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Inspired Correspondent
mv5ocean
Posts: 114
Registered: ‎12-03-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

Gosh this book is ringing so true for me right from the start. I vacation on the East Coast and it's a community much like this one that comes to life during the "season".  It also has a very laid back lifestyle in that you do things you would never consider doing at your home base.....for instance.....leaving those kids alone for weeks at a time!  There are so many things here that resonate for me, from checking to see who is "in" and who didn't get to come......

From just these two chapters I can't yet say if it is a) the writer who has captured my attention, b) the fact that I'm familiar with so many of the ideals presented, or c) a perfect mixture of both......but I'm hooked.

This is such a refreshing piece so far and of course the time period fits me as well.

I just know that I'm going to love this one!

Contributor
sailorreader
Posts: 22
Registered: ‎02-08-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

Being from the midwest, I have to agree with others.  I feel for the parents to leave boys unattended for a week at a time was irresponsible behavior by the parents.

 

Perhaps it is early child rearing that leads to current social difficulties, e.g. charging food, not having anything to do days at a time, not learning responsibility because you learned it  living on your terms

 

These young men seem lucky, they had education and parents who had the ability to pay their bills.  But did they give them the love and support they needed?

 

As we read through the book I hope will we find out the kind of "parents" these young men turned out to be?

 

 

sailorreader
Frequent Contributor
Jennd1
Posts: 75
Registered: ‎01-28-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

Empty house status means parents back in the city.  Growing up in my neighborhood everyone's parents worked so we had empty houses after school and sometimes on the weekend.  Empty parents mean freedom to be ourselves.
Distinguished Correspondent
biljounc63
Posts: 189
Registered: ‎11-02-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

[ Edited ]

dreyslibrary wrote:
I could never imagine leaving my kid alone for a whole week, even if his friends were around, or even if other adults were around.  I mean, this is my kid, right?  But then I think back to when I was growing up. It didn't happen often, and it wouldn't be for a whole week, but sometimes my parents would be gone for up to 3 days, and I'd be in charge. But nowadays? No way. And it's not even because I wouldn't trust my kid. But because there's all kinds of wierdos out there, who can more easily get at more information than you'd ever want them to have, y'know?
If I had kids I also would never leave them alone for any extended period of time. I would guess that generation's past would say the same thing about "nowadays" being worse. Is it really or were the threats there but just different?
Message Edited by biljounc63 on 02-18-2009 08:05 PM
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
~ Joseph Addison ~

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
Correspondent
jabrkeKB
Posts: 164
Registered: ‎11-15-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

It was surprising to me that their parents would leave the boys at the beach house alone during the work week.  The parents probably grew up experiencing this as well, so it wasn't a big deal to them.
Contributor
RedRaindrops66
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎02-07-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

I was a little upset by the fact that the parents would leave their kids alone like that. Maybe it was considered ok then, and in that culture. I definitley don't consider it ok. If the parents are going back to the city during the week, then the kids should too. I see it as a little bit selfish on the parents' part. "Oh, let's just leave the kids in Sag Harbor and we can be by ourselves." I know that's not what he was saying.. but I can imagine that's what it would be like.

 

I can identify with the setting. I live in a summer vacation area in New England, and the routines are very much the same here as in the book.

Moderator
Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Empty-House Status

I'm really enjoying reading all the comments and the reminiscing about about having an "empty house." It's interesting that so many of us have such strong reactions to Benji and Reggie's parents doing this, even though we remember very similar situations from our own lives.
Inspired Wordsmith
CathyB
Posts: 271
Registered: ‎12-30-2006

Re: Empty-House Status

I grew up in a town 1/2 hour South of Boston, was in high school in the '80s and was

raised by byy grandparents. I don't remember any of my firends being left-alone; however,

that was not the case for me and my younger sister. I recall one winter when my

grandparents went to Florida for a month. They left us money for food and gas - I had my

license. We went out to dinner once, ate at home the rest of the time and drove to school

everyday. There were no parties and no kids invited over - I guess we weren't the norm -

or maybe that was just me as my sister did like to party. It was scary. I don't like the

noises heard in the house. We also had a car accident one morning on the way to school.

Mass. was having one of its major snow storms and the car skidded and tapped the car in

front of us -- I do mean tap - there was no damage to either car. We never told my

grandparents. I guess they thought leaving us alone was safe - my Mom lived in the next

town and my Aunt lived down the street. I personally could not leave my kids alone like

that.

Contributor
JAmber
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎02-07-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

I was shocked by the "empty-house status." I was a teen in the 90's and we were never alone for more than a few hours, let alone a week or more? Wow! I kind of felt sad for the boys having to eat the TV dinners. I love to cook and eat. I've had to eat TV dinners before, but I would not work to pay for them. I guess eating TV dinners is a small price to pay when you get a house to yourself for the summer! But now that I'm thinking about it I remember the Weight Watchers TV dinner find, so maybe his mother didn't cook that often.
Wordsmith
maude40
Posts: 357
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Empty-House Status

I too was shocked at the empty-house situation. I have three sons and I couldn't imagine leaving them alone for extented periods of time when they were teenagers. However in this story Benjie and Reggie seem to be (so far) adequately taking care of themselves and the house. I guess we'll see as the book moves along. Yvonne
Frequent Contributor
PinkBaby
Posts: 83
Registered: ‎09-03-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

yes i kinda agree it was kinda out of character concering food and electricity. i grew up on a farm and even though my dad was pretty busy on the farm. he alaways seemed tobe around. our mother was alaways around to. sometimes they would go away for a weekend but that was very rare.
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Empty-House Status

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."
Frequent Contributor
adopted1
Posts: 26
Registered: ‎02-05-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

I believe that since the community itself was so close knit, the parents felt comfortable leaving the boys alone. As someone had mentioned about the "culture", it's true. The culture of African American communities is to look after one another whether you are related or not. Sometimes the adults approached you or they would just tell your parents what they saw you doing or where they saw you at. My Moms favorite saying was "You don't know who I know, so watch what you do". She was right. There were times when she would ask me what I was doing downtown (Boston), when I was supposed to be at my cousins house.

Ben(ji) and Reggies parents do appear selfish by leaving the boys there to fend for themselves, but on the other hand, I think this was the norm for them. Also, their upbringing was pretty strict; private school and a limited social life except for Sag. Remember, when they were younger their sister looked out for them. Also, there was family there too.

The "Empty House" represents the gaining of self assurance and responsibility although we don't get that from either of the boys until they had to get jobs!
adopted1
Wordsmith
BookWoman718
Posts: 220
Registered: ‎01-28-2007
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Re: Empty-House Status

I guess we have yet to see whether the parents are enjoying their time off from the kids during the summer, or if some unrevealed situation is making it hard for them to get away, which I tend to believe.  But certainly it would be a hardship on the kids to keep them in the city during the summer, if you have some place they can get away to.  The city pretty much empties out in the summer, so friends are hard to come by, it's hot, and it's probably more dangerous to have them roaming around the neighborhood there than it is to let them be among families you know at your shore place.   One Manhattan based couple that I know, with a place on the Jersey shore, brings their kids down and leaves them for the summer - but has various grandmas, family friends, aunts, etc., come in and stay for a week or two at a time while the parents go back to the City four days a week.  The kids love being down there and rarely miss their City friends;  they have another whole cadre at the shore, and new ones appear each summer, just to change things up.  They, too, have much more freedom at the shore and have to be supervised more carefully in the City. 

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

I guess we really don't know how well off the family is and that the wole private school and being "out" on Sag Harbor may be more of a show but not really a thing the family can really afford but they do it for "show".

 

As far as the boys running out of money for food I'm surprised that they are allowed to eat amost exclusively frozen dinners for months on end. Frozen dinners is surely an expensive way to eat the food credit would have gone much farther if the food choices made were different.  

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

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
JSS
Contributor
JSS
Posts: 19
Registered: ‎12-03-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

I agree with both rkubie and Vivian. It was the late 60's when I was the age of Benji and Reggie and I remember clearly having all sorts of freedom that is unavailable (and oftentimes unacceptable) by todays more rigid standards. 

 

Empty house status occurred EVERY weekend during the school year and every DAY during the summer. We always tried to hang out where there were no adults and minimal supervision (older siblings and/or neighbors). It was not unusual for my parents to go visit relatives/friends, etc. and leave me home by myself for the weekend or for several days during the summer when I was 15. It just wasn't a big deal. And, as long as the house was picked up and the chores done by the time they came home, all was considered fine. Did we do some things we probably shouldn't have during these periods without parental supervision...of course we did. Would we have found ways to do those same things had we not been able to find an "empty house", you bet! We were teenagers with curious minds and raging hormones. And no current statistics anyone has shown me recently could suggest that kids today get into less trouble and are "safer" than we were back in the late 60's.

 

Were my parents overly permissive? Certainly not in my or my sisters eyes. They were two of the most conservative, caring, and thoughtful people whom I have ever known. They just believed that by age 14 or 15 they had instilled in us the ability to know what was right and wrong and they expected us to know what to do in case of an emergency (there was always a list of people to call if I ran into difficulties and I always knew they could be reached as well.

 

But no one with whom I grew up ever had to worry about "credit" running out at the store or having the lights shut off at the house. Not because we were rich, but because mom always left stuff in the fridge and freezer that could be eaten and was always a stickler about paying bills on time. Somehow, those two things just don't resonate with me at all, particularly from a family who was able to send their children to private school. 


 

rkubie wrote:

I'm the same age as the author, and I can certainly vouch for the veracity of this picture of the times!  The idea of paying a sitter after a child was old enough to stand at the stove and make macaroni was unheard of in decades past.

 

But you bring up a great point, Vivian. The lights getting shut off and the credit running out is a bit wild west for me, too. The parents seem to toss a lot of independence and responsibility on the boys with a fairly light attitude about it.

 

It's really interesting how fast ideas about what's appropriate for kids has changed. Maybe contemporary culture just pays much more attention to the idea of what's harmful in child rearing than we or our parents did in the past?


 

"I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth." Ayn Rand
Contributor
Hillabeans69
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎10-02-2008
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Re: Empty-House Status

"Empty-house" means parents are away and the kids begin to realize more responsibility to life.

 

I think Benji's and Reffie's lives on Sag Harbor aren't so different from childrearing today.  More and more parents need their kids to take on more responsibililty and start working and supporting the family households in today's worlds.  Childhoods are bcoming shorter and shorter.

Hill-a-beans
Contributor
lisadiane
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎01-31-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

I'm amazed that these kids did not get into more trouble.  However, I guess the fear of Dad kept Reggie and Benji on the straight and narrow.

 

I am only on page 150 and so far the worse they have done is drink beer. 

 

I think the parents took a huge risk in leaving their children overnight although I suspect that the busy body neighbors would have reported any shenanigans!

Contributor
tink29
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎02-15-2009
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Re: Empty-House Status

I was a bit disturbed by this as well.  I actually found it a bit hard to believe but I also grew up in the mid-west in a large family.  I was never left alone until I was at least 11 years old and then it was for only a few hours.  I imagine that the parrents thought it was safer to leave them alone in Sag Harbor than in NYC.  If you put that into perspective it makes more sense.  There were other mothers around the neighborhood, maybe more of a communal atmosphere than is realized at first.  I am only on page 44.  ........
Inspired Correspondent
bookloverjb85
Posts: 168
Registered: ‎10-12-2007
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Re: Empty-House Status

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.


 

--Jen--

"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann