Tom tells me to expect it. He says they are going to contact me today. He tells me not to worry. It’s just a formality, he says. Even though I know in my heart it’s much more than his assurance implies.
This is where our global adventure begins.
I wait for the call with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. This is really happening. Life as I know it is about to change dramatically (much more than I could have imagined at the time).
Brrrrng, brrrrngggg. I leap from the couch and lunge at the phone.
“Helllllloooo,” I answer in the most authentically adult voice I could muster.
As an enduring female version of Peter Pan, I don’t have much practice at adulting. I get a brief flash of panic that I am being catapulted into a role I hardly know how to play.
“G’day, Madam,” she intones formally from the other end of the line AND the earth.
She called me ‘Madam.’ Holy shit.
And so it begins, my official visa interview for entry into Australia is underway.
I feel out of my league. It was a feeling I would revisit, often and clumsily, in the early days of our international hotel lives.
My fiancé had accepted a coveted job with a prestigious hotel company. I was proud to note that he would soon occupy the role as the youngest general manager to launch a luxury US hotel brand overseas.
It was an honor well deserved, if not a bit overwhelming for both of us.
The authoritative voice with the incongruous lilting Aussie accent continues, “We will be going over your personal details, former addresses, job and criminal history.”
“Ummmm…ok,,” I reply, all pretense of adulting thrown out the door.
Years later, as I attempt to recall the conversation, my memory fails me…. until she gets to this part:
“It appears you have an incident with the law on your record.”
‘Oh shit,’ I think as I break out in a cold sweat, hoping against hope that I didn’t just blurt that out loud.
“Could you kindly explain the circumstances of this incident,’ she asks tightly and none-too-kindly.
I swear under my breath as I expel a huge sigh that comes out sounding a little too much like fuuuuccccckkkkk.
My breath purge is met with silence.
Iron curtain silence.
I rack my brain as a litany of transgressions blaze a path of destruction through my already shaky confidence.
Ah-hem. I clear my throat loudly and try to dislodge the lump of fear that’s welling up inside me.
I’m trying to buy time but all my investment returns is a big payload of official suspicion and annoyance.
She sighs audibly and irritably.
I break the thick silence, I have no choice.
“Oh, yes, of course. I’d be happy to tell you all about it.”
My mind is reeling….
Where do I begin?
Which one could it be?
Too many transgressions, too little time.
Why have I been such a rotten little shit?
How will I ever live up to the dignified persona of the man I am about to marry?
I’m going to be a terrible hotel wife.
I’ve ruined my life.
I’m The Bad Seed.
In desperation, I wonder if I should just cut to the chase, and tell her…
One of the most enduring memories of my childhood was my mother repeatedly telling me I was The Bad Seed. She and my Grandpa Gulizio thought it was the funniest, and most befitting, label.
And although they always followed their characterization with high-pitched, too-loud cackles, even as a young girl I knew it wasn’t meant it as a compliment.
As I grew older, my mother grew bolder, and she would hurtle the insult at me in anger.
‘You are The Bad Seed of the family, Barbara,’ she would growl, as she enunciated each word.
I still didn’t fully understand the meaning behind it, but I
felt the dark moniker hang on me like a too heavy blanket on a warm summer night.
As time went on, I began to introduce myself to family guests with the revelation that I was ‘The Bad Seed.’
They always laughed but I sensed discomfort woven through their chuckles.
It wasn’t until many decades later that I Google’d it....'What is the bad seed?’
The page quickly loaded, and I gasped as I read the first entry:
'The Bad Seed (1956) - IMDb
A housewife suspects that her seemingly perfect eight year-old daughter is a heartless killer.'
WTF? Heartless??? Did my mom really see me as heartless?
I can still feel the pain of that virtual gut punch, never mind the everlasting burden of being simply ‘bad.’
For fuck’s sake, Mom. Really?
An aggravated official-sounding cough from the other end of the line snaps me back to reality.
“Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry,” I nervously atone.
“Sorry for WHATTTT,” she asks, abandoning all attempts to suppress her growing annoyance with me.
“Well, you know. It was just one of those things. I didn’t have anything to eat that day, so it went straight to my head. I was in college, ohmigod such a party town! We drank screwdrivers for breakfast and shot tequila for snacks. Don’t even get me start on the beer bongs. The cops pulled me over right in front of the Coug. It was so embarrass……”
“NO,” she barks, abruptly ending my story before it turns into a country music song.
“No???” I ask meekly.
“No,” she says, ‘that’s not it.”
“It’s not,” I ask again pleadingly, then quickly continue before she can answer.
“I was a freshman in high school, and all the girls had the cutest clothes. I wanted to fit in. My mother always bought my clothes for me. I wanted something of my own. I stole the dress. I did it. It was mortifying. I did community service. My mother was furious that it ended up in our local paper, it was so embarr…."
“NO!!!! Not that one either,” she interrupts my confession of juvenile wrongdoing.
“Think HARD,” she demands.
I want to throw her a one-liner,
‘HARDLY thinking over here,'
but then I remember that comedy is all about timing.
I manage to stop my mind from spinning. As my racing thoughts slow to a crawl, I pull myself together.
“Ok, I think I’ve got it,” I say a bit too excitedly.
“Go ahead,” she says with a sanctimonious tone.
I speak quickly. “It was SUCH a fun night! We climbed on top of a high school to jump on the roof. It was all puffy with air, and just like a moon walk. Do you have moonwalks in Australia?’
I hurriedly continue before she can answer.
“We were jumping onto our butts, bouncing on our backs, flying up in the air, landing on each other. I fell hard on Glasshead’s balls. He was rolling in pain. Then we saw the siren lights. We all scattered. I slid down the side of the building and ended up having two perfectly round, jet black marks on the butt of my white pants. They caught Glasshead first and he ratted us out. I think he was still mad about his balls but it wasn’t like I was aiming for them and, to be honest, they were pretty small to begin with."
"Anyway, they caught us eventually, and threw us in the back of a patrol car."
"The charge was trespassing, possibly also evading the law, and I think they tacked on harassment after Irwin kept drunkenly demanding the cops tell us how much commission they make from turning us in.”
Oh my God, I’m talking so fast I can’t stop the words from racing out of my mouth. This is Overshare 101. I can’t seem to shut myself the fuck up. I’m simply puking words at this point.
“They threw Erwin in the drunk tank, OMG he was hammered! And they put me in a cell with a bunch of very large-boned women. The biggest one made me give her my blanket and toothbrush as soon as the cell door clanked shut. She asked me which bunk I wanted, and as I sat down on it, she screamed at me, GET UP, BITCH!”
"If you ask me, they were the ones being the actual bitches but, for once, I kept my mouth shut."
"Our friend bailed us out that night after he sold his dad’s car. That one went down in the books, and made him a legend, for the record."
"When his dad found out, he was more pissed than when we gave his family's Northface jackets to homeless guys in Pioneer Square."
I wrap it up with this, "All in all, it was a memorable night but a lil’ bit hectic.”
I take shallow breaths, quiet as a mouse. I can hear the phone line crackle. I hold the receiver tightly to my ear.
All of a sudden, boisterous guffaws reverberate through the phone line.
After a few minutes of non stop howling, the immigration officer punctuates her laughter with several sighs. It almost sounds like she’s crying. Finally, her sighs shift her newfound gaiety into a more manageable gear.
She keeps repeating, “That’s GOLD, that’s GOLD...”
(I later learn that this phrase is the Australian version of high praise and appreciation for all acts of utter outrageousness).
I pray that this ‘interview’ is almost over.
I assume that my bad seediness has sealed my fate, and I want to burst into tears as I contemplate a lonely life without my executive husband-to-be by my side.
Much to my surprise and relief, she boldly declares, “You’re approved!"
Apparently, a little bit of naughty goes a long way in the land Downunder.
My shoulders slouch with exhaustion, and as I hang up the phone, I say to myself: