If lives were perfect, we would all have someone to ALWAYS watch over us. But life isn't perfect, and at times in our lives, we have to fend for ourselves. We have to be our own guardian.
Growing up, my ideal life would allow me to be both Jess and Violet, the sisters in the book series "The Boxcar Children". Jess was the older sister, and she kept everyone in order. Violet, the younger sister, was sensitive, shy, and loved dogs. I thought if my parents were smart, they would have named me "Jessolet".
So, my parents didn't know. But they were pretty smart anyway. My parents always took care of us, and they always made sure a guardian was assigned to us as we traveled. When we moved to Argentina, I was 5. Our guardians were expatriates who happened to be old family friends, Mr & Mrs. G. The G's had lived in Pasadena before they moved to Argentina, and they knew my grandparents in Temple City. The G's had plans to return to Pasadena when Mr. G retired. He did just that when I was 8 years old.So my parents hunted for a new guardian for us kids. Hmmm... how about asking the school principal? Which is exactly what my Dad did. Before long, the principal, Mr. Hal, was our new guardian. Life sucked.
Turned out Mr. Hal was originally from Newport Beach. He had played basketball at UCLA (a strong point in my dad's eyes). And Mr. Hal knew my Temple City grandparents, too.Sometimes the world is just too small.
Nothing could happen at school that my parents didn't learn too much about it. They would receive a phone call and a first hand report from Mr. H.
Mr. H. made the call when my brother Illya had stink bombs in his book bag. My parents got the call before Illya could even show the little bombs off. Weeks later, did they know Illya had a pack of cigarettes in his blazer? Mr. H knew. He had them confiscated before brother could even remove the cellophane wrapper and open the pack - and my parents got the call.
Then we moved. HURRAH!! Mr. Hal and his guardian/spy techniques were gone.
Our family eventually landed in India. There was no doubt in our parents eyes that we needed a guardian, someone to watch over us if something happened to the folks. It had to be someone who would make sure Illya and I would be returned to family in the USA if need be. Someone who would comfort us, protect us, calm us, guard us. Someone who would be our guardians out of love, not out of some financial motive.
Dad hunted and hunted. Most of their friends had different nationalities, different morals, different ideas on how to raise kids. Then they met Mr. and Mrs. Rae. Mrs. Rae was a registered nurse - she could comfort and calm us and look after our needs. Mr. Rae was a somber, serious guy who worked at the Canadian Embassy. He would know the right procedures if we had to leave without our parents.
Swell. Illya and I both liked the Raes. They would stay with us whenever our parents traveled. They were clueless about children/teenagers and completely trusted us. But Mr. Rae knew a lot about basketball. He was a licensed basketball official and could tell us great stories of international games he officiated. He even became our high school's basketball coach.
He took our international school's team all over the world to play. The team got into countries we thought were totally off limits - to Nepal, western Laos, Thailand along the Cambodian border, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the elusive area of Kashmir. One winter break, the team flew to Australia and played all through Indonesia and Malaysia. Mr. Rae was so cool!!! He was our hero!
And then the summer came when everyone was reassigned - my dad to another country, Mr. Rae to Taiwan. I thought I'd never see Mr. Rae again.
One evening, years later, my folks and I were watching the Summer Olympics on TV. We spotted Mr. Rae at the games. He was officiating an Olympic basketball game!
My mom spoke up."You kids were never to know what Mr. Rae really did. He was a Canadian spy. He probably still is. Rae isn't his real name. All the trips your school's basketball team took? They were planned as cover for Mr. Rae to do some intelligence work. He probably is spying right now, while officiating the game. He's a spy."
Swell. A spy. Someone to watch over you.I am still surprised when I think of the Raes - or whatever their names are. My dad picked a real winner for guardians. Real spies.