On being outfoxed

“We are going to Italy,” Jessica announces to her father on the phone. I have already discussed it with him, but apparently he makes suitable sounds of enthusiasm and excitement, because a smile spread across her face. “It is a good thing I already have a passport,” she adds, sounding very grown up and offhand as she does so, a jaded world traveler.

She does indeed have a passport, because I took her on a cruise to the Bahamas a few years ago, a floating writers’ conference that I’d been asked to participate in. She doesn’t remember the cruise, but she remembers the passport.

She hangs up the phone and says, “Are we going to get plane tickets now?”

This seems like a very serious commitment that I am not entirely ready to make. I am still thinking Foreign country! With Jessica!

“We don’t even know when we’re going,” I temporize.

“After Christmas,” she says promptly. “I have a very long vacation this year.”

That is true; she has nearly three weeks off from school. I drag out my planner and look at dates. “Well,” I say weakly. “I guess we’ll have to think about –”

“That is enough thinking about,” Jessica says crisply, snapping the planner closed. “We will make a plan.”

Jessica’s favorite thing in the world is a plan, and I perk up; you have to have a plan before you make any commitments, so I’m game.

“What is the plane schedule?” she asks. She knows that airline tickets are nonreturnable and I’m pretty sure she is convinced the best way to make sure this happens it to get me to buy the plane tickets. Then the rest will fall into place because I’ve already spent the money on the tickets.

I do some Googling.

“Are there any nonstops?” she says. Nonstop is her preferred way to travel, and I agree. Especially in winter, when flight cancellations and delays are common.

“Not from here,” I say. “We have to fly to a bigger city and then go from there. And maybe it would be a good idea to get there a day early so that we don’t have to worry about missing connections.” If I’m going to do a big European vacation, I am going to cover all the bases.

“What big cities?”

I scroll through the list. “Chicago.”

She gives a grimace; I agree. Chicago is not my favorite place.

“Dallas.” This time I give the grimace.

“New York,” Jessica says.

I am almost sure I haven’t said New York but of course you can get to Italy from there.

“New York?” I say.

“Randy lives in New York.”

Randy is a friend of mine – Jessica thinks she’s a friend of hers – and it would be fun to have dinner with her.

“I have never been to New York,” Jessica says sadly.

“You have too!” I exclaim. “You have been like five times!”

She shakes her head. “I don’t remember that.”

“Times Square? The Empire State Building? It was only four or five years ago.”

But for Jessica that might as well have been before she was born, a century ago. Her memory is porous and permeable. Very little is retained for long. The reason she is so present-oriented is because she has no past to cling to.

“I would like to see the Statue of Liberty,” she says. “And I would like to see Randy.”

“All right,” I say. “New York it is. We’ll go the day before our flight leaves for Italy –”

“We should go for five days.”

“Wait, how did we get to five days? I thought we were going to Italy?”

“We are going to do both,” she says. “Now, let’s go buy some guidebooks.”


  1. Oh boy. Jessica is getting your butt in gear! We are going to Italy this summer. I am seriously dreading the heat but there was no other time we could all go. I’ll give you my tips when I get back!

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