Anatomy of a Storyteller: Across the Sea

            There is not much to say about the trip over to Europe except that Glen was terribly bored.  In 1962 there were no cruise ships.  There were ships that still crossed the Atlantic because airplanes were still exotic and scary.  But those ships were not designed with children in mind, and at eight-years-old there was not much for Glen to do.

            “Maybe after supper tonight you can have some ice cream.  Would you like that?”  The woman was trying to be nice despite her plastic smile.  Glen made a face and the woman looked at Glen’s mother.

            “He doesn’t like ice cream.  He never has,” Glen’s mother explained what was a well known fact in the family.  Glen could eat coffee or chocolate ice cream if he had to, but that was the limit.

            “How?”  the poor woman was stymied.  “Why, I have never heard of a child who did not like ice cream.”

            You have now so get over it, Glen thought, or something very close to that, but he kept the thought to himself.  He was only eight.

            When they arrived in Gibraltar, all of their passports got the first of many stamps to follow, and they picked up their Hillman wagon, a little European four cylinder that Glen imagined they might have to get out and push if they ever got to a real mountain.  Mom drove.  Dad rode the bus with all of their trunks and everything that felt like home.  Mom was aware of this enough to stop at a roadside stand.  She saw a sign that said Coca-cola.

            This was the end of August, and with the tourist season winding down, as it turned out they only had one Coke.  Brother Tom got that.  Glen got to try a brand new product by the company.  It was an orange drink called Fanta, never seen (yet) across the ocean.  To be honest, this was one time Glen did not mind getting the leftovers.

            After a few nights in the Hotel Mirimar, the family moved into temporary quarters in a farm apartment in a sleepy little fishing village just up the road from the city.  The village was Torremolinos, and it was sleepy.  Glen and Brother Tom were quickly bored when one parent was off shopping or linked up with the local consulate to try and find a more permanent residence in time for the school year and the other parent was busy packing and unpacking.  Sister Carol was not yet five, and the boys were not sure exactly what she did with her time.  The boys at least had each other, and for the most part, and for most of their growing years, that was okay.

            They climbed the hill out back.  They killed spiders.  They looked at the tile-lined pool which was not more than four feet deep at the deep end.  The farm girl who had to be sixteen and liked to parade around in a bikini – not that the boys being eight and ten got much out of the view – she would swim in the pool.  The boys just looked because the water was so dirty.

            Fortunately, before the boredom became acute, the family moved into the city to a nice residential neighborhood on a back street, just across the street from a Catholic church and school.  The school was fairly typical of the day.  It had two rooms, one for boys and one for girls.  The church bell went off every morning at six.  Ding-ding-ding-dingo / ding-ding-ding-dingo / dinga-dinga-dinga-dinga / ding ding ding.  You had to be there.

            Glen and brother Tom tried the American school in town first; but there all the Americans (along with other English speakers) were lumped in a single classroom taught by a would-be artist.  If Glen’s fourth grade was supposed to be colors and pastoral scenes and art history, it would have been fine.  As it was, he ended up with brother Tom in the one room schoolhouse across the street and home schooled on the rest.

            Don Antonio, the teacher, made an agreement with dad.  He took the boys and dad helped the man with his English.  I’m not sure how the English lessons went, but the boys got taught math, history (of Spain), geography (Spanish), and the like.  In a given week there were between eight and twelve separate categories, and grades were weekly with 10 out of 10 being the top grade.

            Dad wanted to encourage his boys.  He and Mom talked it over and they decided that any week where either boy brought home all tens, they would be taken out for ice cream as a treat.  Glen balked.

            “So if Tom gets all tens, he gets ice cream, and if I get all tens, he gets ice cream.  But I don’t like ice cream.”

            “Well, we will do something else for you,” his mother said, though they never decided or specified what that something else might be.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s