I protested with a whiny, "Momm-eee." I didn't care if I sounded selfish. I only got small fries with my Happy Meal and I was like a dog with a bone, unwilling to share.
She replied, "Okay, okay, Americanka," the biggest insult she could think of, unable to hold back at smile at how such a simple thing could bring me so much joy, momentarily forgetting about the preservatives that were stunting my growth.
Suddenly, a breaking story interrupted the Facts of Life and my peace. The local news anchors reported that a nine-year-old girl, Sarah, had been abducted from the Whiskey Pete's casino at the state line, only forty miles away from Vegas. Her mother, who pleaded to the cameras for help in finding her little girl, was missing part of her front tooth.
This prompted my own mother to clench her chest in melodramatic sympathy, pronouncing hysterically, "This country is full of crazy people. Don't you be so stupid and talk to strangers."
My mom was being overprotective, so I ignored her and went back to chomping on my fries.
The next day she picked me up from Marisha's house an hour-and-a-half earlier than expected.
She burst out enthusiastically, "I've got fantastic news that will make you the happiest girl in the world, moie skarbie! I liked it when she called me that. It meant her greatest treasure. "Hurry up and change. I'm taking you to see your beautiful new house."
Elated by the idea of having our own house, I yelled out questions from the other room as I rushed to changed out of my soggy bathing suit. "Does it have a pool?" I screamed.
"Yes, bigger than this one," she said.
"Score! Is it one or two stories?" I asked.
"Two," she replied.
Oh, I always dreamed of having stairs so I could slide down the banister like Ricky Shroder did on Silver Spoons! "Can we have a dog?" I continued.
"Yes, a small one, but you have to clean up the poop," she said.
As we drove past several neighborhoods to reach our palace, I gazed upon each house saying, "Is that it? Is that it?" I would take any of them. I continued bombarding my mother with questions. "Does it look like that one?"
"Oh, no. That's a shack compared to ours. Ours is much newer, much prettier," she boasted. "You'll see."
Finally, my mom pointed in the distance, and sang, "That's our new home. Isn't it beautiful?"
I wasn't sure what she was pointing at. All I saw was an apartment complex surrounded by desert. Confused, I asked, "Where?"
"Are you blind? The one right in front of us," she said.
"But, Mom, that's an apartment building, not a house." As I rolled up the window, I stared at the lock on my door, exaggerating my pouting. I wanted her to see that she'd disappointed me, once again, for the bazillionth time. I was enraged at having my hopes raised, in believing that she would actually keep one of her empty promises.
Unwavering in her enthusiasm, she explained, "It's the same thing as a house, but better. We don't have to worry about mowing the lawn or fixing a leaky roof. It's a condo!"
These were not her words. They came from a real estate broker.
"But I really wanted a backyard. I'd mow the lawn," I pleaded.
She continued her sales pitch, "A condo is something which could be ours forever and we'd never have to move again."
"So, we own it?" I asked.
"Almost. I'm leasing with an option to buy." Another addition to my mom's expanding vocabulary.
"And that is just as good since, after a year, they will take part of the rent I pay and put that toward a down-payment, and then the house will be ours."
"You mean apartment," I corrected.
"I mean condo. Don't act too smart." she said.
Realizing that no whining would keep us from moving into a glorified apartment rather than a house, I listened to my mom rattle off its selling points. Since it was a new building there were no roaches. Although there wasn't a backyard, there was a patio. And the neighborhood seemed safe. I didn't see a single guy with tattoos on their necks, making kissing sounds at me, like in Culver City. By the time I saw the community pool, I, too, was sold. The entire trip back to the motel, I daydreamed about swimming all summer—with my top on.