Move to Tegucigalpa
One day, Wendy Dale's parents casually inform her that they are selling everything they own in Tempe, Arizona ("basically the car, the house and anything else that could be considered their children’s future inheritance") and are taking her brother and two suitcases and moving to the Third World.
"So, what do your parents do?"
In the past, this question had never caused me to hesitate. I had always been able to provide a simple one-word answer, a title like "engineer" or "geologist" in my father’s case and the label "housewife" for my mother. But after my folks headed down to Central America, coming up with a response suddenly wasn’t so easy. I sought in vain through my dictionary, my thesaurus and any other reference materials I was able to get my hands on and finally resigned myself to the fact that there wasn’t a term that expressed the concept: "They sold their house, their car and their furniture and took my brother and two suitcases to Honduras."
"Wow, what are they doing there?" people would respond, intrigued.
I was led to the dictionary again, searching for a way to describe what it was my parents actually did in Honduras and remarkably enough, this term did exist. The word was: "nothing."
However, saying that you do nothing is a difficult concept for most Americans to grasp. I knew; I had had this conversation many times before:
"What did you do today?"
"You couldn’t have just done nothing. Come on, what did you do all afternoon?"
"You’re right. Actually, I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling."
A brief moment of silence would follow, after which the other person would condescendingly respond: "Oh, you mean you really did nothing."
Of course, it was much more complicated if you were a writer because there were days that you lay on your bed and stared at the ceiling and it was called working. But this was a difficult concept for most non-artist types to grasp.
My sister Heather was getting asked these types of questions as well, but she was the only one clever enough to derive advantage from my parents’ move to Honduras. She was at Vassar on a full scholarship, one of a handful of middle-class kids at an otherwise elite school. There, like at any other Seven Sisters or Ivy League college, "doing nothing" was synonymous with trust fund or was code for sitting on a yacht, playing golf and attending charity luncheons. So Heather actually looked forward to being asked the question. She would lean back in her chair, cross her legs and answer, "They’re abroad." And everyone would be quite impressed when she added, "Doing nothing."