(The house we moved into was also located by the T tracks; for a long time the trains were loud enough to stop all conversation while they passed. My friends got used to having to pause every so often when talking to me on the phone. In those pre-DVR days, we adapted to the fact that we'd miss a few lines of dialogue out of the TV shows we watched. People think the trains are loud now, but to me they are whisper-quiet. I have a freight line running behind my house now, and it feels almost natural for it to be there. It only runs once or maybe twice a day, often when we're not home, but when we are, it's just a low rumble and occasionally a whistle that lets us know it's passing.)
ON SUNDAY, WE GOT TOGETHER for brunch. I don't remember how we got onto the subject, but one of my father's favorite stories from my sister's childhood came up and we discovered that D had somehow managed not to hear it before.
It happened before I was born, so my sister must have been less than eight years old, but not much younger. I'll call it six, because I round all ages in that range to six, since that was when I moved halfway around the world, and though I'm aware that not everyone does that at the age of six, it's nevertheless a kind of universal milestone in my mind. (If anyone ever created a Kellnerin-fiction drinking game, one of the items should be to take a drink every time something significant happens to a character who's six years old.)
Anyway, my father has quite a store of odd anecdotes in his memory banks related to his profession. Curators (like book editors) are not generally very well-off, but collectors as a class are ridiculously wealthy. This particular story takes place on the Philippines, a country, as my father put it, where half the population owns their own personal islands and the other half works as domestics.
So they were visiting one of the island-owning class on their actual island (or to be precise, islands). To get there, you take a private plane to an island that's large enough to have an airstrip, and then board a boat to the islands that have the family house and their various guest houses (the family and guests in a speedboat, servants and supplies in a small fleet of catamarans).
They stayed the weekend, my parents talking art while my sister played with the grandchildren. When it came time to leave, they did the reverse journey back to Manila. The girl with whom my sister had spent all weekend, making small talk on the flight, asked her, "What kind of plane do you have?"
My sister told her our family did not have a plane.
"What kind of boat do you have then?"
No boat, my sister explained.
The girl looked puzzled. Gears turned painfully. Finally, she managed to articulate the cause of her confusion.
"Then how do you get to your islands?"
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