FAXES FROM HOME
(WITH THOUGHTS ON TRAVELING IN FRANCE WITH TEENAGERS)
Nick wasn’t too keen on going on this trip. He was 14 and even though he liked the idea of seeing London and Paris for the first time, the thought of traipsing around France and looking at some of the châteaux in the Loire Valley (Chinon, Chenonceau, Chambord, Ussé, Villandry) was not his idea of a good time. Even Rachel who thought the castles were “cool,” would invariably ask when we could go back to the hotel so she could go swimming.
Here’s the thing parents forget: Just because you liked a place and have been dying to go back and show it to your kids doesn’t mean they will 1) like it and 2) appreciate it.
Lynn and I had visited most of these castles back in 1986. I thought the kids would think it was fun. It wasn’t. I hate to say it but I think the highlight of the trip for Nick and Rachel would be to see if there were any faxes waiting for us at the next hotel. My father, you see had this thing about staying in touch with us when we were traveling. (This was obviously before we traveled with cell phones that would work abroad.)
Inevitably as we checked into our next hotel on the trip, Rachel and Nick would be asking the front desk staff to check for a fax. Imagine their disappointment if nothing was there. Usually, though a fax was waiting. Little did my Dad know that:
1. The hotels would nearly always charge us for the fax.
2. Isn’t the idea of going away to get away from whatever is happening back at home?
I will admit though, some of the faxes were pretty amusing.
July 16, 2003
1. It’s pretty hot here. We went to your house tonight and watered the plants and flowers. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
2. I have been going to Marvel every night after work hoping I would see you there. When you didn’t show up, I ordered two twists with the chocolate stuff on them and ate both mine and yours. (Marvel is an ice cream place down by the beach; this obviously was for Rachel’s benefit since I doubt he had ice cream every night; but maybe he did.)
3. When I was driving to the train station this morning there was a police car outside the Chase Manhattan bank. Someone took some money from an armored car. (I don’t have an account at this bank, but thanks for letting me know that old-fashioned American robbery is still happening while we’re away.)
July 21, 2003
1. There has been some sort of dispute at Heathrow. British Airways workers are upset by an effort to introduce what sounds like a time clock for people to “punch” in as they arrive and leave. Some flights have been disrupted. Maybe you’ll have to spend another month there. (Very funny, Dad.)
2. Do you think you’ll be hungry when you get back? We could have chicken or macaroni waiting. (We’ve been eating non-stop for 14 days, why would we possibly want more food when we get home? On second thought, could we get a rain check for a meal next month?)
July 23, 2003
1. We mailed your bills. (Next time could you pay them, too? )
2. Charlie Matthau’s mother died. (I had once pitched a screenplay to him, which he even read, but did Dad think I was friendly enough to send a condolence card? Maybe Charlie would appreciate getting a card from France?)
3. I saw Ralph naked today. (This is a long story but Ralph is their car mechanic and Dad and Ralph happen to frequent the same gym.)
Once we got through seeing all the châteaux, we drove to Normandy and somehow the beaches and World War II stuff, at least for Nick, made the trip more interesting. Rachel was still looking forward to the faxes but her priorities had changed. If Grandpa was having ice cream every night, she would, too. Eventually, I lost count of how much coupe à glace she consumed.