BEVERLY VOLICER
Identity Crisis


It was 1978, and I was living in Brookline, Mass., with my Czech husband and my 2 daughters, ages 2 and 4, when we arranged to travel to Europe. I had a job teaching a short statistics course in Heidelberg for a week, and after that we would travel in Germany. We would be joined by my mom from Iowa and my father in law would come from Prague to meet us in Heidelberg. All went OK during that first week, and after that we took off on a road trip to various places in Southern Germany. Each day we rode along with the 2 guys in the front seat, and my mom, my daughters and me piled in the back. It was fun, but pretty chaotic, with the kids in constant motion and with my very limited ability to communicate with my father-in-law, who spoke no English. Each afternoon we had to find a place to stay for the night, unpack, and settle down in new surroundings.


One late afternoon we rented an apartment in an old farmhouse in Bavaria. With our odd constellation of travelers, it was a little difficult to figure out the sleeping arrangements. My mom and father-in-law weren't quite friendly enough to sleep together, and we had to be able to keep an eye on the kids. In this particular place, it turned out there was a small bed for my mom, a room with two single beds where we put my father-in-law and my older daughter, and a third double room where I was to sleep with my husband and my younger daughter.

It was 1978, and I was living in Brookline, Mass., with my Czech husband and my 2 daughters, ages 2 and 4, when we arranged to travel to Europe. I had a job teaching a short statistics course in Heidelberg for a week, and after that we would travel in Germany. We would be joined by my mom from Iowa and my father in law would come from Prague to meet us in Heidelberg. All went OK during that first week, and after that we took off on a road trip to various places in Southern Germany. Each day we rode along with the 2 guys in the front seat, and my mom, my daughters and me piled in the back. It was fun, but pretty chaotic, with the kids in constant motion and with my very limited ability to communicate with my father-in-law, who spoke no English. Each afternoon we had to find a place to stay for the night, unpack, and settle down in new surroundings.


One late afternoon we rented an apartment in an old farmhouse in Bavaria. With our odd constellation of travelers, it was a little difficult to figure out the sleeping arrangements. My mom and father-in-law weren't quite friendly enough to sleep together, and we had to be able to keep an eye on the kids. In this particular place, it turned out there was a small bed for my mom, a room with two single beds where we put my father-in-law and my older daughter, and a third double room where I was to sleep with my husband and my younger daughter.


At bedtime, I tucked the 4 year old in her bed, read her a story, turned off the light, and left the room. Then I put the 2 year old to sleep on the floor beside our bed in the other room, and a little later I settled down for the night, wearing no clothes on that hot summer evening.


In the middle of the night, I heard the 4 year old calling me to take her to the bathroom. I jumped up and felt my way to her room in the total darkness, hurrying to get to her before her cries woke anyone else. As I bent over the bed and pulled back the covers to pick her up, suddenly the bedside light went on. And there I was, naked, pulling the covers off my father-in-law, who had just turned on the light to see what the commotion was about. He had no idea what was going on, but looked pretty startled, and then in a very gentlemanly manner, he quickly turned off the light. I was half asleep, but figured out that my daughter was not where I had left her, grabbed her from the other bed, got her to the bathroom, and then went back to bed.


In the morning, I found my mom and my husband sitting in the kitchen, and was thinking of how to describe the middle of the night events, when my father-in-law appeared. He and I looked at each other and, with no other way to communicate, we both burst out laughing.  We all retold this story many times for years, though eventually noone could remember why they had changed beds after I had gone to sleep.

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BEVERLY VOLICER

About her life, Beverly writes, "I was born in Iowa City and grew up in Coralville, and my  mom was Johanna Beers, a long time journalist at the Iowa City Press Citizen (who is, of course, the "mom" in the story I wrote).  I graduated from the U of Iowa and then grad school at U of Michigan, and then moved to Boston for a job.  I live in eastern Massachusetts, have just retired, and my personal interests include biking, tennis, eating, cooking, traveling, tai chi, theater, enjoying my children and grandchildren,  and now writing humor."

She recently attended the Iowa Writers Workshop in June 2008, at which she wrote Identity Crisis

This page was first displayed
on September 18, 2008

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