“I’m trading you two in for good kids,” my dad bellowed to Chickenbone and I one summer day long ago after we’d been acting up.
After our parents divorced, Chickenbone and I spent summers at my father’s house in Carlsbad, California. We were generally allowed to run amok during the day while he was at work, or sometimes we would spend days at our grandparents house nearby. We loved the freedom, but we also got bored after a while.
We were shocked. “Trade us in? What do you mean?”, one of us asked.
“I’m trading you two in. As soon as the catalog comes in the mail, I’m going to trade you two in for good kids.”
Bewildered, we asked,”What catalog?”
“The catalog that has good kids. You can trade in your bad kids and get good kids,” dad explained.
We were dismayed, we didn’t want to be traded in. We were as young and gullible as dad was convincing.
“No! Please don’t trade us in! We’ll be good!,” we promised.
“Well okay,” he acquiesced, “but you guys better stop acting up.” (I vaguely recall my father struggling to suppress a grin.)
That grin my father tried to hide gave me a sneaking suspicion that maybe he couldn’t so easily trade us in, but I decided to err on the side of caution.
Chickenbone, two years younger, was more worried than I. She wanted to know what happened to us when we got traded, where we went. I vaguely recall his answer was something along the lines of us going away for training to be good kids, after which we would be added into the catalog.
What in particular we had done to incur the threat, I don’t recall. But the threat must’ve worked rather well because that was only the first time he made it that summer. Although, he still had a little trouble keeping a straight face when he repeated it.
During another such incident he told us, “The catalog came in the mail. I’ve been looking through it, and picking out good kids to get in trade for you two.”
Uh oh, this was getting serious. Maybe there really was a catalog.
Chickenbone and I were both curious. I asked to see the catalog. I wanted to see the kids he was considering to be better than us.
Dad had a little more trouble with that one, but recovered by saying, “Only adults are allowed to see the catalog.”
I’m sure we searched the house for it the minute he left for work. Of course, we didn’t find the catalog of good kids for trade.
When that summer ended we went back to live with mom in Santa Barbara. At some point not long after returning home, perhaps during another incident when we were once again taxing the patience of a parental unit, one of us (I honestly don’t remember who) mentioned to mom that dad said he was going to trade us in for good kids.
She didn’t quite understand this at first, so we explained about the catalog with “good kids”. She laughed a good, long time.
When she recovered, she said we must’ve been acting up pretty badly for dad to have said such a thing. (We weren’t smart enough to lie well. Plus, she had us the other nine months a year, so our ability to act up was no secret to her.)
We asked if dad could really do that, and when she realized how serious we thought he was she assured us he couldn’t trade us in for good kids. To convince us, she even went into some of the legalities of “giving up your kids”, and how it was not something he could really do. And there was no such thing as a catalog with good kids, it didn’t exist.
As you might guess, the next visit to dad’s went a little differently. When he once again told us he was going to trade us in, we informed him we knew better. “Mom said you can’t do that!”
He, undoubtedly, was a little disappointed the threat was no longer valid. Not that he’s an alcoholic, but I’m pretty sure dad had a drink after that. He drinks a lot less now that we don’t live with him anymore. In fact, he hardly drinks at all.