Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A is for An ADVENTURE Beginning with Flyers

As we boarded the bus that early June morning in 1987, Cathy couldn’t wait to tell us about the flyers. She broached the subject by saying something like, “I can’t believe that you gave Jay permission to have a party at your house while we’re in Europe.”

What? A party at our house? No way! We’ve given him strict orders NOT to have a party of any kind while we’re gone!

Cathy then informed us of the flyers. I wish I had a copy. She said that they were plastered all over Pensacola, especially on the junior college campus and the university campus.  You see, Jay had a rock band, and if anyone heard that they were playing at our house, they magically showed up. Thus began another trip to Europe with high school students.

During our years as sponsors and then as administrators of the trips with a wonderful company called Travel Selections, we had so many adventures – some lots of fun and some not so good. We traveled with students on and off for about twelve years, and I must admit that most of the trips were just fine, with my husband, the other sponsors, and the kids learning lots about Europe. What about me? Most of the time I was trying to make sure that the kids were listening to our guides or staying awake during tours or remaining in their rooms after “lights out” and not being the “ugly American.”

During our years of sponsoring, we had lots of students who were very special, ones whom we thoroughly enjoyed, but none were so special as Cathy Parsons. I had taught her brother several years earlier, and she was in my English class the year that she went to Europe with us. I’m sure that the trip was a graduation present.

Actually, I need to say that Cathy was very special to me even before we left for Europe and she made her Jay announcement. She was a delight in class, so funny but so determined to please her teacher. One example of her sense of humor almost made me burst into tears. She walked into class one day a couple of months before we were to leave for Europe and announced that she had decided not to go with us. Say it isn’t so, Cathy!

A couple of minutes later, she shouted, “April fool’s!” Yes, exactly twenty-eight years ago today, she got me with the most disturbing April fool’s joke I ever had played on me. But I got even  . . . that year when we could have the school resource officer “arrest” someone, I pulled one on her. Off she went in handcuffs. I honestly can’t remember where students were taken, but it was a funny joke, at least for the one ordering the arrest. Well, she got me back twenty-eight years later. Today, she posted a photo of me that she took while we were traveling. This must be one of the ugliest photos of me ever . . . not only the bent nose, but also the awful hair. Touché, dear Cathy!

Somewhere before we arrived in Switzerland while we were traveling in 1987, we stopped for gas, and because the driver didn’t replace the gas cap, the diesel fuel leaked into the luggage compartment. And whose luggage should be right at the place to receive most of the gas? That’s right . . . Cathy’s. Poor Cathy. Almost everything in her suitcase was ruined. Because of the accident, Frank dubbed her Miss Dee-zel (diesel), and she still has that name for us. She was very much fragrant until we went with her to shop for new clothes in Switzerland. Other students hung out with their teen-aged friends, but not Cathy. She was with us for the whole trip, and we loved having her hang out with us. The three of us were BFFs before the term was even coined!

But what about the concert in our home while we were gone? On our last day in England, the phone rang in our hotel room. I answered, and the conversation went something like this: “Hi, Mom! Is Dad there?” I knew in my tender mother’s heart that something was wrong with my boy.

I could hear the conversation from Frank’s side. It consisted mainly of one-syllable words and grunts. When he hung up, he told me that Jay had confessed to having a gathering at our house. What he was concerned about was that a screen door got damaged while the kids were there. Frank told him that he would have to pay for it. What he didn’t tell him was that the door was already damaged. Paying for a door was slight punishment for going against our rules.

We found out after we got home that there had been at least 500 young people at our house that night, not all at one time, though. Our insurance agent lived around the corner from us, and he walked the streets all night for fear that someone would fall into the pool and sue us out the ying yang. We knew the number of kids who were at our house that night because Jay collected a dollar a head, and he deposited about $500 the next day. For years after that night, we’d meet folks who said, when they found out who we were, “I think I went to a party at your house one night. It was great!” I’ll just bet it was.

Whenever I think of that party, I think of Cathy because she’s the one who told us about it, though we didn’t believe it at the time. And thinking of her always brings a smile to my face. I smile about the party, too. My boy surely did do some wild things during his short twenty-four years! Good memories!

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