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  • Katherine Sirvio

So, I Am Worth $44.18...


When I was 13 years old, my parents divorced. Or at least I think I was 13, perhaps I was only 11. In any regards, things happen and one day my parents called my brother, sister and I into the family room for a discussion. They told us the news of the divorce and it just didn't sink in, until one day when I came home from summer camp and my father was moved out. Then it was real. They were not together, they were not getting back together, they were done. Now I could go into a lot more detail on the trials and tribulations that took place in my head as a result, but that is not what this story is about. You just needed this simple piece of background information for the story to make sense.

So jump ahead to 1986, I was 16 and thought I knew everything. My mother and I had now moved in with her 'boyfriend' and his son. It seems strange to call him a 'boyfriend' because they were very much grown adults and that seems so 8th grade. Also because this man came to be my father in every sense imaginable other than biological. So here we are in 1986, we are going to have a 'family' vacation with the boyfriend and the son. My grandmother had just passed away and my grandfather was lost. So, he joined in, and we were off.

Now I had been to Canada before, we lived in the suburbs of Detroit and it was not a big deal to drive through the tunnel or over the bridge to Canada. In those days the borders were wide open and sometimes you didn't even show any identification. But this trip was different, it was my very first trip out of the country via an airplane. We were going to Mexico!

I am not sure if the trip was a sort of last minute thing or not, but for some reason, none of us sat together on the plane. It is surreal to think back to that flight. The gentleman that I sat next to was a smoker and at that time you could smoke on airplanes - which he did and come to think of it, I think I did too. I felt very glamorous and grown up on that flight, I didn't have many friends that traveled outside the United States, and I was going places. Sitting on my own, smoking cigarettes and acting very grown up in my eyes.

Then we heard the stewardess announce we were landing. I remember deplaning because we had to walk down the metal stairway into the heat of the Mexican sun. I was very excited. I had gotten my passport just prior to the trip. I had dressed up for the occasion and wore my permed hair up with a bandana and large black & white leather earrings. Gosh, I was so cool. If you can't hear the sarcasm in my voice, please know it is there.

​​ ​​So I strutted up to the immigration officer and placed my passport (with the coolest pic ever) on the counter. He asked me where my mother was. I pointed at her. There was some kind of problem, I didn't know exactly what. We were walked into a room and sat in the waiting area. It was a kind of office cubicle area. My mother and her boyfriend went to speak to the immigration officers. The officers explained that we needed a notarized letter from my father stating that I was allowed to leave the United States with my mother and her boyfriend. The same was true for my mom's boyfriend and son. We were in a pickle. But not to fear, after a simple bribe of $20 bucks a kid, we were in like Flynn.

So my mother's boyfriend, now my father, Gary has the same name as my biological father, Gary and as my brother, Gary. Life can be so interesting. My best friend is Kathy, I am Kathy, my mother's name is Sue and her mother's name is Sue. You can't make this stuff up. One more, a colleague I knew was getting married, her name was Pepper. She married Dan Schmeckpepper and became Pepper Schmeckpepper. I love it. Just a little tid bit, a nugget, a smile...

So my now step brother, which I dislike that term too, is named Jeremy. At this point in the story, it is probably easier to know them as Gary and Jeremy. So the four of us and my grandfather, Norm, (now you know the family) all took a taxi for about .50 cents and went to the resort we would be staying at. After a couple of days and getting to know the area - understanding the lay of the land, so to speak - we felt comfortable. In Mexico, there was not a minimum age for drinking at the time. So my step brother and I decided to take in the night...

We started with dinner at a local restaurant where a man came around to all of the tables with a criss-cross strap belted around his chest holding several shot glasses (kind of like a bandolero) and giving everyone he could a shot of tequila. We happily partook. He came around to our table several times. We were getting a lot of attention because someone who worked at the restaurant thought Jeremy was Bjorn Borg, the famous tennis player. They actually took our picture and had us sign the wall of the restaurant. There was a lot of hoopla going on.

It was time to move on, we were going to head to a dance club called La Boom. I stood up and all at once the alcohol went straight to my head. It was as if when I was seated I was sober and when I stood up, it was all over. We wandered over to the dance club where the entry fee was, of course, a shot of tequila. I declined. I think I knew at that moment the night would not end well. Remember, I was a very knowledgeable 16-year-old.

After a couple of songs and dances, I knew I had to go back to the hotel. I promised Jeremy to leave the key under the door just within reach of his fingers. I went home and had an awful night, the bed was spinning, and my head was spinning too. Later that evening, my mother awoke to a shuffling at the door. She opened it to see what was going on and found Jeremy on all fours trying to find the key under the door. There was no space under the door, so I couldn't leave the key there for him to find.

I am sure my parents thought this was a good lesson for us to learn about alcohol. But somehow, we just felt like we were on spring break from university - just a bit younger. We were so much more resilient then. I don't think my grandfather ever knew about that night, but somehow my gut says every one of us had the same lesson at some point on that trip. Oh, and the $20 bucks in 1986, had the same buying power as $44.18 today according to dollartimes.com. Annual inflation over this period was about 2.59%.

Cancun, Mexico 1986

Jeremy // Bjorn Borg (1980)

Jeremy, me, my mom

My mom and dad - Gary


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