Today is Family Day, a holiday Monday for most folks here in British Columbia and therefore the perfect time to share the chapter presently titled “Parent Trap Threatens Flight” on this Momday Motivations.
But first, a brief explanation for the newbies. I’m writing a memoir about the miraculous changes I underwent during the 10 years spent soldiering alongside my Type A mother in her successful Vancouver Asian antiques and collectibles shop. Miraculous? I think so. In 1983 I went in as a reluctant, dysfunctional Summer sales assistant who knew nothing about Asian antiques and cared for them even less, only to emerge in 1993 as a penny-pinching bookkeeper, confident buyer and rather capable salesperson. Toss in a boss blessed with multiple personas, two murdered customers, an introduction to the chap who’d become my husband, multiple quirky clients, and six overseas buying trips and well, it’s promising to be a fun read.
Parent Trap Threatens Flight
In 1985, Francine generously agreed to give me two days off so I could chaperone my three year-old twin nieces to San Francisco for a reunion with their parents who’d been at a conference in Colorado. The five of us would fly back to Vancouver together four days later.
The girls had never flown before. I love to fly so by the time we got to the airport for our morning flight the three of us were super pumped. I was the quintessential most-fun-ever auntie. Everything was in hand; just a quick preflight zip through US Customs and we’d head for the boarding lounge.
There were at least 35 people ahead of us at Customs but I wasn’t concerned. Ms. A and Ms. C were far too busy swaddling their Cabbage Patch Kids on the tiled floor to notice.
What Written Permission?
The middle-aged, weary-looking gentleman called us up to his booth and I slid my passport along the counter. We transitioned easily through the usual questions concerning the destination and purpose of the trip. As he reached out for the stamp to grant us automatic entry my boarding pass suddenly fluttered onto the counter.
“It says here that you’re flying to San Jose…”
“Yes, their father has arranged for us to take a limo to San Francisco.”
“Are you married to their father?”
My hearty chuckle only caused his eyes to narrow alarmingly.
“How do I know you have permission to take them out of the country?”
I had nothing but the verbal plea from my sister; it had never occurred to me to ask for more. Ms. C chose that moment to pull on my sweater and innocently ask if we were on the plane yet. Bless her, she’d no clue.
“Ma’am, I gonna need confirmation from the parents.”
That was impossible. I had no way to reach my traveling sister; this was years before the advent of cell phones, but clearly someone had to help or we’d miss our flight. I glanced over at the angels who were now happily braiding their dolls’ hair. How could I tell them that this special holiday was suddenly cancelled? I began to babble.
Call In Francine As Backup
“Call my boss! She’s their grandmother and she’ll tell confirm everything.”
The agent stared at me in utter disbelief and then dialed, only to abruptly hang up.
“Line’s busy, Ma’am. You are denied entry …”
I leapt in before he could dare finish the unthinkable, blathering on about how Mom was the only person at work and she’d simply left the phone off the hook to go and get coffee. The fellow, perhaps eager to shut me up, grudgingly agreed to make one more attempt.
Francine thankfully picked up on the first ring. I held my breath as the US Customs officer launched into official questioning mode. Before long, a grin creased his face. Minutes ticked by; he was clearly being treated to numerous examples of my wondrous abilities in both the auntie and colleague department.
“Yes, Mrs. Robinson, I will certainly make every effort to visit your shop, thank you.” He cleared his throat and pulled himself together. “Now I must ask one more question.”
Hearing it, I confidently waved for the girls to join me. We were about to be sprung.
My darling mother who’d known me for all of my 29 years failed to answer the one basic question every mother knows …
But nevermind, she has other talents… here she is two years ago at 93 alongside one of her tulip creations … And yes, she’s feeling much better after her slide, thank you.
Enough of “Parent Trap Threatens Flight.” I’m curious about you. Can you believe how lax the rules regarding traveling with kids were back in the day? How do you react under pressure? Better yet, are you confident your mother could answer this most basic question about her children …? If you’d care to share, I’d love to hear.