Can you ever really go home again? And if you do, can you turn the detritus from the past into something positive? In this excerpt from Family Values, our characters must answer these questions...and more.
They huddle around the table like so many crows perched on a fence, all in their own little worlds. At the head of the table and assuming his rightful role as patriarch, Father dictates the flow of the platters, gesticulating and grunting, but otherwise ignoring the assembled family members. To his left, the mother of the four adult children watches and waits, assuming her role of keeping glasses of water filled and platters of food replenished.
The eldest son, Irving, has taken up his position at the opposite end of the table, while, on his left, his sister Skye’s children sit across from their mother, their Aunt Sara, their Uncle Sidney, and their grandmother (when she isn’t hopping up and down to serve!). Back home after two years away filling in for professors on sabbaticals—one in Canada and another in Hawaii—he feels like the conquering hero in some ways. Resting on his laurels and sitting back to receive the long-awaited kudos for his prestigious new job in Southern California…a permanent professorial position this time. Now Irving Franklin is basking in the holiday ambience, just waiting for the long-anticipated praise from his parents and siblings for his accomplishments. After all, he has a Ph.D., the first family member to earn post-graduate degrees.
He feels mildly disappointed that Skye, the older of his two sisters and the mother of those four rather annoying children, has seemed so underwhelmed by his accomplishments. Not that she has done anything overt, exactly. She simply nods and smiles distantly and listens only half-attentively as he describes the past two years. But then again, what can one expect from a hippie! He feels a sudden wave of disgust as he thinks about how she is still stuck in that whole sixties thing…After all, it is 1979, and the eighties are right around the corner.
Skye, who was born Sabrina Katherine, took on this alternative name a few years back. She spent three or four years living in a commune, after her divorce from the father of her two oldest children, boys with the trendy names of Lance and Heath. And while up in Northern California, she gave birth to the younger two. Nobody talks about who their father or fathers might be, or why Skye has suddenly moved to the Central Valley and taken up what passes for a profession….social work. Although, now that Irving thinks about it, she did earn a degree in psychology before chucking her marriage and the conventional life to hang out with those rabble-rousers. He remembers vividly the time he spent in the National Guard, in the sixties, and he still sees instant replays in his mind, like flashbacks. He feels angrier when he thinks about her blithe disregard for the law. And how, at almost thirty, she should have moved beyond all of that adolescent fervor.
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