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Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Empty-House Status

The parents' marriage appears stressful... the father is a hard-working professional, who prides himself on his accomplishments. I have the impression that he is not very pleasant to his wife. I'm not sure how much details into their marriage we'll get later in the book.

 

Ben and Reggie are typical teenage boys who don't dwell on or over-analyze their reactions to their parents' marriage. I see an emotional distancing that wouldn't be a typical teenage girl's response. 

 

As a teenage girl, I would gnaw at this emotional bone. If I  were writing this autobiography as an adult woman, I would probably spend a lot of energy analyzing how my parents relationships affected how I were raised.

 

Seeing this from a teenage boy's point of view is making my head spin. 

 


bookloverjb85 wrote:
A few other people have mentioned this as well, "what is Benji not telling us?"  I have to admit that I did not think of it this way until I read other people's reactions.  Are is parents going through financial hardship, or is something going on with their marriage?  Could it simply be that they had to work and couldn't get out of it for the whole summer, because the impression I got was that they usually stayed with Benji and Reggie throughout the time at Sag Harbor.  We will have to see.

IBIS wrote:

The “empty house” theme intrigues me by what Ben does not reveal. We aren't privy to his personal speculations about why his parents are not going to be around.

 

I know that as a teenager, I would have been anxious about unpaid electricity bills, running out of food, and my parents’ unexplained absences.  I’m surprised that neither Ben nor Reggie seem concerned… Ben, who is otherwise pretty straightforward about his reactions, is unusually quiet about it. 

 

On p. 40, his reaction to when he first hears that they’ll be on their own is revealing.

 

“ ‘You’re men now,’ my father told me when I asked who was going to look after us. ‘You can take of yourselves.’ Men? A compliment and a curse: no more excuses, no one to blame. At first I through he was joking. But there we were – me and Reggie alone during the week, and my parents only coming out on weekends. If then.”

 

This extended unsupervised summer camp seems extreme.  There are no other indications that his parents are otherwise neglectful or irresponsible. It makes me wonder what Ben isn't telling us.


 


 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Inspired Contributor
kren250
Posts: 76
Registered: ‎01-01-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

It mentions somewhere that the older sister usually stayed with the boys all summer, and that this was the first summer she didn't come out. So I don't think it was unusual for the parents not to be there during the week. I would imagine it would be hard for them to take that much vacation time off work. 

 


bookloverjb85 wrote:
A few other people have mentioned this as well, "what is Benji not telling us?"  I have to admit that I did not think of it this way until I read other people's reactions.  Are is parents going through financial hardship, or is something going on with their marriage?  Could it simply be that they had to work and couldn't get out of it for the whole summer, because the impression I got was that they usually stayed with Benji and Reggie throughout the time at Sag Harbor.  We will have to see.
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Empty-House Status

The older sister, Elena, is starting college in the fall, so she is grown up and no longer come "out" to Sag Harbor. In summers past, she supervised the boys while their parents stayed in Manhattan.

 

Now that Elena no longer supervises the boys, the parents planned to visit on weekends. But as the story progresses, there are numerous times when they don't come at all on weekends. That's what's so strange.


kren250 wrote:

It mentions somewhere that the older sister usually stayed with the boys all summer, and that this was the first summer she didn't come out. So I don't think it was unusual for the parents not to be there during the week. I would imagine it would be hard for them to take that much vacation time off work. 

 


bookloverjb85 wrote:
A few other people have mentioned this as well, "what is Benji not telling us?"  I have to admit that I did not think of it this way until I read other people's reactions.  Are is parents going through financial hardship, or is something going on with their marriage?  Could it simply be that they had to work and couldn't get out of it for the whole summer, because the impression I got was that they usually stayed with Benji and Reggie throughout the time at Sag Harbor.  We will have to see.

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Distinguished Wordsmith
aprilh
Posts: 424
Registered: ‎09-25-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

In Chapter 4 (The Gangsters) we're introduced to another reason why a family might not be "out": Other Family. It seems when Benji asks his mother why certain families are not coming out anymore she says Mr. So-and-so has another family. It makes Benji wonder which family is the real one and which is the other family. Which family is more loved and which gets the leftovers.
April
Inspired Correspondent
nfam
Posts: 231
Registered: ‎01-08-2007
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Re: Empty-House Status

I certainly understand not having a sitter for kids during the day. Sometimes the sitter needed more watching than the children. However, I am disturbed by leaving the boys alone at night and even more so over a weekend. I got the feeling that the parents were having serious problems and perhaps were protecting the boys from their fights by staying away. I haven't finished the book, so I'm not sure about that. Still it made sense to me and just cavalerly leaving them alone didn't.
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

"To be honest, people are lazier now, and if the children are left alone, they would most likely not survive. We are too used to having most things handed to us."

 

I think you worded it perfectly. I grew up in the late 80's early 90's and we were left home alone all the time. Granted we weren't left for weekends until I was able to drive "In case of an emergency what would you do?" was always my parent's reasoning behind this. But even as a young child in the summers my mom would leave me and my sister alone while she was at work. I think that my situation was rare though. Most of my friends had stay at home moms, who were always home. The ones that had both working parents usually had to go to someone else's house after school until their parents got home.

 

I had friends in high school that went right from living at home to living with their boy/girlfriends. When I talk to some of my friends now, who don't live with anyone it seems as if their lives are falling apart. They hate living alone, I have a friend that didn't know how to tie a trash bag, and she used to spill them all the time. She lost her deposit on her apartment because of the stains in the carpet. It seems silly to me that she grew up with such little responsibility that she doesn't know how to tie a trash bag. But that's the life that many kids live now. I think it mainly started with my generation and has just gotten worse over time. 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Distinguished Correspondent
biljounc63
Posts: 189
Registered: ‎11-02-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status


Jennmarie68 wrote:

"To be honest, people are lazier now, and if the children are left alone, they would most likely not survive. We are too used to having most things handed to us."

 


I aggree that people are lazier now and time have changed but Benji (He still is benji to me he has not matured int a Ben to me yet) and Reggie lived off of 100% processed food, ice cream only cleaned what they had to just before the parents would be "out".We all seem to be in the mode of instant gratification.

 

The senario with the taco meat with maggots tells me that even when the parents were in the picture wholesome food was not in the picture. 

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
~ Joseph Addison ~

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
Contributor
JulieC82
Posts: 19
Registered: ‎01-09-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

As I'm reading the book and realizing that their parents are starting to come out less frequently on the weekends, I keep thinking "boy have times changed". If that were the case in today's world they would have a nanny there to at least be somewhat of a supervisor. The nanny would take the place of their older sister, Elena.

 

It's not even like the 1985 was so long ago either but it just seems like another world to me. So far it seems like Benji and Reggie are fairly responsible about the status but I wonder how that will continue.

Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

April,

 

I agree that without the empty house status much of what happened to Benji would be lost. The parents being gone is really an intergral part of the story, without it I don't see as many things occuring. 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

deaver,

 

I also grew up being usually the only white kids in my classes. We moved to the suburbs in the middle of my Freshman year. I was not only an adjustment, but it was also a culture shock. I was no longer the lone kid wandering around during recess, nor was I the white kid who sat in the teacher's room during luch because I didn't have many friends. But I also didn't have to walk through metal detectors every morning, nor did I have to open my locker once a week for locker sweeps. 

 

When I think back to school I still think that I was the lone white kid, even though the last three years I wasn't. I wouldn't say it was tramatic, quite the opposite, but like yourself I think my views on certain things are shaped much differently from that of my peers who spent their entire lives living in the suburbs. 

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

Kren,

 

you bring up a good point that I didn't think about till I read your post. The sister did used to stay with the boys while the parents were gone. But that leads me to this question: How did she take care of them while the parents were gone? We're seeing these boys struggle to keep food in the house and both of them are working. How would their sister have managed to take care of all three of them? Are the parents going through something, either financial or relationshp wise, that hadn't existed the previous years and that would have allowed the sister to keep the house well stocked and powered up?

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Frequent Contributor
Guerneymember12
Posts: 48
Registered: ‎09-21-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

empty-house status is the status of the cabin after the parents have eventually stopped coming as much as they used to.  for example the whole family used to come for the summers, then the dad maybe only came on weekends, until finally, maybe only the parents are coming on weekends or not at all.

 

today's that would not be as simple a thing to do.  parents would not leave their parents alone for such long periods of time.  that's sad--that they are not able to because it is simply not safe to do that any more without someone old enough to watch over the children. 

 

also, you have the rich parents who are able to pay someone to watch their children (ex. a nanny ) too much of the time.  I see this a lot where I live and I wonder if you didn't want to take care of the kids, why are you having them?

Frequent Contributor
cocospals
Posts: 115
Registered: ‎12-25-2007
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Re: Empty-House Status

I think the big difference between the Empty House status of Benji's time and now is the level of resourcefulness. Benji's time they found things to keep themselves occupied, they went to the beach, rode bikes, etc.  Nowadays, kids are lazier, depend on electronics, tv,video games, text messaging, to keep themselves occupied.  I don't necessarily agree with leaving two young teens on their own for a week at a time but it was a different time and obviously their parents were very trusting.
Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there - John Wooden
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lovetoread75
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎02-11-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

 

 

I was very puzzled upon the first mention of Benji's parents leaving for the entire week and planning on only returning for weekends.  There is no doubt for me that such an arrangement could be done today without criminal reprocussions for the parents. 

I was also puzzled by the fact that it was done in 1985.  1965 or even 1975, maybe.

I think they were lucky something very bad didn't happen.  To me, it seemed to be a recipe for disaster.

I don't think it is a shame that this arrangement couldn't be done today.  Kids need supervision for a reason...they are not mature enough at this age.

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JulieC82
Posts: 19
Registered: ‎01-09-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

My husband and I talk about this all the time and how in the summer we were never inside on beautiful days out. We were out on our bikes, at the beach/pool, clowning around at a friends house. Now it seems like kids need something electronic connected to them to keep them interested. What a shame.

 

We have young kids and we are going to try our hardest to have them be active and enjoy the outdoors instead of being holed up in the house playing a video game.

 

I find it interesting that none of the other families out there stopped by to check in on Reggie and Benji. I would have thought being the close community they were that would've happened.

Inspired Contributor
mattzay
Posts: 65
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Empty-House Status

When I was in high school, my friend had a cottage in a beach in Ontario, Canada. We would spend weeks at that cottage while her parents would not come down until the weekend. We had our fair share of parties and let the house get messy. Then, we would race against the clock to clean up before they got there. While we never let the parties get out of hand, we never realized how lucky we were that something serious did not happen.

 

In today's world, it would be unacceptable to leave teenagers home alone during the week. I cannot imagine even leaving them alone overnight. Too many things have changed.

 

 

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mattzay
Posts: 65
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Empty-House Status

As hard as it is for me to imagine, for many of my students, it is reality. I teach elementary school and I have students who walk to and from school alone. They also get themselves up and dressed. They also walk to the local convienence store and purchase their own food. Many of the students I teach have had to learn how to be self reliant.

 

When I read the part about the power being shut off, it bothered me because why did Benji and Reggie's parents not make sure that the bills were current. I also think that it is healthy that teenagers get a job, but no so they can buy food. Teenagers eat a lot. Their parents should make sure that there is enough before they leave. Especially if they are not going to come back every weekend.

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drbjaded
Posts: 41
Registered: ‎12-02-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

Empty house status was where your parents were back in the city working and the kids stayed at the summer house by themselves.  I really wouldn't leave children like that by themselves especially with buddies who can get beer.  It really seems like they are taken advantage of because there is no adult supervision in the house and the parents don't even seem to come visit on the weekends either.  They SEEM to have a lot of trust to leave the two boys alone.  Then the food situation is kinda strange that they have to make due with what they have and even get jobs so they can eat better.  Kids at this age especially boys eat ALOT and I'm sure they went hungry a few times. 
"You cannot love life until you live the life you love."
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JulieC82
Posts: 19
Registered: ‎01-09-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

Very good point about the food. I guess it goes to show us the reader how self-centered the parents really were. Teenagers should have to pay for fun things (if their family can afford it) but not the basics.
Distinguished Scribe
blkeyesuzi
Posts: 730
Registered: ‎01-26-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status


mattzay wrote:

As hard as it is for me to imagine, for many of my students, it is reality. I teach elementary school and I have students who walk to and from school alone. They also get themselves up and dressed. They also walk to the local convienence store and purchase their own food. Many of the students I teach have had to learn how to be self reliant.

 

When I read the part about the power being shut off, it bothered me because why did Benji and Reggie's parents not make sure that the bills were current. I also think that it is healthy that teenagers get a job, but no so they can buy food. Teenagers eat a lot. Their parents should make sure that there is enough before they leave. Especially if they are not going to come back every weekend.


I tend to believe that the mother was telling the truth about the electricity when she said it was a billing mix-up...or even perhaps the chaos of her life caused a bill to slip by.  I don't think a doctor and lawyer during that time would have had financial problems, but I definitely think they'd get busy and forget to pay a bill every once in a great while.

 

Also, Benji mentions that his parents would re-imburse them for food when they came in for the weekend.  I want to believe that the parents would have provided more money had the boys told them the food budget wasn't cutting it.  (one thing I've experienced is that teenage boys eat a ton...and bored teenagers eat even more!)

 

Prior to this, the sister was in charge, so things were probably done differently.  They're all trying to figure this new system out, I think.

Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs