Calvin Moretti dropped out of college and has returned to his parent’s home. He has student loan debt that he must be find a way to pay off. So, he gets a job in something completely unrelated to what he went to college for.
His father is sick, and has been laid-off from his lifelong career as an airline pilot. His mother tells Calvin that they are behind on the mortgage and could lose the house. The story is fiction, but feels like something that many families have lived through.
The entire story is from the point of view of Calvin. The very first sentence is one that he was thinking, but didn’t actually say out loud. It is: “I work with retards”. Immediately, I decide that I don’t like him.
My instant dislike of him probably comes from my background as a teacher and also as a day care worker. I’ve worked with kids who have special needs, and it bothers me immensely when someone refers to intellectually disabled people as “retards”. Calvin is basically a teacher’s aide, and should know better.
But, he doesn’t. Calvin moved back into his old bedroom in his parent’s house, and realizes that he has pretty much reverted back to what he was like in high school. He’s listening to the same music, not helping much around the house, and getting wasted with old friends. Other than his job, he has no responsibilities to worry about. Calvin is stunted.
I think this is something that can happen to people who return to their parent’s homes after finishing (or dropping out of) college. The situation puts them back into old roles with their parents, and in an unsettling emotional imbalance of power.
For whatever reason, I decided to give Calvin a chance, hoping that he would grow up. There were some signs it could happen. For example, he had a notebook where he kept track of how much money he earned, and how much he sent to pay off part of his student loan. He appeared to be trying to be an adult.
To be fair, there was a lot working against him. His father, who used to be an airline pilot, got sick and could no longer work. It was a job he loved, and, like many older men who lose their job, he kind of starts falling apart. The dad honestly believes that he is dying. He does have some kind of serious illness, but there is a medical intervention that might fix it. Or, it might not.
To come home after dropping out of college, and see one’s father wearing a bathrobe and moping around, would be extremely stressful for most people. The dad starts hoarding things he thinks he will need if the world ends. He also starts carrying around a gun.
Calvin’s mother tearfully lets Calvin know that they have fallen behind on the mortgage – far behind. His older brother, who was able to graduate and get a good paying job, has been helping with that as much as he could. I think this may have been the start of Calvin waking up from his regression into his teenage self and his thoughts about making better choices.
Speaking of big life decisions, Calvin’s younger sister tells him that she is pregnant. She wants to keep the baby, but doesn’t want anything to do with the baby’s father. The sister is still in high school.
By the end of the story, things are resolved in ways that are both a relief and also heartbreaking. Calvin is finally able to not only become an actual adult, but also to meaningfully help out his family. I’m glad I decided to read the book beyond the first sentence, because if I had not, I would have missed out on watching Calvin grow up.
One of the most interesting things about this story, other than Calvin and his wandering thoughts, was the way the family interacted. This is not a dysfunctional family, but rather one that has experienced a series of unfortunate events. There is plenty of love, and that’s what helps them to stick together and work things out.
The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac – by Kris D’Agostino is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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