Jay is never good in the mornings. Neither am I. Walking to school so early that even Charles Bridge is completely empty – tired and still suffering from timezone change. After several years following the American Dream, I had returned to Europe with my new family, Prague – Bohemia! Back in America, so many parents were in awe of our confidence when we walked away from modern society, bought a retro-motorhome, and immersed ourselves in a parenting utopia beyond their debt-constrained lifestyles. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. We were Libertarians, radical unschoolers, or just plain crazy and following dream. Basically we were broke and had been laid off as private school teachers. No, actually it all began before that. Perhaps my misguided assumption that America is what we thought is was. It was, once in the Fifties – for WASPs maybe. The very phrase, ‘Looking for the American Dream’, is now something I recognised as exactly that which it defines – ‘a dream’. A British comedian once explained why we don’t have an ‘English Dream’, “Because we’re awake!” He exclaimed. No white picket fences for us!
Jay loved the tram ride, his sister Holly was already muscling her way out of the stroller to be a part of this morning confusion of Czech commuters, a new member of this brave new world of streets and city. Their life previously having been one of fields, trees, and rivers. Wild animals, rabbits, deer, fish, and the tourist hunters that would become our fleeting neighbours as radical-homeschooling parents on the run. The motorhome was as cosy as it was consuming – we felt almost agoraphobic, but our children embraced the bustle. Their eyes ablaze watching the traffic, buildings go by, and listening to the language and sirens. Full sensory over-ride after the calm of Snoqualmie River.
Outside the window Holly pointed with glee at Charles Bridge, recognising it as that bustling mass of tourism, statues, beggars, traders, and old men playing jazz to sell their CDs that we had walked through the day before. They don’t miss the countryside – they love the city! Prague is a world away from our homeschooling dream that had formed their personalities to deal with their new environment in a way the local, shy, commuting kids here just didn’t seem to have. “Ahoy!”, Said Jay to a child his own age. The kid just looked away, with a sort of, ‘We don’t talk in public’, look in his eyes.
Socially precocious is what I now call Jay and Holly. After spending so long mixing with children of all ages and even adults during our ‘Motorhome Diaries’ phase, they had developed skills beyond the confines of any city dweller. And, Prague is such a safe city that their happy and open manner does win some hearts. Occasionally a local, city boy will smile, wave, and respond with a look of, ‘we really can talk in public, and make new friends’. ‘The Motorhome Diaries’ is something I wanted to write. Once. That was before the disillusion that seemed to sweep across America. Before food stamps, hopelessness, and the very fact that this was no longer the Sixties. No ‘On the Road’ Bohemianism. Living as homeschoolers in an RV became a reality shock. Only once you spend a winter in one, with a frozen water supply, surrounded by meth addicts and weird ‘snowbirds’ that you suspected as being pedophiles as they try to make friends in a creepy way with your kids, do you realise how an utopian dream can become more related to ‘Breaking Bad’, than a family adventure.
The tram made it’s ‘pingy-pong’ noise before announcing the name of the next stop in Czech. A pronunciation sounding nothing like the words written on my map.
Jay had let go of the pole and flew backwards onto the deck as the tram suddenly came to a halt. “This is our stop!”, I croaked. My voice hoarse from whatever exotic cold we had all developed since the flight here. I grabbed Jay’s hand as we manipulated the stroller down the steps and into the cobblestoned road.
© 2014, Lee A. Elliott