Monday, July 26, 2010

Someone to watch over you

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.

Why HIM? 
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.

Sigh. 

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.

12 comments:

Remington said...

Now that was very interesting!

BANJO52 said...

Quite a story! I hope you didn't get him busted!

I've always thought the real spy business must be even more fascinating (and at the same time duller? B-ball ref? Or a de-coder, with piles of paper and systems to work through) than the movies make it out to be. You think?

altadenahiker said...

Oh, worth waiting for. So many things ...

The adult with the pipe in the chaise lounge with the shepherd -- could that be any time but the 60's?

And your brother, the young Jack Sparrow in all your stories.

And as soon as you mentioned the sweet, benign Raes, I thought of the kidnapping couple in Hitchcock's Man Who Knew Too Much. And I wasn't disappointed.

This was swell.

Pat Tillett said...

That was a great story! The photos really added to it...

Sandra said...

well you certainly did not lead the average life growing up. I don't think my parents ever had a thought about who would take care of us but then we were in Georgia and there was alwasy lots of aunts and uncles around.

Brenda's Arizona said...

AH - yes, the photo is totally '60s. And now I am gonna have to hunt down "Man Who Knew Too Much" to watch!

Banjomyn, if Mr. Rae was a typical spy, it was pretty boring. My folks went to his office once. Mom said his office was totally bare - not a photo, not a piece of paper, not a pen anywhere. No dust, either.

Hmmm...

Elaine said...

You had such an interesting childhood, and you tell the stories well. I'll bet you almost fell off your chair when your mom told you Mr. Rae was a spy! And to think all those BB trips were a cover for his work. You would have thought that would be a little bit of a concern for your parents, but from your stories they were adventurous, so maybe it didn't seem all that strange to them.

Susan Campisi said...

Wow. Lots of interesting twists and turns in that story. Very unexpected. I really enjoyed it.

Loved the photos too. Took me way back.

altadenahiker said...

You MUST get that movie; I'm sure it will resonate.

So sista-cuzin, when are you going to spill the beans on the Banjo movie?

Gus, Louie and Callie said...

That is so cool. We just had each other.. Mom grew up with 4 brothers on a dairy farm. Lots of hard work and fun everyday...


Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

BANJO52 said...

Actually, some of the movie spies are painted the way you describe his office. But the hoops reffing seems unique.

I guess he has no role in Angelina Jolie's new hyper flick . . .

Hiker, now it's "the Banjo movie"??? I'm having a panic attack. Would've been a lousy spy.

Paula said...

The whole time I was reading this all I could think was how amazing that the team got to travel like that. What do Canadians spy about anyway? I know that makes me look ignorant but educate me...