August 12, 2008

The way we live now

Filed under: A long way from home,family,misc,This is not a mommy blog — Duchess @ 6:25 pm

The Baby and I spent a couple of days with Lawyer Sis, about two hours’ drive south, before Baby was due to join her beloved cousin, Buggy, Lawyer Sis’s middle child, in LA.

On the first evening we had barbeque on the deck. Lawyer Sis and Brother in Law are on a low carb diet, but they cheerfully provided everything required for anyone who still believed in sampling the major food groups. We all ate on paper plates.

After dinner we made popcorn in the microwave, climbed into the SUV and went to one of the last drive-ins left in the state. I hadn’t been to a drive-in movie for thirty years, and definitely not since they’ve abandoned those speakers on poles in favour of tuning in your radio. It was a lot warmer with the windows rolled up. The movie was dumb, but at a drive-in I guess the movie isn’t really the point.

The next morning Brother in Law put on a suit and went to work, while my sister, in her pajamas, fielded emails and phone calls from the office while entertaining me and coordinating her kids’ arrangements.

Late morning she drove me to the near-by holiday town where our brother bought an investment property a few years ago and has since then been in litigation with the former owners and the realtor. We got back around noon to find the Baby had just got up and was casually eating cereal out of a paper bowl. I had assumed the paper of the previous night was in honour of deck dining, but Baby, who makes herself at home here, knew it was the house norm.

In the afternoon we rode a ferry, bought a hostess gift for the Baby’s upcoming visit, reclaimed my youngest niece from her Greek grandmother, and smuggled my little dog under my sweatshirt into the ferry passenger cabin on the return ride, because it was way too cold to follow regulations and sit with him outside. Fellow travellers who spotted my subterfuge only smiled.

Home again, and very tired, we ate cold cuts off paper plates and cancelled the bowling alley we’d booked, though my energetic sister was keen to introduce me to “cosmic bowling”. I think that’s bowling with music and moving lights, but no doubt I’ll find out eventually.

Instead we turned on the Olympics, and as I watched the first American tele I have seen in many years, I was struck by the prescription drug ads. We have nothing like that in the UK and I wondered how British GPs would respond to the repeated suggestion “ask your doctor”. I was quite taken with the drug that stops you needing the loo when you’re on an outing and thought even Her Majesty could use that one (I once heard that royal protocol dictates she has to be within a hundred yards of one at all times). Alas the side effects, which apparently they are required to mention (they start speaking very fast at that point), make it sound not really worth it: among others, dry mouth, headache, stomach cramps, liver damage.

It turned out to be pretty much the same with all the drugs they were recommending. As soon as one looked like it would just fix me up there were threats of heart palpitations, strokes and dizzy spells, not to mention the assaults on my poor liver, already well dosed with red wine. Since they announced that women shouldn’t take the drug for reducing prostates I guess they are required to list all possible contraindications too.

Meanwhile the Lawyer Sis and Buggy’s father exchanged breezy emails about Baby’s travel arrangements.

Now I know it is not polite to make fun of someone who has invited your sixteen year old daughter to be a houseguest for a whole week, but I’m making an exception, not just because his name is St John (pronounced, quite correctly, Sin Jin – and trust one of us to find the only guy this side of Jane Eyre called that), but because he denied his child until the Lawyer Sis slapped a paternity suit on him. (And when I tell you that in divorcing the father of her first child she got him excommunicated for good measure, you probably won’t be messing with her.)

Baby thought St John’s (Sin Jin’s) email about her upcoming visit was very funny:

Our place is an old Spanish house built up in the hills with a great view. It’s hot in Los Angeles and we have palm trees everywhere, so you’ll get to wear sunglasses and a cute dress when we head out to explore Hollywood. Don’t have sunglasses or a cute dress? Save your pennies and we’ll take you shopping. Vicki knows all the best places, whether you like the latest thing or really old grungy stuff. You’ll live like a rock star for a week! Well, maybe like a back-up singer anyway.

The next day we were up early to dodge the Saturday traffic. In the ferry line my sister and my daughter applied their make up. I felt a little underdressed next to them and fumbled in my bag to see if I had remembered the lip coloured, almost invisible, lipstick I sometimes wear. Nope. As usual I had forgotten it.

By the time we got to the airport Baby had all her gels, blushes, lotions and creams packed into a clear plastic bag, her British passport stowed and her American one ready to display for a picture ID and a note of her booking reference for her e ticket. Once again I was impressed with the poise and maturity of a child only just sixteen who travels all by herself so easily across oceans and continents.

We left her in the security line. She was in LA, almost a thousand miles south, long before her aunt and I, fighting Seattle traffic, were home.


  1. I admit I had to read this twice to get the cast of characters straight but I think I got it! How long will you be in the USA?

    Comment by Midlife Slices™ — August 13, 2008 @ 8:18 am

  2. You’re right about the prescription drug commercials. I happily noticed their absence on British TV. The Brits seem a bit more holistic-minded than Yanks, so I wonder if that sort of marketing would be as successful in GB.

    And thanks for that detail about the Queen! I by necessity know the location of every available loo in the valley, so I’m glad to know I have such distinguished company!

    Sounds like Baby has been well-parented!

    Comment by msmeta — August 13, 2008 @ 10:24 am

  3. I love reading your descriptions of everyday life, and the British flavor you give to things. It took me a while to understand “holiday town,” I kept picturing a whole town devoted to one holiday(Christmas Village maybe?) until I realized you meant vacation spot.

    I also applaud you on raising such a self-confident young woman.

    Comment by Liz @ Inventing My Life — August 13, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

  4. Janie: I’m sorry about the complex family relationships. In fact, I have mostly spared you! My poor younger son, the aspiring Actor, was asked at 5 to draw his family tree. His teacher nodded earnestly when she told me how impressed she was as the hodge podge of stick figures emerged (among other things, he was the only child with living great grandparents).

    Ms Meta – I really can’t imagine that kind of marketing even being legal in the UK. Besides, people are just different about doctors and medicine. Sometimes I used to try to get my former mother in law, for instance, to be a bit more pro active in her health care. I would ask, What medication do you take for high blood pressure? And she would answer, Doctor recommended the little yellow ones.

    Liz — I know when I am saying the obviously foreign stuff (like petrol instead of gas) but I hadn’t a clue that holiday town was wrong! It really worries me because I fear I have lost my voice — or that it is some gemichtes pickle (as my grandfather used to say) somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. But by holiday town I guess I meant resort area.

    And thank those of you who did for remarking favourably on my Baby’s upbringing. She does undeniably have nice manners as well as a carefully regulated supply of lip gloss. She often surprises her mother with her poise. Nevertheless she is also capable of sitting like a large lump on a couch for hours, even days, on end, and the only sign of life is when she consumes large quantities of spinach ravioli.

    Uh oh. You don’t honestly think it’s the spinach giving her that energy, do you?

    Comment by Duchess — August 13, 2008 @ 11:36 pm

  5. I know what you mean about losing your voice, I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and didn’t think I had an accent until I went off to college in Chicago and everyone immediately knew where I was from as soon as I opened my mouth. I started losing the accent (not on purpose, it just happened), so that when I went home to visit my family they would laugh and say I sounded like a hick, but when I got back to Chicago my friends would want to hear me talk because to them I still sounded exotic. Now I live in Boston and some of the East Coast has snuck back into my voice, but it’s not the same and sometimes I regret it.

    Comment by Liz @ Inventing My Life — August 14, 2008 @ 8:14 am

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