For several years my friend Charlie ran an international correspondence business he inherited from his father. When I expressed some interest in the many countries people wrote about Charlie asked me if I wanted a free membership for my daughter and I agreed.
“You choose the country and the correspondent,” Charlie says.
I have always been a Francophile so I chose France and a girl named Alessi Geoffrey. To my surprise, my normally contrary teenage daughter Elizabeth went with the idea and almost immediately wrote a letter and even brought it to the post office to be sent ASAP. In less than ten days, a letter from Alessi arrived. To my surprise, Alessi turned out to be a boy whose name, if Americanized, would be something like Jeff Alessi. I told my friend Charlie about the confusion and he said, “Don’t look at me. You chose the name.
My daughter was not disappointed that she inadvertently wrote to a boy and after several correspondence Geoffrey invited Elizabeth to come to France. Being the responsible father of a fifteen year old girl, I said to my daughter, “Tell Geoffrey that if he wants to see you, he has to come to America!”
A little over two weeks later, plans for a visit from the Frenchman were almost entirely in place. He would come in August when my family is at camp on Canadarago Lake near Richfield Springs. I didn’t mind having to meet her plane in Syracuse but when Elizabeth fell with a bug and had a 102 ° fever, I found myself in charge of the entertainment! When I mentioned Charlie, he said, “Don’t look at me. You chose the name.
The first thing Geoffrey said at the airport was, “My mom told me to tell you that my back hurts and I shouldn’t do anything bad.” The next day, while Elizabeth still had a fever, I took her water skiing and later fishing. He didn’t seem at home with either activity, but he survived. What the kid was comfortable with were what I saw as vulgar imitations of the very popular Michael Jackson at the time. That, and repeating the word “disgusting” over and over when he didn’t like something, seemed like a big part of the child’s repertoire.
Another day, for lack of something to do while Elizabeth was still recovering, I took Geoffrey for a ride up and down in my roadster and stopped for a unique lunch at Jordanville Monastery where we ate a vegetarian meal with the monks – in silence. I later asked the kid if he liked the food and, as you might expect, he came out with, “Deescusting!” followed by a move by Michael Jackson. I wanted to send the child back to France and again I telephoned my frustration to Charlie who, of course, said: “You chose the name.”
A few days later Elizabeth was getting better and to the Frenchman’s delight we were all going to spend a week in Brooklyn. Coming down into town on a station wagon, Geoffrey thought he was going to sit in the backseat with Liz, but I made her sit up front with me. Being from Paris, he seemed much more at home in a concrete maze than in the countryside and always wanted to walk with Liz – to explore the neighborhood. I should mention that Charlie offered my son Jonathan a free pen pal but he was not interested. Still in charge of the entertainment, I took the family to Coney Island where I put Geoffrey on Cyclone, one of the toughest roller coasters in the world. After hitting the first nearly 90 degree drop, he was petrified and petrified and started doing a breathing exercise that reminded me of a Lamaze class Alice and I took when she was pregnant with Liz.
At the end of his two week stay, the child returned to France with rave reviews which resulted in a formal invitation from Geoffrey’s parents to Liz to visit them in Paris which follows.
summer. Somehow, I overcame my protective posture and sent Liz to France. She had a great time but was taken aback when the Alessis quietly placed an unopened bottle of Heinz catsup on the table at each meal, which may have been a comment on American cuisine. I felt proud to have given my daughter the experience of visiting another culture and another country.
Now, more than a decade has passed and Liz has an American husband and lives in Tennessee with three very active little boys. Guess who is getting married and who wants
Liz to attend the wedding, in France! Geoffrey! And who will look after the three little boys? My wife Alice! And who’s going to have to shop and cook for themselves, do the dishes, make their own bed, mow the lawn and take care of the chickens on their own? Me.
I called Charlie to tell him about the latest developments in the correspondence and he said, “No good deed goes unpunished. You’ve been complaining about this free subscription for years! “
“Who knew this would happen? ” I said.
“Glad you picked the name.” “
A very big revelation that would have saved me a lot of worry at the time, Geoffrey marries Kenneth.