#47 Paradise And Vacation From Honesty

One year our family had a Christmas adventure staying with friends in Hawaii. The best part was that we had permission to take a longer than usual holiday: Extra days out of school. Nothing makes an eighth grader happier. I had one exam to study for so packed that book with my bathing suit.

We made the long drive to Seattle to catch a Pan Am flight (remember them?) to Honolulu. It was a particularly foggy drive, a condition that did not improve in Seattle that night. I don’t remember where we stayed but we were notified that our flight was cancelled. A lot of very tired people climbed onto busses in Seattle. Many hours after our scheduled departure we boarded a replacement plane in Portland, Oregon.

Unfortunately they hadn’t loaded food onto the new plane. All they had were decks of cards, slippers, cases of champagne and a small supply of peanuts. Adults got the champagne. We got the peanuts.

It was a much longer flight to Hawaii back then. I don’t think it was a jet. It was a big propeller champagne party in the sky. So by the time we landed in Honolulu our friends met us with leis for all of us, and my father and most of the adults stumbled off the plane.

Christmas in Hawaii feels a little strange, like 80 degrees instead of snow and putting a tree in a bucket of sand from the beach. We did the usual things, which were far from usual for us like buying muumuus. My father and brother surfed. We picked up coconuts off the ground, went to the astonishing Punch Bowl, and a luau at a hotel on the beach.

But then I got violently ill and so dehydrated that they took me to the emergency room. Both families sat on long wooden benches in the hall of the waiting area. I was embarrassed about being sick and probably a little about the puce muumuu.  It was the easiest thing to wear every time I had to scram for the loo. My mother was angry about my ruining “her” trip. She didn’t speak to me, she didn’t look at me. My father held me on his lap that night at the hospital since I was so weak.

On 2/10/2012 I posted Straddling The Bumper about my mother leaving me in a Seattle Hospital alone for two weeks. She didn’t even stay for my surgery. And 56 years later we’ve finally figured out that she probably told friends I was away at camp. That night in the emergency room in Hawaii, she was internally fuming.

At the house all the kids had been camping out on the den floor. But the parents gave up their bedroom for me to recuperate, further infuriating my mother. She barely contained her anger toward me in front of others but it was always always there.

It was time to fly home to reality. My reality was the exam for which I had not studied. It would never occur in my life to tell the teacher that I had been sick and I was a wreck about being unprepared. So just moments before class a friend who had studied, quickly hatched a generous plan to get me through the test. In other words cheat.

My friend happened to sit across the aisle from me. It was a true or false exam so we had to go through each question at exactly the same time. She gave hand signals, a fist for false, and her hand flat on her desk for true, or the other way around. Surely others saw this, but no one said a word.

I never confessed. I’d like to think it was because I’d have to reveal the identity of my co-conspirator who was just trying to help a friend.  But the smack of truth was being terrified of my father or ever ever doing anything wrong.

Over fifty years later I still remember most of The Gettysburg Address from the teacher of that class.

I also remember the knuckle headed stunt and how I mastered that exam.


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