It’s happened at least twice in the last month. People with whom we are barely acquainted find out that Sir and I are going to New Zealand. Their parents happen to live there. “Oh cool,” they say. “Let me give you my parents’ address. They’d love to see you!” Apparently we don’t even have to know someone for them to “love” to see us. Personally I can think of nothing I would like to do less on my vacation that visit your parents. Does sending us to visit their parents get them off the hook for visiting themselves? Is this an ex-pat thing?
Both Sir and I are technically part of this community, having emigrated to the colonies, but our expression of loyalty to Mother England is limited to consumption of some British foodstuffs–Marmite for him, chocolate for me. To winkle out what I was missing in this parental-contact-address thing, I consulted Roger Squaggly-Braithwaite, arbiter and fount of knowledge for all things in the English-speaking ex-pat community.
The Squag, as he is known, nodded sympathetically when I went to see him in his houseboat. “Oh absolutely, my dear,” he told me, “this is a conundrum frequently encountered by the overly-integrated ex-pat like yourself. It’s your accent, you see. You haven’t one. Fortunately, Sir does which explains why you were approached with the precious chore of visiting the parents of One of Us.” He reached behind him and selected a battered book entitled ‘Queries Underwritten by the English Ex-Patriots of Norway (QUEEN), Adopted by Ex-Patriot Community of the United States, March 1964.’ He turned to Section J, subsection 4, paragraph 16 line 122, which reads:
‘…In the event that one is unable to make at least annual filial visits to one’s country of origin, a system of proxy visiting can be established.’
The Squag took a sip of tea, pinky at the appropriate angle (I bet he measured it; I saw a protractor on his desk), said he could anticipate the query of “what is proxy visiting?’ from me, and showed me this:
‘…The system of Proxy Visiting was established in June, 1951 to aid ex-patriots who wished to fulfill their duty of an annual visit to their parents and homeland but were unable to do so. [See Filial Duty, Section B:2:44:6.] Inability to visit may be due in part to distance from the homeland, expense, arrest warrants, or uncongenial relationships with family members. A visit by an alternate family member, friend, or acquaintance on one’s behalf will fulfill the annual requirement, as long as at least 10 minutes of conversation are devoted to inquiries into the well-being of the family. Arrangements for favors and payment to the proxy should be established before the visit.’
I knew it. There’s a manual. Since no mention of payment or favors was made, I have this to say: Visit your own damn parents.