It was Sunday afternoon, May 23rd, and I called the boys into the living room for a little family meeting. Since they were unsure as to the reason I had summoned them, they came into the room asking questions such as, ‘What’s up?’ or ‘What do you want us for?’
In order to keep from answering the same questions repeatedly, I merely told them to be patient and they’d soon find out. I waited until everyone was seated and quiet, before I began. “I know most of you were disappointed when I explained you couldn’t sign up for summer sports this year. I also know you were upset because I wouldn’t give you a specific reason why either. At the time, all I would tell you was that I had something else planned, but wouldn’t go into details about it. I did try to make it a little easier for you to swallow by letting you know these plans would be very special and would more than make up for the sports you were going to miss out on, but I realized some of you were still not mollified by my explanation. Well, now I’m finally ready to let you know what my summer plans for us are.”
The room was suddenly filled with many excited faces, as they awaited my announcement. Some of them were murmuring comments to each other, speculating about what I might have to say. Although most of them guessed it had something to do with our vacation plans, I doubted any of them would guess what I was about to tell them. Since I was also curious as to what their fertile imaginations would come up with, seeing as sometimes their speculations gave me inspiration for future plans, I gave them a few seconds to get this out of their system and listened to what they were saying. When their discussions began to die out, I continued.
“Nicky and Jordan will be arriving next weekend and we’ll be leaving on our vacation starting June 5th. Your nephews will be staying with us until their parents join us later, because I wanted them to be part of most of the things I have planned.” Although all of the boys seemed pleased to hear this, Ricky, Cole and Graham were ecstatic. They didn’t realize they’d be spending that much time with the two little ones. However, their attention returned to me, as I continued my explanation.
“This year, our vacation will be in two parts. First, we’re going to fly to Arizona. I’ve already rented a van, which we’ll pick up at the airport, so we can do some sightseeing as we drive around the state. I’m not saying how long we’re going to be gone, as we’re going to play that by ear.” This wasn’t exactly true, since I did have a very definite timetable set, but I didn’t want to give away all of my secrets just yet. “When we finally leave there, we will come back home, but only for a short time.”
Suddenly the boys were all buzzing again. I heard comments such as, ‘Did he say that was going to be part of the joint vacation, because he didn’t talk about the others meeting us there?’ or ‘Why are we coming back home in between and why only for a short while?’ I was not only pleased to see they had been listening to what I said, but also thrilled they were still somewhat befuddled. When I felt the moment was right, I continued.
“On July 24th, we will be leaving on a second trip, which will also double as our joint vacation with your older brothers and sisters. At that time, we’ll fly to London and spend two weeks touring England with the entire family, before they return home. Nicky and Jordan will be going back with their parents when they leave, but the rest of us will be spending an additional two weeks there, on our own. I have other things I’d like to do while we’re there, but I knew the working members of the family couldn’t afford to take that much time off from their jobs. Any questions?”
Any questions? It was like a town meeting where everyone in attendance was against a proposed project and tried to make their points at the same time. All the boys were speaking at once and I had to get them quiet, before I could point to them one at a time, so I could hear what they wanted to say. They asked things like: ‘What are we going to do?’ ‘What are we going to be seeing?’ ‘What should we pack?’ and ‘Should we take long pants too, or just shorts?’
In addition to those, Graham wanted to know why Jordan and Nicky weren’t going to stay with us the whole time. “There are two reasons for that,” I told him. “First, it’s basically easier for them to go at that time and I didn’t want to take them away from their parents for the entire summer. Second, and most important, the things I have planned wouldn’t be appropriate or as enjoyable for someone as young as they are.”
Although this answered the question, it started a whole new round of speculation about what things I might have planned that would fit my most recent description. Once those and their other questions were out of the way, I continued.
“I spoke with Brandon and Jay’s parents a couple of months ago and they have agreed to let both boys go with us. As you all know, Brandon will be living here by then anyway, but I didn’t want to invite one and not the other. They are just like sons to me too, and I really wanted them to be part of this trip. I think their parents felt the same way. Even though it means they won’t be seeing much of their sons this summer, they were happy to let them join us.”
Trey was waving his arms in the air, to get my attention. It was his way of letting me know he had another question. I signaled him that he had the floor and he began to speak. “Are you going to take Carlos, too?”
“Yeah,” Pat chimed in. “I’ll bet he’s never been on a vacation or seen many other places.” Honestly, I felt bad that I’d never even thought about him joining us, at least not since he went back to live with his mother.
“You’re correct and I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t considered that option. I’ll call his mother as soon as we get done here and ask if she would agree to let him become part of our plans. If she does, I’ll put a special rush request in to get a passport for him. Hopefully, it will arrive by the time we’re ready to leave the country. I pray we don’t have a problem getting him one, because of their residence status in this country.
“Trey, I’m pleased you suggested it, though,” I added, which caused Trey to sit up a little straighter from the recognition. “I’m impressed you were able to think about Carlos first, before immersing yourself in thoughts about what you will be doing or how much fun you’re going to have.” Trey just shrugged his shoulders, like it was no big deal, but he had shown a great deal of thoughtfulness and consideration by thinking of Carlos. His brothers made sure to thank him for bringing up Carlos too.
Just before we finished our discussion, I told them we would be doing some shopping just as soon as my grandsons arrived. It was so I’d be able to purchase additional appropriate items for all of them, things they’d need on the trip. I’d also be buying some new luggage to use, since we didn’t have a sufficient quantity of pieces at our disposal. Since there would be sixteen boys on the trip, including my grandsons and not counting me, we would also need sixteen suitcases. I felt Jordan and Nicky could share one piece, since their clothing was smaller and they probably wouldn’t be taking as many additional items as the others.
I made an additional plan too, by assigning the boys to the luggage in pairs. Even though each boy would still have his own suitcase, I wanted each person to pack half of their things in their own suitcase and half in their partner’s. That way, if a suitcase did get lost on the flight, the boys would still have part of their clothing until the missing item was located. I would split my clothing with Nicky and Jordan’s, so we wouldn’t need an additional piece.
The suitcases would be identical, except for color, but even some of those would match as well, since they only make luggage in so many different tints. The boys thought splitting their things between two separate suitcases was a pretty clever idea, but it was born purely out of necessity. You see, I had lost luggage on trips in the past and knew the consequences, so I didn’t want to ruin our vacation due to someone else’s error. Hopefully, this will help us avoid such a pitfall.
“By the way, these trips were also part of the reason I bought all of those hand-held games and personal CD players for you last Christmas,” I added, regaining their attention. “They are intended to make the trip more enjoyable and the time to pass more quickly. If you aren’t sure about that, just ask Sammy and Andrew. They already know how useful those items can be.” Sammy and Andrew added their words of agreement, which only strengthened my point.
“I will take the games with me, in my carry-on bag, with a full supply of replacement batteries. You will be responsible for your own CD player and whatever else you think you might want to bring along.” The boys were satisfied with everything that was said and discussed, and the meeting soon broke up, so they could start planning what they needed or wanted to take with them.
A couple of days later, while Sammy and Andrew were at the house of one of their new friends, I held another impromptu meeting with the remaining boys. It was so I could lay down some ground rules for the trip, without making Sammy and Andrew feel badly. Once I had them all together, I briefed them about my plan.
“Whenever we stop at a hotel or motel, I will rent four rooms,” I announced. “I will have Sammy, Andrew, Jordan and Nicky stay in the room with me, because I don’t want them to become involved in your sexual escapades. Sammy and Andrew have given no signals they are ready for such things yet, and Jordan and Nicky are far too young to be involved.”
Many of the boys immediately, and vociferously, objected to this proposal, because they wanted to be able to spend time with the younger boys at night too. This led to a lengthy discussion, after which we reached a compromise. On the trip, only one room would be set aside for any sexual activity on any given night. We would establish a rotating schedule for the various boys to use that room and they could do whatever they wanted to at night, as long as all parties were agreeable. That way, the boys in the other two rooms could invite one or more of the younger boys to join them for the evening, and I wouldn’t have to worry about them getting roped into joining or viewing something they weren’t ready for. Everyone seemed satisfied with the proposal.
After that was settled, I asked all of the boys to notify me as to whom their primary partner was going to be during the trip, although most of those pairs were obvious even before we started this discussion. I was somewhat surprised and pleased at Pat’s choice, since he informed me he wanted to team up with Carlos. Once that had been established, I wrote down a quick schedule, rotating the pairs who would be using the ‘sex room.’ I did this by labeling the room with a pair of numbers, from one to six, so it wouldn’t look as if I was showing any favoritism. After that was completed, each pair pulled a number out of a hat, which they would use to match up to the schedule. This way, they would know in advance what night(s) they would be allowed to use it, so they could make plans, if that was what they desired. This meant they would get to use the room on average of once every three days, which I felt wouldn’t put any undue stress on their raging hormones. I also thought it was the perfect solution to the problem, especially since it had been their idea to begin with.
The next week was a buzz of activity, as the boys began their preparations. Brandon and Jay were over a great deal of the time too and I remembered to check to make sure they each had personal CD players, which they did. I advised them to bring them with them, along with whatever CD’s they wanted to listen to on the trip.
I finally got in contact with Carlos’ mom and she was thrilled that we wanted to include her son in our plans. I corrected her and told her he was ‘our son,’ meaning hers AND mine, which caused her to giggle. After that, I assured her Carlos would always be included in my family’s plans and explained the boys also wanted him to join us, as much as I did.
I then explained in detail how long we’d be gone and a rough idea about what we’d be doing. The length away did bother her a little, but she felt Carlos would benefit from it and didn’t want to rob him of such a tremendous opportunity. I thanked her for trusting me with her son, to which she replied, “Senior Currie, you forget. Carlos is OUR son,” before she giggled again. I apologized for my short-term memory loss, which only caused her to laugh yet again.
Since everything had been agreed to, I made plans to go visit them in two days, so Carlos’ mother could sign papers for the passport and we could get that process started before we left. She told me she wouldn’t tell Carlos anything about the vacation, so I could tell him when I visited. I thanked her for that small favor and confided that I couldn’t wait to see his reaction when I announced our plans. I also warned her I’d bring him back with me at that time, if that was all right with her, so I wouldn’t have to make another trip. She said it would be fine, for which I was grateful.
When the day came, I drove to Philadelphia alone, since I figured the boys would get more than enough travel time in over the upcoming weeks. When Carlos saw me, he wanted to know why I was there and wondered if there was some sort of problem. When I told him the reason for my visit, he went absolutely crazy. I’ve never seen a kid so excited before, and I’d seen many excited children, both at home and at school. He jumped, screamed and ran around the apartment, before stopping to hug his mother and completely lifting her off of the floor in the process. Once he had her in the air, he swung her around in a circle, like he was playing with a rather large stuffed animal, before setting her down again, much to her relief.
Carlos then raced over to thank me, by grasping me around the chest in such a powerful hug that I was finding it somewhat difficult to breathe. He may be short in stature, but he has quite a grip. When I finally got him to release his hold, I looked down and noticed he was crying. When I asked him if anything was wrong, thinking he might have hurt himself in his exuberant celebration, he merely informed me he was just so happy that he couldn’t hold back the tears. Now, I was even happier than before that the boys had been wiser than I and remembered to ask about bringing him along.
It took Carlos a little time to get his things together, even though his mother had managed to get most of his things ready without him noticing it. After many hugs and numerous kisses from his mother, she finally let go of him long enough for us to leave. She followed us down to the van and waved until we drove out of sight, although we both felt she might have continued waving even longer than that.
After I returned home with our guest, the boys greeted him enthusiastically. After a few hours of raucous reunion and getting reacquainted, things settled down a bit. It seemed to stay that way until my grandsons showed up, which set everyone off again.
As soon as I could get them to calm down again, we set out to do our shopping and pick up the additional things I felt we might need. The store management and security were experiencing their worst nightmare with so many boys running about and picking up things, although those items either ended up in one of our shopping carts or were returned to where the boys had picked them up. They needn’t have worried, but I certainly understood why they would, without knowing my boys as I did.
When we returned home from our shopping spree, I had the boys place everything we’d picked up in their individual pieces of luggage, to make sure nothing was left behind accidentally. After reminding them to leave out what they planned to wear on the day we left, I also asked them to pack whatever other items they planned to take with them, so everything would be set. Once they’d finished, I had them place all of the suitcases in the living room, until we were ready to leave.
The final few days before our vacation were a blur of activity and my biggest job was keeping everyone’s feet on the ground, while their heads stayed in the clouds. Steve volunteered to drive us to the airport, since we were leaving out of Pittsburgh, and I happily accepted. His offer took a big load off my mind, since I really didn’t want to leave my new van in airport parking for that long a duration. Who knows what it might have looked like by the time we returned, if it were still there at all.
The morning of our departure, the boys were all up and getting ready before my alarm went off, thanks to our human alarm clocks. I prepared us all a rather large and substantial breakfast, so none of us would become hungry right away, because I figured it might be some time before our next meal. After the boys wolfed it down, I tied the last of the luggage to the roof of the van, counted noses and we were all set to leave. The boys eagerly slid into their seats, after some minor bickering over who was going to sit where, and then I drove down to the Shay residence to pick up Steve. Within minutes, we were off to the airport.
For the majority of the boys, this was going to be their first time on an airplane. They were excited, yet a bundle of nerves at the same time. Sammy and Andrew, who were now my flying experts, were doing their best to tell the others what to expect, in an attempt to lessen their concerns. It was cute to watch the two youngest, outside of my grandsons, trying to calm and inform their older brothers. They were very patient, answered all the questions put to them and became my unofficial little flight attendants for this trip.
By the time we boarded our jet, the boys were all prepared for what awaited them. I had taken a seat on the aisle, so I could watch all of the others, as our plane taxied and got into position for take-off. When the pilots revved-up the engines, in preparation for lift-off, I noticed some of the boys tensing up. I could see their bodies stiffen, the muscles in their arms and necks bulge and their knuckles grow white as they gripped the armrests. Sammy and Andrew did their best to convince them this was normal, but it didn’t placate all of them. Some still remained rigidly attached to various parts of their seats, as we lurched down the runway.
The liftoff was smooth and everyone relaxed, once we were in the air. That was, until we hit our first bout with turbulence. Experiencing the sudden feeling that the plane was dropping from the sky, even though it didn’t last for very long, made most of them more than a little jittery. They later agreed that it gave them an impression similar to what they’d experience during the first downward lunge on a roller coaster ride. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the sensation where you feel as if your heart is lodged in your throat and you’ve left your stomach behind. Well, that occurrence set a few of the boys on edge for a bit, and they only started to relax a little, after it was explained to them what had happened and why. They weren’t thrilled about it, since they also knew it might occur again at any time, however, they now understood what had taken place and accepted it for what it was.
Before long, the boys were immersed in a variety of activities. Some were looking out the windows, while others were chatting, listening to their CD players or playing with one of the hand-held games. Of course, there were those passengers who noticed us interacting and wanted to know what type of group we were. As usual, many of them didn’t believe our response at first, after looking from the blonds, brunettes and the redhead, and then scanning the Orientals, black and Hispanic that made up our family. After we volunteered more information about how we happened to come together, they finally began to accept what we told them. One older couple, in particular, was very interested in the boys’ stories and talked to nearly every one of them before we landed. I think the boys enjoyed this visit nearly as much as the older couple did.
We had now been on the plane for a couple of hours, so I wasn’t surprised when the pilot announced it was time to prepare for landing in Phoenix. A new round of tension suddenly gripped the boys, when they thought about what this meant. Here we were in this huge metal ‘can,’ hurtling through the sky, and it would now have to land on a small, asphalt strip and slow drastically, without crashing during any of those steps. Soon, some of my clan was beset with a self-inflicted variety of rigor mortis, as the plane eased its way toward the tarmac.
Some of the boys were brave enough to look out the windows, to see what it was like, but most didn’t want to observe what was coming next. Sammy was getting a kick out of his brothers’ reactions, as he thought back to his first flight and remembered how he had been similarly frightened about his first landing. Now he was an old pro at this and it didn’t bother him at all.
Finally, when all of the tires screeched from hitting the macadam and the pilots reversed the thrust of the engines and applied the brakes, bringing the plane to a crawl, many of my boys erupted in an involuntary cheer. I was glad I didn’t have to check their underwear to make sure they had survived the process without accident, since I wasn’t certain if they’d all been successful.
As we were preparing to disembark, the older couple that had been chatting with the boys earlier said good-bye to us, but not before asking for our last name and inquiring if I would be willing to give them our address, so they could keep in touch. I gladly wrote it down for them, thanked them for their interest and concern, and walked with them as we all went to the baggage area to collect our things. The boys hugged both of them as we went our separate ways and it was almost as if I were watching them say good-bye to their grandparents. Needless to say, I think this touched the couple even more. I believe I saw a few tears being shed as they headed to catch their next ride.
The rest of us made our way over to the car rental counter, where I picked up the keys for a very large van, which was waiting for us there. After quickly loading our baggage and the boys inside, I checked the map one final time and headed up I-17, toward Flagstaff. An hour or so later, we stopped at a diner along the highway for lunch. The boys ate as if they had never seen food before and the waitresses got a kick out of their appetites. One of the employees even convinced her manager to throw in desserts with the meal, considering what our total tab was adding up to. Yet again we were asked what kind of a group we were, and once more we had to deliver our explanation of how we had become a family.
When the boys had finished devouring a week’s worth of the restaurant’s food supply, I paid the tab and left a nice tip, before we continued our trip north, ready to make our first sight-seeing stop.