I was so tired that snowy, cold November night All I wanted to do was eat an unhealthy (read tasty), frozen something from my little freezer, add a bottle of Bud, some Better Cheddars (of course this is a plug for Better Cheddars…HAVE YOU NOT EATEN BETTER CHEDDARS?) and then collapse in front of my big screen TV.
I had worked an extra shift at The Book Shop where I was the assistant manager.
Don’t be impressed by the title. It only means I get an extra 5% discount on the books I buy and 20% commission on the books I sell.
And…I get to fill in for those employees who fail to show up for work when there is a snow storm. For instance…like tonight.
My name is Tobey Larson and I’m 24 years old.
Tobey Larson is not my real name, of course. I’m not going to tell you that. One does have to be very careful when sharing odd experiences.
Look what happened to all those people who reported seeing flying saucers…
I don’t remember…do you?
It was a dark and stormy night. (See first paragraph, Chapter 2)
I had arrived home about 9:30 and greeted most lovingly by my devoted cat, Emma.
“How are you Tobey? Are you well? Are you going to feed me rather soon?”
Of course, she doesn’t really talk like that…I’m not crazy.
She is much more polite than that.
“Yes, yes. Hang on a second. Just let me get my coat and boots off.”
I lived very close to The Book Shop. I did so because I have no car and have chosen to try to do without one for a while
To say I was trying to “go off the grid” would not be true but I was trying to do…something like it…but less drastic.
So now I watch very little TV. Maybe the news on CNN…if I’m feeling brave…and of course who can pass on “The Housewives of New York City” for heaven’s sake.
I go on-line about an hour a day but try to avoid it completely on the week ends.
But much to my surprise, after doing this for about five months I felt absolutely no different…which I thought odd.
I expected to feel more “Zen-like”. Peaceful. Centered. But did not. And “Housewives” was wrapping up their season.
Maybe I needed to come up with a ‘new plan’.
I graduated from the University of Minnesota this past Spring with a degree in English. Considering that I had no desire to teach, it wasn’t very useful…but people were impressed for some reason…”Wow, an English Major…wow…” and then they could not find anything else to say…but nonetheless I had the damn degree.
I had lost contact with all school friends as we had all gone our separate ways, mostly to different states and of course promising to keep in touch. We had not.
I had no boyfriend and no prospects. sigh.
Both parents were dead. I had one sibling, sister Karlie, who was two years older than me. She was delightfully married to George and very busy with 1-year old toddler, Annie and a little mutt named Cantor.
I lived in a luxury (read that safe) apartment in a luxury (also read safe) suburb because even though it was very tragic and sad that my parents had both died young…they had left a really sick amount of money to be shared equally between me and sister, Karlie…but not until we BOTH turned 30.
So, in the meantime we had also been given a “nice” sum of money that lawyers doled out to each of us every month…to see us through to the big payoff.
Don’t hate me.
My parents, Iris and Rain, or “The Parents” as they later became known, loved the wealthy, carefree lifestyle that only piles of money can buy. Apparently, “The Great Gatsby” had made a big impression on both of them when they were young and…well…impressionable.
Lucky for them, many dazzling but solid investments made by Rain’s father and grandfather, assured The Parents they would never, ever have to work…but must always give generously to worthy charities…which they did quite happily.
They loved me and my sister very much. There was never any doubt about that and of course, we adored them.
However, they just didn’t like the idea of ‘parenting’…and unfortunately did not quite realize that until about 5 hours after Karlie was born.
Grandma Sylvia moved in before the next sunset and when I accidentally (go figure) appeared two years later…well…no worries.
Grandma Sylvia drank red wine during the week and whiskey sours on the weekends. She was also fond of those little sweet-smelling cigars and Maria Callas.
She was beyond brilliant, spoke French, Spanish and Chinese and most importantly loved Karlie and me to the moon and back. She took pretty good care of The Parents as well.
Sadly, she died when I was thirteen.
The Parents could not find one other adult relative they could trust or entice with large sums of money to become a “foster” parent to us, so they rashly decided “what the hell, let’s give it a go.”
“What could go wrong?” they told us confidently.
The Parents’ first attempt at ‘parenting’ was to volunteer at my 7th grade “Welcome Back” school dance which incidentally was my first foray into “socializing” on a grander scale than play dates with neighborhood kids. Some memories are best not shared.
Two weeks before the dance, The Parents descended unannounced upon a clueless Principal Nelson (such a nice, normal man).
He had previously been informed when Karlie began 7th grade that the parents of Karlie and Tobey Carlson had been tragically killed on their third attempt to climb Mt. Everest.
The Parents had bravely tried to rescue their loyal Sherpa who had fallen into a deep crevasse. All three bodies were never recovered…so Karlie and younger sister Tobey were now being lovingly raised by a grandma named Sylvia…so you just call her if anything comes up.
This compellingly sad tale had been created by our highly imaginative grandma after a couple of glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Karlie and I thought it was a sound plan and we all agreed that there was no reason whatsoever to mention this to The Parents…ever.
But now…The Parents told the puzzled Mr. Nelson, that “Yes! Of course we’re Tobey’s parents! Who else would we be?”
And they added for good measure, “We’re Karlie’s parents too!” They figured this further claim would seal the deal.
A hesitant and slightly confused Principal Nelson said he “would see if they would be needed.”
It should have ended there but The Parents were now on a mission and made sure of being ‘needed’ by donating $100,000 to renovating the teachers’ lounge. They were more than ‘needed’…they were revered.
Imagine riding a roller coaster with no safety bar to hold you in place…that was my life for the next 6 years…
Those six years were almost epic and I say ‘almost’ since no deaths or serious injuries could be directly connected to any participation by The Parents in any planned school activities.
It was, of course, no surprise that all of Karlie and my friends loved Iris and Rain.
Many evenings there were classmates eating pizza at our huge kitchen table that neither Karlie nor I knew…but they somehow knew our parents and had been invited over for “Pizza Night”.
We didn’t actually have a “Pizza Night”.
Shall I mention that in eighth grade Iris volunteered to be a confirmation teacher at our very progressive Lutheran church? Sure, why not.
After the second week, kids who didn’t even go to our church wanted to join her class…and I’m talking kids from all religions.
God had never been so much fun.
No easy way to say this…you know they die.
Three days after I graduated from high school, The Parents crashed their brand-new, chili pepper red Porsche into a large oak tree on Blake Road…four short blocks from home…
They had been at the club and perhaps celebrating or maybe even lamenting the end of this parenting phase of their life. It was said to have been “a spectacular crash”…the Porsche going well over 100 mph.
Karlie and I were completely broken-hearted. Losing grandma Sylvia had been devastating but she had been ‘older’. The Parents were both only 50.
They had left strict instructions regarding any ‘death celebrations’…no funeral, no memorial service…nothing. Karlie and I picked up a large urn from Woodrow Funeral Home with both of their ashes inside. They wanted to be cremated together. Of course.
And then we all went home.
In less than two days, The Parents were back home, perched on the mantle over the fireplace in the living room. Together…forever.
Karlie and I spent over two weeks in that room, mostly crying but laughing sometimes too. We ate there and we slept there and we watched every single home movie The Parents had ever taken…over and over and over again.
We had only had them as ‘real parents’ for six short years…we were not quite ready to let them go…just yet.