Years ago, in a conversation with a friend about families and family relationships, she observed that everyone should have a cool aunt or uncle in their lives.
A cool aunt or uncle is someone who understands your family’s dynamics, will listen without judging, and keep those conversations confidential.
In the Bennett family—Diana, Stephen, Will and Faye—the cool uncle role is played by Diana’s twin brother, Dan.
Something’s troubling the two Bennett teenagers so they’ve turned to Uncle Dan for advice.
Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. Carding is the small town (population 3,700 or so) that no one can seem to find on a map of the Green Mountain State. But you can find it any time, right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.
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Dear Uncle Dan,
A month into the New Year and I’m already wishing we could fast-forward into next year. I hope your start to 2019 in New York has been better than mine here in Carding.
Last weekend, I went to a party at the base lodge on Mount Merino with a bunch of friends for some night skiing and it turned into a nightmare. The ice around here has been bad (it seems like all we get is freezing rain) and I came home with a sprained wrist (I fell in the parking lot—can you believe it) and no boyfriend.
Actually, the no-boyfriend part happened first.
My wrist (it’s my left) is doing okay. I didn’t break anything but it sure is swollen. Right now I’m typing with one hand on the keyboard and the other wrapped in an ice bag.
Mom thinks I should go back to school tomorrow but I’m arguing for a stay of execution for a couple of more days because my wrist starts to hurt—a lot—if I go for more than an hour without ice. Besides, Suzanna and a couple of other friends have offered to video all my classes and bring my homework here so I won’t miss much.
Plus I’ll be able to fast-forward through the boring parts of my English teacher’s lectures on Moby Dick. Whale killing is so not my thing. Plus, If I want to read about madmen chasing white whales, I can read the news.
So now I know that Brian Lambert is a rat and I don’t think my brother is much better. Brian and his family went over to Martha’s Vineyard to visit his grandparents for the holidays and while they were there, Brian looked up the girlfriend he had left behind when his family moved to Vermont and they started dating again.
Wil’s known about this for the weeks but he never said anything to me, his little sister, even after I asked him straight to his face if something was wrong with Brian. So imagine how shocked I was to walk into the base lodge and see him holding hands with another girl.
Suzanna tells me that the punch I landed bruised Brian’s cheek pretty good. But that’s a small consolation.
What he did to me was humiliating. That’s the real reason I don’t want to go back to school yet. Please don’t tell Mom that I’m being a baby.
Sorry to cut this short but I can tell it’s time for more acetaminophen. I know I’m wallowing but sometimes I think that wallowing in self-pity is the only sensible response to life, don’t you?
I’ll be better soon, I promise.
But in the meantime, Brian Lambert and my brother Wil are rats.
Dear Uncle Dan,
I know that my sister emailed you this morning because I saw it on her laptop. I’m hoping you’ll listen to my side of the story before making up your mind that I’m a rat (which is the nicest thing Faye has called me all week). I’ve never seen her quite this angry before and I could use some advice on how to calm her down.
I know she’s hurt and I don’t blame her for feeling that way. But I got caught between her and a promise to my best friend and now I know why Dad says that “no one ever thanks the person in the middle.”
Brian Lambert’s a great guy. We’ve been friends ever since his family moved to Carding last year. He and Dave Muzzy and I are making plans to travel after we graduate from high school. Brian wants to draw and paint and make art and Dave’s a math whiz. (We all figure he’ll be coding in some tech company sooner or later.) As for me, I have no idea what I want to do with my life which is why I want to travel with my friends for a while and figure it out.
Brian’s had a hard time of it ever since he moved away from Martha’s Vineyard. He was born there and all his family (except his parents and sister) is there (I think he’s got about a million cousins on the island) which is why he’s felt so lost since he came to Vermont.
I don’t know this for sure but I think he latched onto Faye on the rebound after breaking up with his girlfriend on the Vineyard. He likes Faye a lot but you know how ferocious she is and how smart she is. I’ve heard guys say that that kind of scares.
I don’t understand it myself but then I’ve always thought she’s one of the funniest people on the planet. If you just roll with her, you’ll have a good time.
Anyway, Brian’s been fighting with his father for months now over where (and if) he’s going to go to college. Faye’s been terrific about listening to him but she’s pretty blunt that Brian should just do what he really wants to do and just tell his father that.
As if that’s easy.
Maybe it sounds lame to say but I think Brian got back together with his old girlfriend—her name’s Sheila—because she always goes along with whatever he says. No pressure.
Brian told me about Sheila as soon as he got back to Vermont and made me promise not to say anything to Faye because he wanted to handle it himself. Which was fine by me. (Delivering a break-up message to my little sister was not high on my list of things to do, believe me).
But Brian didn’t follow through.
Which left me caught in the middle because Faye figured out pretty quick that’s something’s different and asked me what was going on and I didn’t feel I could say anything.
To make matters even worse, Sheila showed up this weekend—SURPRISE!—and Faye caught her holding Brian’s hand at a party.
That’s when I became a rat.
It doesn’t do any good to say “shoulda-woulda-coulda” but can you tell me where I messed up? And do you have any advice on how to get Faye to stop hating me?
Okay, enough whining from me. How are you doing? Any chance I could come visit you in New York during spring break?
I’ve always thought your Dad is one of the most sensible people I know so his advice about never getting in the middle is sound. That being said, however, you got stuck between Brian and Faye when Brian failed to follow through on his plan to speak honestly with your sister.
That doesn’t mean Brian’s a bad guy. Breaking up IS hard to do. But his cowardice turned short-term pain into something more harsh and unnecessarily humiliating for your sister.
Even though I don’t think you’re a rat, I can understand why Faye’s angry with you.
This situation ended up making you both feelbetrayed—you by Brian and Faye by you.
So I have a question to ask you: If you were far away from home and needed help, which of them—Faye or Brian—do you think you could rely on to stand by you?
I think you’ll find the answers to your questions in the answer to my question. From there, it should be clear what you need to do to remedy this situation.
In my experience, loyalty should never be blind. But over time, it should be consistently shared with the folks in our lives who have earned it.
You’ll figure this out, Wil. In fact, I believe you already have.
P.S. I would love to have you visit me in NYC on spring break.
Don’t be too hard on Wil. I believe he got caught in a situation before he realized it was going to be a situation. He’s figuring it out. Watch and see what he does and go from there.
It is always a good idea to judge people by their actions, not their words. Actions are a more reliable indicator of a person’s character.
I think that Brian can be easily left behind to learn his own life lessons. Wallow in self-pity a bit longer if you must, but don’t let it drag on too long.
Remember, you can visit Carding any time by scouring the archive of older stories or by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.
Thanks for stopping by.