It was the early 1970’s and the family had tagged along with my father on his European speaking tour. We were three siblings, 14, 12 and 10 going through the throes of adolescence, which is never a pretty sight. I think I may have contributed to my mom’s constant eye twitch, because at that age everything elicited a seriously melodramatic reaction from me. [And as I was to later learn the hard way, Moms make the best target. Karma, you bitch!]
My father was well-respected in his field, and if the Rolls Royce waiting at the train station was expecting an American version of the Royal Family, well, the chauffeur and host were about to be sadly disappointed. We tumbled out of the train, looking mighty worse for the wear. I wore my angst on my face as a scowl, my brother had a gap in his smile from a lost permanent front tooth (how it came to be lodged in the head of a shorter classmate is another story). My sister was still pouting the absence of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes in all of these obviously sub-par restaurants that should have been stripped of their Michelin stars for this abomination.
We had been staying in various Ritz-Carleton’s, not our usual Howard Johnson’s with a roll-out cot. We were soon deposited in a beautiful historic hotel in some old German city. My parents had a gorgeous suite and the children were relegated to the smaller room next door. We were ecstatic! Our own room? My sister began jumping on the bed while my brother went on a search and rescue mission, opening every drawer, every cabinet. On cue, I stared moodily out the windows, wondering who else had sat in that exact place over time and if their ghost was still hovering nearby.
Suddenly, a “WHAT????” was heard from my brother. Baby Sis and I went to join him, but he slammed the bathroom door in our face. “What did you find?” we squealed, but he was silent. Finally he opened the door and we could see that his face was frozen in shock. He slowly pointed to the opened cabinet drawers under the sink. There sat a pile of magazines. We gathered around them and our faces froze in similar shock: these were Naked Lady magazines!! Oh, my, goodness … or not. We laughed and giggled our way through the pages until we heard our parents knocking at the door.
“It’s dinner time, kids,” mom advised us.
“NO!” we responded in unison.
You could just see her and dad exchanging looks. Dad rattled the door knob, “Open this door now,” he demanded. He was tired and hungry and in no mood for sassy kids. So, my brother slowly unlocked and opened the door.
“What is going on in here?”
But mom had already looked over our shoulders and saw the pile of magazines. She started to walk over, obviously puzzled as to their origins. We screeched and ran to cover them up, but it was too late! “Where did you get these?!” and my brother explained that they had been in plain sight … if you crawled into the cabinet and scrunched behind the plumbing.
The General Manager was simultaneously notified, horrified and mortified. He came to apologize and to confiscate the pornography, but my brother refused to give it up. The rest of us were welcomed to take the soaps and shampoos for our souvenirs: but the magazines were his alone. My parents said they would deliver the magazines later, but let’s go eat dinner now.
We were packing to leave, and Dad happened to glance through my brother’s suitcase. He thundered at him, “Are you crazy? Were you really going to try to sneak these magazines back home?” My dad was furious, confiscating the porn for good. He and mom were beside themselves: “Do you kids realize what would have happened to your father if he were caught TRANSPORTING PORNOGRAPHY INTO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA??” My dad was clearly traumatized at the vision of the newspaper photos showing him being led away in handcuffs for a crime he clearly hadn’t committed. And how close it had been to reality, had he not happened to sneak a peek into his son’s luggage. I think that was the last European vacation that we took as a family. In fact, I am positive.