|Susan is certain that all is lost when she has to leave her suburban comfort and friends to live with her aunt in the backwoods. But what she finds is far more important than what she left behind.|
"And so we've arranged for you to go up Aunt Judy's house until I get back," said my mom. "You can go to school there and you'll get to be with your cousins. It'll be like being in a big family, like having the three sisters you've always wanted."
Whoa. I have always told my mom and dad that I wished I had a brother or sister or two, but it's kind of like saying that you'd like to be tall when you're short or you'd like to live in France rather than Ash Grove. You say it knowing it will never happen, more wistful than wishful. But that was nothing compared with the assumption that I would just pack up and go to the hinterlands of northern Wisconsin for a good part of seventh grade.
“I have a better idea,” I said. “I could stay with Gina."
"We thought about that," my dad said, "but it’s really asking a lot of Gina’s parents to take in another child. We don't think that would be right.”
“But I’m like family at Gina’s house. And they’re Italian, they won’t notice one more kid around.”
My mom shook her head. “We don’t know how long this will be. You can’t just stay there indefinitely.”
"What about a nanny? The Nelsons got one for that week they went to Tahiti and left their kids at home. You could even ask them who they got. I know Julia really liked her."
"We couldn't leave you that long with a perfect stranger," my mom said as she gave me a little hug.
I stiffened so she removed her arm from around my shoulders. Their plan simply would not do, so it was up to me to convince them that my ideas were better. But one thing I knew about my parents was logic worked much better than tantrums, and sweetness often was more successful than whining. I took a deep breath and put an arm around each of their shoulders.
"You know,” I said, “I wouldn't mind staying with a stranger. Really. I’ve done it before when I’ve gone to camp. That’s like staying with a hundred strangers."
"You'll survive up north, and you might even have fun," my mom said.
I took my arms away. “I might survive, but I definitely won’t flourish and you are always so happy when I thrive. There is no way I could thrive up north.”
“We thought you’d be excited,” said my dad.
“Well, you thought wrong. You must have a Plan B, you know, in case I wasn’t so excited about Plan A. What is your Plan B?”
My dad shook his head. “We don’t really have a Plan B. Just Plan A, which we thought you’d love.”
“I don’t, so let’s think of Plan B together.”
“Honey,” my mom said, “it’s all settled already. I’ve arranged things with your school and with Judy’s school and with Judy.”
She tried hugging me again, but this time I didn’t want her to touch me. I stood up and faced them. I was trembling with anger. Forget my strategy not to get angry or throw a tantrum.
“I can’t go. I’ll miss everything.”
My parents looked at each other as if they were deciding who was going to deal with me.
“I won’t go. I’ll run away—Gina’s family will take me in.” My voice was shrill.
Now my parents both looked at me though, surprisingly, they didn’t seem angry, just sad.
“Susan,” my dad said, “this is not something we’re doing because we want to. We just don’t see any other solution.”
“And it won’t be for that long,” my mom said, but then her eyes got all watery and she hurried out of the room.
For a minute neither my dad nor I said anything. The trembling had gone away, but not the anger. I was angrier than I had ever been and it felt as if I were choking. I could barely speak. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to be alone,” I said.