Don't have to tell you where this is, just when. When was 15. That's my brother with me, on our last vacation in Europe before our military family was to be transferred back to the States.
I have a guilty secret, shared by Michael and my other siblings, not shown in this photo. The secret is inside that large handbag you see me holding a bit too carefully. Where you see the bulge, there's a coffee can inside that bag, lined with kleenex and paper towels to make a nest for my pet rat, Gelati. Gelati secretly went with us all over Italy and was sneaked aboard the USS Darby when we sailed for New York. My parents had no idea.
Some kid on ship, um, ratted me out. I was summoned to the chaplain's office (!) and confronted with the charge that I was transporting vermin. Well, I had to defend poor Gelati's life, didn't I? So I lied. I said I had already tossed him overboard.
Other kids aboard backed me up. Yes, said one, I saw her throw it over the stern. Definitely, said another, I saw her throw it over the bow. We were with her when she tossed it over the starboard side. We were with her on the port side. Etc.
Meanwhile, though, the decision was made, since the rat could not be found, that when we arrived in New York, the USS Darby with all passengers would have to be quarantined there for 3 days. This was a military transport vessel, full of families who had been stationed abroad three or four years, all very eager to get back HOME. I was the pariah of the whole ship.
The decision, because of being so unpopular, was changed. Instead of quarantining the ship, each and every cabin would be thoroughly searched - and fumigated. That's when I really did tearfully toss Gelati overboard. I was relieved, but my parents were more upset than ever.
I could well understand their distress and fury, but it wasn't until decades later I found out the real source of it. My parents were smuggling alcohol in their luggage!
At least that was my understanding until a few days ago, until Thanksgiving.
"No," said Mom. "We didn't have anything in our luggage. We weren't smuggling liquor; YOU were!"