02-16-2009 03:23 PM - last edited on 02-16-2009 06:56 PM by Rachel-K
Empty house status is what I and my brothers and sister had when we were in high school. A place to hang out with no adult supervision!
02-16-2009 03:53 PM
I have learned that applying today's standards to a story that was written in a different time just doesn't work. I also have the experience of growing up in a small rural community during the 60's where kids were out on their own all day or at someone else's house. Many times there were aunts/uncles around and the community looked after the kids. It seems that Benjie and Reggie's parents felt the boys were safe in Sag Harbor and that their intent was to join the boys on the weekends. I haven't finished the book yet, so am not sure if there was a reason for their absence.
The parents lack of concern regarding food and electricity as others have pointed out, seems out of character, when you get the sense that this is a close family in other ways and that these parents try to be involved in their boys' lives during the rest of the year.
Perhaps this was a way that the author was able to develop his story, that couldn't be done with the parents there all of the time. When we have Mr. Whitehead with us, hopefully he can shed some light on this.
02-16-2009 04:35 PM
02-16-2009 04:50 PM
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02-16-2009 05:10 PM
The thought of empty house status sounds like fun for awhile. Being alone would be great, but I think it would get old fast. Having to clean up all at once at the end of the week (with maggots living in the pots!) would be a huge chore! Not something I would want to do every Friday. Also, I think it would be a little scary being only fifteen and alone at night. I live in a safe neighborhood and there are some nights I get the daylights scared out of myself by some noise outside my house!
I understand why the author chose not to have the parents stay with the kids all week. The story is much more exciting from Benji's point of view without the parents there. If they were present I'm sure the electricity would have stayed on, there'd always be food in the house and hopefully no maggots in the dirty pots!
02-16-2009 07:46 PM
02-16-2009 07:49 PM
Having Empty-House Status shows a great trust, but unfortunately it really could not
aply to this day and age. With todays strict laws for minors,a parent wouldn't dare leave
a teen home alone.
02-16-2009 07:50 PM
02-16-2009 07:58 PM
The thought of empty house status sounds like fun for awhile. Being alone would be great, but I think it would get old fast. Having to clean up all at once at the end of the week (with maggots living in the pots!) would be a huge chore! Not something I would want to do every Friday.
I enjoyed reading about the whole processw of selecting wich frozen dinners would be consumed for the week. Some of the brand mentions I have not thought of since the 80's myself. Other than canned soup I don't thing that were were many dirty pots to worry about. They seem to live off frozen dinners including the Chicken Cutlet Medley from Wieght Watchers in the "pink" box. I enjoyed the line "...the sight of pink box sliding across the scanner rousing mysundtymanhood issues,..."
~ Joseph Addison ~
"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
02-16-2009 08:06 PM
02-16-2009 08:23 PM
Coming from a complete Midwestern upbringing, I found the empty house status rather disturbing. I mean it's great to trust your kids enough to leave them alone for an evening or while your at work during the day, but for an entire week? And it's not my thought that these kids would get into trouble while being left alone, but what if an injury would occur or what if the house burned down while they were fixing their tv dinners? These kids are about 10 years older than my kids, but even when I was a kid my parents wouldn't have thought to leave us alone for so long.
But as far as the brothers thought, it didn't seem that they thought it out of the ordinary, their only concern was finding a job to supplement the credit at the local grocery store.
I also grew up in the Midwest and came from a large family. I would have done almost anything for an empty house status. Both of our parents worked ( which was not the normal in our neighborhood). So when Mom went to work, the seven of us were left alone for about 2 hours before Dad came home. But we had Mrs. H. on the left and Mrs. Z. on the right. If anything out of the ordinary was occurring, believe me, they were calling us, or updating our parents as soon as they drove in the driveway. Nothing got past either of the neighbors, they watched us like hawks. I wonder if the Sag Harbor was more of this type of neighborhood. Where adult neighbors were more family and kept close watch over the kids. Although from a teen's mind, they were on their own.
However, being a parent now...I wouldn't consider leaving my teens alone for a week even with close neighbors.
02-16-2009 08:27 PM
"Empty-House Status" is when the parents are away at work for the week and the kids are home alone. This is the house that the kids would gather for the day because there would be no parents hovering over them.
I personally didn't see anything wrong with it. It seemed like they lived in an area where there were other adults around that could help if it came to it. My parents were home every night, but I was left home all summer long to take care of my brother and sometimes neighbor kids when I was in my early, early teens. Times have changed, it seems to be a more violent world and it is scarier to think of leaving your kids home alone, but in the same sense maybe the upcoming generations would have a better sense of responsibility and a harder work ethic if they were left to their own devices.
I think for this story it has been necessary to have no parents around.
02-16-2009 08:48 PM
02-16-2009 09:24 PM
02-16-2009 09:55 PM
I thought that "empty-house" status referred to the boy's position with their friends, as well as their independence. Now their house was the hang-out. They had the dubious honor of being the place that everyone would congregate, the place from which all plans would be made, the place where they felt free from parental pressure. I thought it elevated them somewhat in their group.
So far, they seem to be pretty well behaved, as well. I was surprised, though, that the parents stayed away for as long as they did. I have been to Sag harbor and it is a wonderful place. It was relatively safe in that time period, also. I don't remember anyone even locking a door. Days were filled with bikeriding, ballgames, sunbathing, shyly looking for the opposite sex, ice cream parlors, etc. I don't think the news was about sexual predators or child abuse. The times seemed more innocent, wholesome.
The boys were teenagers and seemed pretty independent, getting their own jobs, preparing minimal meals, shopping, etc. I can't imagine getting a babysitter for them. I had babysitters for my kids who were younger than the boys were, but I never left them overnight, just for a few hours, and I was close by. The length of time they were left alone troubled me but perhaps they had proven themselves to be very responsible young adults and their parents trusted them with good reason. It seems that today, the world is "bigger" scarier, fraught with danger and also it seems that everyone is always looking over everyone's shoulder. I don't remember Child Protective Services being a part of my life when I was young or when I raised my kids. I never even thought about them or their relationship to anything in my life.
02-16-2009 11:33 PM
I think that empty house status gave Benji and Reggi freedom and also gave them the honor of being the meeting post for Benji and the gang. It did have drawbacks though as most people indicated. They didn't have enough food in the house and Benji and his brother had to budget their money until their parents came out on the weekend, but sometimes they didn't come out at all.
I do agree that back then leaving them alone at the beach house themselves was not unusual but nowdays that would not be a likely option for parents to do. But I think if I was Benji with having the run of the house at the beach, it would certainly be a fantastic adventure!
02-16-2009 11:50 PM
I would imagine there was enough "credit" for the food that would be necessary if all of the friends of Benji and Reggie had not used the house as their meeting place.
I grew up in the late 60s and my parents would no more leave us alone all night as fly to the moon (for good reason, I might add). I can't imagine be left alone for over a week, although I'm sure there wasn't a lot of trouble they could get into on an island with no transportation besides old bikes.
02-17-2009 09:39 AM
When I think of Empty House, I think of it two ways. The first way I would have to put myself in that time period of a 14, 15 year old boy. What a great time I would have had. I would have actually ended up learning more from my mistakes and the lessons I would have learned would have been life lessons that I would have taken with me throughout my life. Got to get a job to eat. Each action brings with it a consequence.
Now when I think of leaving my boys ages 16 and 13 at a beach house all week alone in 2009 that's a different story. Sure if I asked them if they wanted to do that they would answer yes without hestiation. But, I could never because first they would kill each other and second times have changed and the kids today would never be able to exist without Mommy doing things for them. To however think of it from my mom's point of view back in the 80's, I remember two weeks during the summer when I was 17 and my brother 15 my parents went to Hawaii and we stayed alone. I had a job my brother didn't. We basically got along but it was tough and yes I did learn some life lessons mainly nothing is as good as it appears to be.
02-17-2009 09:50 AM
"Every burned book enlightens the world."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
02-17-2009 09:54 AM
"Every burned book enlightens the world."
Ralph Waldo Emerson