First step: getting it past Mom.
“I don’t know why you have to go all the way to Mexico for spring break.”
“Mom, Padre Island is part of Texas; it’s nowhere near Mexico.” I wasn’t totally sure if that was true, but I’d consult a map later and find out.
“No, Valerie, I think you will find that most people there speak Spanish.”
“Well, so does Lupita Collazo who works at the dry cleaner, and she was born in Des Moines. And by the way, where is Daddy?” I had counted on my father being home for this conversation since I was sure he’d let me go.
“I sent your father to get the car washed. And furthermore, Door County is very nice. Why not go there?”
“Door County? You mean the place we go nearly every other weekend? Plus, it’s like five min—” I stopped myself from continuing since the five-minutes-away argument would not further my cause. “And besides,” I hurried on, “Kit’s grandparents don’t have a condo in Door County, and they want—no, they need—us there.”
“Valerie, I don’t even know what a condo is.”
“Of course you do; it’s an apartment in a building, and all the owners share—”
“Oh, don’t go trying to blind me with real estate nonsense. Next thing you know, you’ll be calling yourself a Realtor.”
“Well, that’s the last thing I want.” I stormed out of the kitchen and went to my bedroom, where I began pulling pink curlers the size of Coke cans out of my hair.
But Jean Caldwell was not done. “The Ozarks are nice; Mrs. Bramwell told me her daughter is going there,” she continued, following me even though I had slammed my door hard.
“Really?” I pulled a curler loose and flung it onto my bed. “Cynthia Bramwell is going with her church group, The Pioneers for Christian something or other—”
“All of whom speak English, by the way.” She was sitting behind me on my bed and had picked up a copy of People magazine that displayed Rod Stewart on the cover. I snatched it away and threw it over the bed. Much as I loved Rod, he had nothing to add to this conversation.
“When’s daddy getting back, anyway?” I turned to face my dressing-table mirror. “How long does it take to get the car washed?”
“Oh, it takes a long time.” In the mirror, I could see her face had taken on the jubilant look of a kidnapper who was confident the police would never discover her lair, and the victim she was holding hostage was days from discovery. “I told him to get the deluxe package; he’ll be hours.”
“Ok, Mom. How about this? Why don’t you call Kit’s mom?”
“I did already. Surprisingly, she didn’t know anything about this little jaunt you and your pal have dreamed up.”
“But she doesn’t care, right?”
“Well, she’d have no problem with her daughter joining the Black Panthers. Doesn’t mean I have to allow it.”
That was probably true, so I went in a different direction. “How about calling Kit’s grandparents? After all, they’re the ones we’d be staying—”
“I did. I spoke to a young woman who unfortunately only converses in Spanish, so as you can imagine, we didn’t get very far—”
“Okay.” I vigorously nodded. “That makes sense. It must be their maid, or the housekeeper. See, Mom? They have a housekeeper—”
“That doesn’t impress me, Valerie.”
“Okay, how about this? Her grandparents are old. In their sixties, probably. Do you really think they’re going to let anything bad happen to their granddaughter?”
“Well, if they are old, as you so charmingly put it, Kit could probably outsmart them—”
“And do what? Mom, this is 1979. What terrible thing do you think is going to happen?”
She gave a wicked smile, and I knew her mind was whirling with any number of dastardly deeds Kit and I were surely going to fall prey to. But then, like a sign from God Himself—who, let’s face it, must have invented spring break for a reason—we heard the front door open. And seconds later, my father stood at the bedroom door.
“Daddy!” I yelled, as if he’d just come home from the wars and I hadn’t seen him for a decade.
“You’re home early,” my mother said, not hiding her disappointment.
“Yes. The line was too long. I’ll go back tomorrow. And the car, by the way, does not need cleaning.”
“Well, your daughter wants to go to Mexico for spring break with that Kit friend of hers. I told her no, but she—”
“Sounds fun,” my darling, dearest, smartest, winner of The Father of the Decade award said. And there was more. “Jean, didn’t you go to Mexico once? Without your parents? When you weren’t much older than Valerie?”