace technology”,  and believe me I want to.  I do.  Or I did. But my heart was beating so, so fast in my efforts to embrace what the hec this clerk was talking about and I remembered that I needed a new  fade and water resistant uni-ball bright coloured felt pen to replace the old one that one of my adult kids took off with the last time they were home, so I let the nice ‘man’ help someone else while I went to catch my breath one aisle over.  What caught my eye next was a paper shredder – I refuse to buy a paper shredder.  Now that is a testament to one’s age.  Ask anyone over sixty – they all own paper shredders.  Probably even Merly Streep.

Lost Down Under

At times I think about those families that have nine or ten kids – or that television family with nineteen –and I wonder about the mothers.  Some people would surmise that they would worry less, because you just can’t worry that much, but worry, like love, multiplies, it doesn’t max out.  There are mornings when I wake up and take the tally of my four.  I’ll settle my mind on each of them and decide where they are on my crazy worry meter.

I think mothers of ten kids do a similar tally – it just keeps them in bed longer in the morning or awake further into the night.  Our second child, Cole, has been on my worry list often enough, but moved up to the numero uno spot when he decided to travel alone, circling half way around the globe to New Zealand.

When Cole first left home at age eighteen, to have his bohemian snowboarder experience working as a lift operator in Whistler, B.C., he told us that staff meetings were held during which the kids were, according to my son, reminded to eat fruit or take vitamin C.  It was a true comfort that his employers were being mommy substitutes and taking some responsibility for the hundreds of young people, like Cole, working for the hill.  The resort also had a web site that I discovered  that listed rules and regulations for the resort staff as well as upcoming staff meetings.  When Cole first proposed his six month trip to New Zealand I wanted just such a web site.  Not quite twenty-year-olds traveling alone in New Zealand, it would say, must abide by these safety rules, and while on the job (of being a young traveler) should remember to eat their kiwi. Of course, in this fantasy of mine staff housing would be provided and someone would be in charge of my son’s experience.

Late one rainy afternoon, just as dusk was settling, Cole called home all the way from Down Under amazed that he had cell service because, he said, he was in the middle of nowhere trying to hitch a ride.  I could hear the echo of his heavy footsteps along the road.  Feeling the great distance between us with a heavy heart,  I begged him to please stop hitching, telling him  I’d lend him money to cover the bus fare.  He told me again that EVERYONE hitch hikes there.  It wasn’t like at home, he said.  There just weren’t buses.  He was chatty, which was unusual because despite his talkative nature in person, like so many guys, he just isn’t a phone talker, so I felt he was lonely for me, or family, or just company the way I was that dreary day.  I could hear the wind in his cell phone as he told me about the ridiculous distance he was trying to cover in an attempt to get to a job interview at a resort miles and miles and miles away.  I don’t know if it was dark where he was, but I imagined a gray sky as he asked, in a voice rising above the wind, how everyone was?  He started to tell me about the group of travelers he’d lived with and how New Zealanders eat pie, every type of pie; meat pie, fruit pie, vegetable pie, and right then we lost the connection.  Cole, I called into the phone, Cole… and I imagined him doing the same, Mom?  Mom?

I quickly called two friends to go for a therapeutic walk, but neither was home.  I called my husband and our daughter, Lily, but got both of their voicemail.  I tried hard to think of all the amazing things Cole had told me about New Zealand, how beautiful it was, how the people are as friendly as everyone has always said they were, how the place was full of Canadians like him traveling and boarding and eating pie.  I tried to imagine one of those pie eating, stupendously friendly people picking him up and fulfilling his need to chat.  But all I could think of, of course, was Cole standing on the highway having lost the connection to home.

That made me think of the time we lost him when he was just a little boy.  It had been a spring night, and not dreary at all, but rather clear and full of the promise of summer.  When I told six-year-old Cole that he could go meet his friends a few houses up the street on his bike, I was under the impression that it was far earlier then it actually was.

Suddenly the light coming into the house shifted from a reflection of dusk to nightfall, and I was alarmed to realize it was past eight and Cole hadn’t come in.  After shouting his name from the stoop and calling our neighbor’s homes, I became frantic screaming at my other three to help me, and then racing to the car and circling the nearest blocks, before phoning my sister and asking her if she thought I should call the police.

I dialed 911.  The operator wanted me to describe his clothing.  Panic was changing to hysteria and the 911 operator began to treat me like a woman on the edge.  She told me to stay in the house until the police arrived and in a strained voice I refused.  “I have to find my kid,” I said.  “I have to go find him.”   Rushing outside to meet the patrol cars I was shocked to see the street filled with people and cars and bicycles.  Without being asked the neighbors had organized a search.  People were knocking on doors, motorists and bicyclists were being sent to further points.  The description of a six-year-old blond boy in a jean jacket was being given to all who passed by.

The officers turned on their flashlights and sent me back into the house, “Look everywhere, places you’d think he’d never go, in every nook and cranny.”  The streets were ringing with Cole’s name.  I never stopped yelling it inside the house.

I don’t know what world he was in.  Why he was oblivious to all this? Obeying directions I took one more look in his room and found him, curled up tight, hidden under a pillow and a blanket, in a far, dark corner beneath his bed.  My insides stopped rattling, tears flowed down my cheeks, I reached for his sleeping body and tried to imagine how many people were now outside hunting for him.

Aside from deep gratitude I felt incredibly  embarrassed for several days, sticking close to home and assuming that despite people’s assurances otherwise, they really were all talking about that woman with four kids, and her husband always gone, and how she couldn’t even keep track of them.  Cole and I had a few important talks and more rules were laid down.

I vowed to keep better track of them, to pay more attention to what was going on around me.  I believe I  decided that for my own mental health what I needed to do was take them all into bed with me, eight-year old Zoë could bring her books and Hudson, just four then, could amuse us with his belly laugh giggles.  At two-years-old Lily’s favourite place was our bed anyway. The important idea was to keep my kids close for as long as I possibly could.  Their dad could bring us food and drink, like a protective bird bringing food to the nest.  So how did it happen, not so much later that I was in Calgary, same house, newer bed, and my second kid, the one who had caused me to want to keep them within hands reach, had left the bed, room, house, city, country and gone all the way down under to call me and lose our connection from a stretch of highway in New Zealand?  Where, oh where, did that put him on my worry meter?

Parenting via Email or Swear Not By the Moon

When my sixteen year-old-daughter, Lily, was away for five months in Rome, living with a host madre, padre,and sorella (sister), I – her real mom, was forced to learn parenting via email.  Not an easy task.  It was an exercise in long distance mothering without smothering.  In the beginning our emails went something like this:

Feb. 1st: Rules

Come on, Lily. I know you’ll have no problems going along with their rules – remember Rome is a big city, with way more foreigners in it than Calgary.  (You can’t trust those pesky foreigners).

I loved hearing your impressions of Italy when you called – the shutters, the vespas, the big ancient door key.  Have you had real Italian gelato yet?

My friends are taking me out for lunch and I think the reason is ‘since I must miss you’.  Which of course, I do, but I will be just fine about it.  You are on a great adventure.  Catch up on your sleep.

Love, Mom

And in turn there were days when Lily wrote me emails like this:

Feb. 5  subject: wanted to hide away

Mom, I can feel myself getting terribly sad just thinking of how to write this email.  I’ll try not to elaborate too much – this morning my host mom took me to my school to give them some documents and I had to try to speak Italian with a couple of my new teachers. By the time we got back to this home I was feeling so homesick for my real home because it’s so scary having to pretty much start my life all over like this.

By this afternoon I was wishing that I could just hide away until this starts being fun, but obviously it doesn’t work like that.

Love, Lily

As time passed the tone of the almost daily emails were hard to predict and responses challenged my  creativity:

March 1st subject: so uncomfortable

Mama – tonight my host mother asked me how things are going with Julia, my host sister. Talk about a touchy subject. Though she doesn’t talk too much, I don’t think there’s a huge problem between Julia and I. But she really doesn’t want to go out with me and discover Rome.  We are sweet to each other in passing (how was your day – fine. Good night – sweet dreams. Could you grab me an umbrella – sure.) But honestly she just wants to stay home or hang at her friends.  What am I supposed to do about that?

Your bambina, Lily


March 1st subject: mothers hey?

Lily, I guess I see your point.  But I also know you are mature enough to see that sometimes politeness will need to come before independence, so that you do not seem to snub them by setting off on your own continually.

It’s March! You’ve been a Canadian in Italy for more than a month.  You can figure out the right amount of time to ‘hang’ with Julia.  I know you can.

Xoxo Mom

My favorites were the ones that gave me a giggle and rolled along like this:

April 5:  Subject: Just Clumping Around

Mom, I’m so tired of seeing American girls walking around this city in these beautifully put together outfits when I’m just clumping my way around with my messy hair and dirty shoes and lumpy hoodie, looking for that clean creative look every girl but me has. Then sometimes I just stop dead in my tracks and wonder if it even matters, if I’d be happier just to go home and climb in bed and fill my already cluttered head with more teachings of Nietzsche.

Love, Lily

April 3 subject: what of Italian boys

Why don’t you get Julia to recommend a salon and let them trim your hair so that it is even and blunt – that was one of the best cuts you ever had – you know like in the photo with Santa I keep on my dresser.  Now that you aren’t nine – it would look dramatic on you.

Be brave.  Comb your hair.  Throw your shoulders back and go right up to that boy you like and ask him a question.  Try out your Italian.  See if he answers.

love you, Mom

And I tended to dread the ones near the end that made my palms sweat:

June 13th Subject : I need to vent

Mom, I miss you being my mom sooooooo much. It is so difficult with my host mom sometimes.  Okay, so there was this stupid immersion program get together in the basement of a community hall – the idea was for myself, and the other four girls who were placed in Rome, to talk about our impressions of the program in front of this big group of Roman kids who are about to do immersion programs all over the world.

So we all said something and then they called everyone’s host family’s up and asked the families if they had anything to say. My host mom told everyone- all these Italian kids, all their parents, all the other host families, and all the volunteers, about how it was so hard for her and Julia to get used to having me in the house because Julia had just got back from her immersion in Brazil.  She made it sound like I was homesick and distraught all the time, but with the help of the wonderful volunteers they managed to overcome all that inconvenience I caused. I was just standing there in awe rubbing my forehead as she went on and on and on, making everyone think I was some kind of disaster, using me as a precautionary tale to all the embarking young students. After all that, when we were leaving she told me she thinks I might have I gotten fatter in the time I’ve been here.

Well, I’ll be gone soon. Lily

June 13th subject: oh Lily baby

If ever there were a time to stay calm and try your hardest to get along – this would be it.

You’ll be back here so soon. I have to think that you are with good people there, but five months has been a long time for all of you, especially with the language barrier.  Just a few more weeks and hopefully you can leave with fond memories, and you’ll have succeeded at what so many kids your age would never attempt.

Love you Sweetie Pie, Mom

ps. Honey – who knows what was really going on?

Until finally we arrived at this:

June 24 Subject: stiff upper lip

Dear Lily,

It is one of those Junes where it rains every day – so it’s green and lush like spring, not hot summer.  I’m dusting and vacuuming your room and washing your sheets and there is an air here of anticipation of your return.  Love you so much my Lily.  Love you to the moon.  Mom

June 24 subject: not the moon

No, swear not by the moon!  The inconstant moon that monthly changes with it’s circular orb!

Hung out with friends last night, but tonight I need to be alone. I’m going to go watch the sunset by piazza venezia. I have enough things to do now because I’m doing my last times.

Tonight will be my last night in Rome.  I’m realizing a lot of truths about my time here. I want to be mad at Rome because being mad at it is emotionally easier than being heartbroken to leave it, which in all actuality, I am.

After dinner I’ll walk around Trastevere and go up to GIanicolo to look over the city. It’s better to say goodbye to all of it at once.

Ciao, Mama, Lily

What the Little Brat Was Talking About

The sweet young women handling the interview for the Cultural Immersion organization asked our not-quite sixteen-year-old daughter, Lily, what sort of rules we have in our household.  This woman sitting in our living room with my husband, Lily and I, was here as part of the in-depth study of the prospective applicant, trying to determine if Lily had what it took to live with a host family abroad, immersed in a new language and culture for five months.

Back during the crazy hey-day of Lily’s older sister’s high school musical theatre involvement, when our home first became the place to congregate on a Friday or Saturday night (maybe Thursday and Sunday, too) there had been a time close to the opening night of Joseph and the Amazing Techno-Colored Dream Coat when I had felt the other kids were taking advantage of the largess of my willing to host them.  Better put, our place was turning into party central. One morning I woke up to evidence of underage drinking, along with the sight of two kids, one a girl with an extremely strict mother and the other a guy, who had crashed for the night in the same bed, albeit fully clothed.  Rules for our house were immediately posted on the basement door for the duration of the play.  Of all the rules that currently governed our home ie. inform me before you borrow my car, phone when you’re out super late,  we eat pizza on Friday ….Lily decided to reach back a few years, to one I’d posted on that basement door during the musical and tell the nice lady, “I can’t think of any. ..  Oh, I know a rule we have.  Boys and girls that aren’t related aren’t allowed to sleep together.”

After the crimson left our faces and we stuttered out some explanation for what the little brat was talking about, the interviewer indicated that it was a wrap.  The interview process was a safe guard against families that were really wacked out, she said, and ours was,  of course, fine.

“Hang on,” I wanted to shout, “this kid is too young, fussy, protected, small…” whatever they wanted to hear to stop the whole ridiculous plot.

Prego. They found Lily to be a well-rounded candidate and decided she could go to a little Italian village (little sounding safe).  Lily begged them to let her go to a city, urban girl that she was, and they complied, congratulating her on her being accepted to spend five months in Rome in an Italian language and cultural immersion program.   For five whole months she was to live in one of the loveliest areas, of the loveliest cities in the world – Trastevere –one of the last pockets of medieval Rome, in the home of a family who we had only exchanged a few brief emails with, people referred to by the organization involved as her host mom and dad.  Will and I had been replaced.