Most of us parents raise our kids preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We buy Band-Aids and Neosporin to keep in the car, but hope that most boo boos will be fixed with a kiss. We save for college and hope that they get scholarships.
We try to prepare them for the lives they have and the lives they will have. I began reading to both of mine en utero. I wanted them to have a love of language, to imagine a world outside their own, to be able to understand different lifestyles and cultures. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I suppose I should not have read The Box Car Children to my son.
I’d had a busy morning and had yet to check e-mails. Ignorance really is bliss, so I was blissfully on the phone with my mother, solving the world’s problems, when the blast of a train whistle burst into the conversation. That’s the sound *Man Child’s texts make on my phone. Sometimes I worry that a tornado will hit our house and I’ll be mumbling to myself that I need to find my phone because I’m getting a text from Man Child. Afterwards, Jim Cantore will interview me, with my hair askew, one shoe on my foot, the other in a tree, cat in my arms, rubble at my feet. I’ll be a little distracted, searching for the lost shoe and Spousal Unit, but I’ll answer Jim’s question. “What did it sound like? It sounded JUST like a train coming.”
I ignored Man Child’s plaintive train cry for attention and continued to talk to my mom. It’s up to us to solve the Middle East crisis, after all. He called. When he calls, the sound of a Klaxon horn reverberates through the air. AyOOGah. “Mom, he’s texting AND calling. That usually means he’s broken down somewhere.” I forgot that Bessie, the 1949 Packard, was indeed broken down, but this time safely in our carport. I hung up with my mom and called him back.
“Are you okay?” I was worried, not a lot, but a little.
“Oh. Yeah. I’m just bored.”
“Dude, I was on the phone with Nanna.” Millenials. Don’t they know that a text and a call is a Code Orange?
“Oh. Sorry. Hey, did you get my e-mail?” A text, a call AND an e-mail? Sound the alarms!
I tripped over the dog, who had rubbed in something REALLY dead, gagged, rubbed my stubbed toe and limped to my computer. What did I forget to do? Pay his rent? Pay tuition? Pay a hit man to target the aviation weather instructor who is telling his students that climate change is a myth? We won’t kill him, just put him on a melting ice floe with a hungry polar bear. I checked my in box and this is – verbatim – what I read:
“i cant sleep. im shopping for housing. in a nice area (ISh, but it literally is surrounded by two churches) there is a derelict mobile home for sale…. 30,000 gets the lot and trailer. Trash the trailer. this leaves us a level place the length of a train car prepped for power, sewer, and cable…for the price of buying a 600 square foot house in the same neighboorhood, we can buy the lot, buy the 1000 sq.ft. train, ship the train, and renovate the interior to be livable. actually less, especially if we do it ourselves. we also would have someone paying us rent as well. boom.”
The poor punctuation and bad spelling come from his dad, but I’m afraid the rest is ALL me. I did this. I created this. I cannot blame Spousal Unit for this one. Me. No frat house for him, no seedy apartment with twelve belching, farting, zit-covered dudes scratching various body parts that may or may not be infected. Nope. A train car. He wants to live in a train car.
Then again, think about it. Who doesn’t? Didn’t we ALL imagine our parents mysteriously gone and us living in a box car on the outskirts of town? We would forage, find our way. Be brave and depend upon one another.
“It’s not a terrible idea,” I told him, which took him by surprise. I looked out at poor, unloved, unfinished Daisy. Oh Lord, he is just like me. I’m so sorry future Daughter-In-Law, wherever you are. “But you need to do a LOT of homework. Check codes, call the guy who owns the train car, see what has to be done to make it livable. Make sure the neighborhood is safe. Two churches close by only means people don’t have to walk as far to the funerals after a shooting.”
After all, parents need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
*Now that he is 21, I suppose he is my Man Child as opposed to Boy Child.