The Castaway Hotel: Book 2

Chapter 4: Much Ado About Us

When we got back from our vacation, we immediately had a great many other things that needed our attention.  The very next day, Sunday, was Kevin's birthday and I'd almost forgotten we were having everyone over for his party.  We'd invited them before we left and I think Kevin was suddenly excited about it, now that he remembered what the date was.  Robert had wanted to stay long enough to attend, but had to be to work on Monday, so he didn't dare.  However, the extended family and a few of Kevin's friends would be there, so Kevin got over his disappointment about Robert not being able to make it.

Kevin's party went well, and everyone enjoyed himself.  Not only that, but we also got to share our vacation stories with those nearest and dearest to us.  Kevin also received some very nice gifts in the process, but I still felt badly that his party seemed a bit unorganized and a little rushed, because we didn't have much time to get our act together before everyone started arriving.  If I'd been smart, I'd have planned his party for the following weekend, regardless of the date.

Kevin had no problems with it though, and I think the little surprise we learned about when we got back more than made up for out lack of organization. Sally was the first to let on something had happened during the past week, but she wasn't aware we knew nothing about it.  "Josh, that's right, I forgot.  You've been away," she announced, after seeing the confused looks on our faces.

"Last Sunday the newspaper ran a big article about how you adopted all of the boys, and they even included Judge Shay's comments from the adoption proceeding. It was absolutely marvelous.  I think they tried to get a hold of you before it went to press, so they could take pictures to go along with the article, but because you were away, they had to improvise.  They cropped in a photo they had taken of you at one of your school functions and then used some pictures of the boys, which they had in their sports archives.  I bought a couple of extra copies and have them in my car, if you'd like them."

"I'd love one, Sally.  I'll scan the articles in my computer and then send a copy of the clippings to my older children."  Suddenly, everyone began talking about that article and all of the attention it had garnered in the community.

When the party ended, we said good-bye to all our guests and then went into the house to collapse.  That was very hectic, especially after being away for two weeks.  While relaxing, I took the opportunity to read the very nice article about us.  Now, all we had to do was get ready for school to start a week from Monday.

Before that day arrived, though, I had to get all of the boys to their soccer physicals and practices, since most of them had decided to go out for the school's teams again.  I was mildly surprised to learn that Cole and Graham were going to sit the season out and just watch their brothers play, as neither felt that sports were their thing. There was an exception to that decision, however, when Cole explained he still wanted to try his hand at wrestling again this fall.

I did have one concern about the start of the fall sports season, though, and it was the fact that Ricky and Jay were freshmen and would be competing against their sophomore brothers (Danny, Brandon and Kevin) for positions this year. Dustin would most likely not be included in that experience, since he was a junior and would most likely be playing on the varsity team. My main worry was that by having to compete with the others for playing time, and since the older boys had done so well on the JV team the year before, it might deflate some of the confidence the younger pair had developed while playing on the modified team.  No matter how much this troubled me, I would just have to sit back and see how it played out.

The tryouts lasted several days, before the teams were selected.  When this happened, the boys came home all excited. "Dad, Dustin, Danny, Brandon, and me all got picked to play on the varsity team this fall," Kevin gushed, breathlessly.

"And me and Jay are going to play on the JV team," Ricky added, equally as proud.

"Wow, that's really awesome," I admitted, still reeling from the shock, yet somewhat relieved by this revelation.  "All of you were taken up to the varsity team, even though you're only sophomores?" I asked, to clarify my understanding of the situation.

"Yeah, the coach said we all played really well together and he didn't want to break that up," Danny informed me, while beaming.

"I'm really impressed," I replied.  "That's quite an accomplishment, at least for our school district.  The coaches don't usually call up many sophomores to the varsity level.  And Jay and you are going to be playing on the JV team," I followed, after turning toward Ricky and Jay, as I wanted to acknowledge their accomplishments too.  "That is really wonderful news."

"I didn't think I'd be good enough to play this year," Jay confessed, "but the coach says I've got potential and put me on the team."

"I've always known you've had potential Jay, and told you so many times," I assured him, "but I'm glad to see others are taking note of it too."  He smiled, as a blush tinged his face from my comment.

When the academic year started, all of the boys quickly fell into their various routines.  This year is going to be quite different for me, in that everyone except Cole and Graham would be attending the high school.  It is also going to be very strange for me not to see Ricky around all day long; especially after all of the hours we've been together, including the time he'd spent in my office before he came to live with me.  I knew I was going to miss having that little imp around, more than anyone could ever imagine.

It was during the first week of school that something else happened.  I received a call at work.  "Mr. Currie, I'm Max Snelzig," the voice told me, "and I work for USA Today.  My paper happened to pick up on an article that was run about you and your boys a few weeks ago, and we'd like to run our own feature article about your unique family. Do you think it would be possible for us to meet and discuss this within the next couple of days?"

"Mr. Snelzig, I'm flattered, but there must be more important stories than ours for you to write about," I responded.

"You are the perfect human interest story, positive and uplifting," he replied.  "I think it's important for others to see there are more than just fetuses that need our attention and concern.  There are plenty of children out there who could use loving and caring homes, and we want to write about what you've done, to give others the idea about what they could also do."

"I think I should talk this over with the boys first, and call my older children, before I can commit myself to something of this nature.  Would you allow me until tomorrow, before I give you an answer?"

"Certainly, I'll call you back tomorrow afternoon," he assured me, "and if you agree, I'll be out there on Wednesday, so we can run this in the weekend edition."

I was stunned, to say the least.  Another article about us?  I still didn't see how we were really newsworthy.  However, I'd talk to the boys and see what they thought of this idea.

That evening, after dinner, I had everyone remain at the table, so I could explain what I had been told earlier.  After I gave them the basics, I also provided them an opportunity to speak out. "I won't do this without your approval," I told them, "seeing it's your lives that will be exposed for everyone to see.  So, who wants to tell me what they think first?"  All the boys looked at me and then at each other.  It was my impetuous blond imp who spoke first.

"Dad, if this can help find homes for other kids, then I say we've got to do it," he announced, quite confidently.  "I don't mind people knowing what happened to me, if some other kids can end up with a decent place to live, like we did."

"Wait a minute," Dustin announced.  "Does this mean they'd tell about why Kev's dad kicked me out?  I mean… I don't want the girls thinking I'm gay and ruining my chances with them."

"Would they find out about why I got kicked out too?" Danny wondered. He looked nearly as concerned as Dustin. "Man, that might not go over so well at school.  I mean, everyone's okay thinking I MIGHT be gay, but that would pretty much convince them I was and I don't know how they'd react then."

"Those things could happen," I warned, as I didn't want to mislead them and then have it all come out later.  "If he's a good reporter, he might even look up your dad and Kevin's, so he can interview them about what you were like before you came to live here."  Both Dustin and Danny looked very concerned now.

 "I'd be happy to let the asshole who beat on me get interviewed and see this story in a national paper, where the whole world could see it too," Kevin added, with a touch of sarcasm.  "If he thinks he was embarrassed because one of his friends might find out about me, then what's he gonna do when it's in the paper for everyone to read over and over again?"

I don't think Kevin was going along with this idea only to get some payback on his father, but he sure wasn't going to ignore that possibility either. I even thought he might bring it up himself, before the reporter had a chance to ask.

After we discussed this for many more minutes, I think Graham said it best.

"Daddy, if other kids are going hungry or don't have a good home and this might help them find someone to love and take care of them like you did for us, then maybe we should let them put it in ALL of the papers."

The boys looked at each other, sizing up the various reactions to Graham's statement. They were all going over this in their minds, when Danny broke the silence.

"You know, he's right, Dad," Danny began.  "Even if we might be a little uncomfortable about the paper telling what happened to us, we should be doing it for the other kids who don't have it so good.  If doing this might get more people like you to take in more kids like us, then I say we should do it too."

There was a lot of murmuring between the boys, as they discussed this further, because Dustin still wasn't sure about it.  "I can understand what everyone's saying and why," Dustin began, "but I have to think about how this is going to affect me.  I'd like to help those other kids too, but not if it means I'm going to be labeled gay and not have any chance with the girls at our school."

"Can't you just give them the hint you're bi?" Ricky asked him. "You can say you've experimented a bit, but that you really prefer girls.  That should do it for you."

"Yeah, and the girls might also think that would make you more sensitive," Danny added, "and from what I've seen, girls like sensitive guys."

I guess that was enough to sway his vote, because in the end, the boys were unanimously behind the idea.  Although they still weren't totally fond about drawing attention to themselves or having how they came to live with me be exposed, they hoped this would serve a higher purpose.  By allowing this article to be published, it might be a way to help others, who were currently in situations similar to what they had experienced, to get their own fresh start.  I thought it was quite generous of them to be willing to share the dark secrets of their pasts in order to help other young people they'd never met.

This caused me to think about the old saying that good deeds are rewarded tenfold. If what I had done was a good deed, then the boys were the ones who were going to magnify it tenfold, or possibly even more.  Of course, then there was the other saying -- no good deed goes unpunished, which made me wonder in which direction this would actually go.

When Max Snelzig called me back, I confirmed the boys were willing to go along with his request, but I did ask him one favor.  "The boys are willing to do this to help others who might benefit if other adults are willing to share their homes and love with them, but I ask you to please respect as much of their privacy as possible.  Although each of them understands this could get out of hand and become fodder for those who might wish to bash us on various levels, I hope you will only expose as much of their past as is absolutely necessary to accomplish your goal of writing a human interest story.  I am only doing this because you don't represent one of those tawdry tabloids and trust you can maintain an interest level without digging for the dirt under any of our rugs."

After assuring me that would be the case, we set up a time for him to come out and meet the entire group.  He arrived at the house early one evening and began to interview us each separately, although I sat with each of the boys as he was speaking with them, just to protect them as much as I could. He also brought along a photographer, who snapped numerous pictures of us, mostly candid shots, when we least expected them. I do believe he took a picture of each of the boys while they were interacting with me, as well as taking several other shots showing the boys with each other.

Before he left, he asked my permission to contact my older children, so he could get their reactions as to what they thought of this arrangement.  I agreed and gave him each of their phone numbers, before adding that I expected him to treat them with the same civility as he had with each of us.

Needless to say, when the article was published, we bought multiple copies of that edition, so everyone would have their own copy to preserve for the future. We were a little apprehensive when we first sat down to read it, so, I read it aloud, and we were all pleased with Max's tasteful presentation of our situation.  I think we all breathed a deep sigh, once we realized he had kept his word.

Now that the genie had been let out of the bottle, there was no easy way to cork him back in.  We immediately began receiving numerous letters, cables and emails, which were forwarded to us via USA Today, and I took the time to read each of them to the boys as we sat around the dining room table. After each item was read, we would decide, as a group, as to how we wished to respond to it.  In general, the boys suggested that we should be polite and appreciative to each sender, but also agreed we should make it a point not to encourage them to think of us unique or special.

After discussing this on several different occasions, the boys agreed that, more than likely, there were other mixed families in other communities who had accomplished as much as we had.  Even though we had no way of knowing for certain, we suspected there were unsung heroes out there doing just as much for the children who lived with them, so we didn't want anyone to think any less about what they were doing.  We certainly didn't want to portray ourselves as the 'only example' or the 'model eclectic family' and would be more than happy to be acknowledged as just one small raft in a sea of thriving non- traditional families.  However, it appeared that choice was not to be ours.  For some unknown reason, we soon became this season's media darlings and Time and Newsweek also picked up our story and ran articles about our family. That brought us a new round of even more correspondence, but this time it came from all around the world.  No matter how much the media tried to single us out, we continued to insist there were other families and persons who were doing just as much and equally as deserving of such attention and praise.

While all of this hubbub had been going on, the boys had also started their fall sports season.  Although Cole and Graham didn't participate, they did go and support the others, and their brothers made sure to take time to come over to greet them at least once during the competition.  That small gesture made Cole and Graham feel special and they enjoyed the fact that their brothers would always go out of their way to speak to them or encourage their closest teammates to go over and say 'hello' to the pair as well.  That's how Cole and Graham became the unofficial mascots for these teams and were often the focal point of some impromptu cheerleading.

Both teams were doing fairly well, and all of the boys were becoming invaluable assets to their respective squads.  I was pleased with how everyone was doing, but there was one whom I was most proud of.  He had definitely made the greatest improvement and I was thrilled to have been there to witness him scoring his first goal.  He even came over to me to talk about it afterward.

"Pop, did you see that?" an excited Jay asked me.  "I actually scored."

"I did and it was quite impressive," I assured him. "It was a tough angle and I loved the way you drilled it into the upper corner of the net.  Any lower and the keeper might have had a chance to make a save."  Jay was simply beaming.

"You were right," he told me, looking me squarely in the eye.

"About what?" I asked, perplexed.  I wasn't sure what he was referring to.

"When you told me, I'd grow into my body and not be so awkward," he explained. "Everyone's been telling me how much better I'm getting at nearly everything, and I hardly ever have those embarrassing accidents anymore."

"I'm glad to hear that," I told him, while placing my arm about his shoulders.  "I had faith that your coordination would eventually catch up and you certainly did look impressive out there.  Not only did you score, but that was also a pretty nifty assist you had before that, on your crossing pass to your midfielder."  This time Jay actually did blush.

"It was actually meant for the wing, but I kind of pulled the kick," he admitted.

"Well, no one would know that, if you don't tell them," I hinted. "Even the great players are hesitant to admit when luck is involved in one of their fantastic plays." He looked up at me and grinned.

"Thanks, Pop.  You always know how to make me feel better."

He walked with me the rest of the way to his parent's car and gave me a special hug before he got in with them.  Once they pulled out, I hurriedly gathered up my own brood, so I could take them home and feed them -- before they got ugly.