On the Need for Emergency Backup Children

Joey at Hammonasset Beach

Alex M. is our emergency backup son. Let me clarify. He is actually our son’s best friend from childhood. He has always worn the moniker of EBS proudly. When called upon, he would serve, he said. Good to know.

He and Kevin, my firstborn, have been best buddies since middle school. They survived Children’s Island Camp, attended the local charter school, and commuted to Catholic high school together. They dated girls who were friends, and they spent a great deal of their time in Alex’s basement. You see, Alex’s parents are wise, and they knew if they had a cool basement hideaway, their teenagers and their friends would hang downstairs. What better way to know what is going on than to lure the juveniles to gather right beneath your feet?

Our house is not cool. It is small and has no basement. With its unimpressive TV, lack of a decent backyard, and little rooms, our home offered no place for the teenagers to retreat to. Hence, they did not hang here. As a result, I had to rely on spies to find out what was going on with my son. Unlike my daughter, who divulged her social and academic particulars more willingly during our mother-daughter tête-à-têtes, my son kept his own counsel during his adolescent years.

Both Kevin and Alex are home from college working for the summer. The other day Alex came over to meet Ginger. Noting that Kevin and Ginger have the same hair color, Alex informed Ginger that he was the well-established emergency backup child and she had better not move in on his territory no matter how cute she is.

Are my intentions really that transparent? Four years ago, my sister-in-law adopted a black lab when her last child, a daughter, went off to college. Joey is Ginger’s cousin, and he is a big, drooling, loving, and wonderful dog of inelegance. What lab is anything but? In most respects, he is nothing like my niece, who is blonde, slender, beautiful, intelligent, and graceful. Regardless, he is a substitute child, who gives and receives love in spades. That has been clear since the day my sister-in-law started talking about him.

And, yes, I must be upfront with myself, so is Ginger. There, I said it.

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