Friday, September 12, 2014

Memories from the road: First swear word

At least the first one in front of my parents.

I don't remember how old I was, not very, but old enough that we had moved on from a tent, then the popup camper my dad and uncle built, to the Holly travel trailer. Maybe early teens?

By today's standards the 17 or so foot trailer was pretty basic but it was fancy digs to us, so much so that Mom and Dad were a little embarrassed to call it camping anymore.

Not ours but similar
In the back was a cross-wise double that my brother and I shared. Above that was another bed, this one narrower due to the stylish rake to the rear of the trailer, that my sister got. Up front was the convertible dinette that my parents slept on. You know, the kind with one corner sliced off the table so you could squeeze between it and the counter to get into the seat. In between a few cabinets and a little bit of  counter space.

  On this occasion we were camping not too far from Michigan's tiny Bay Mills Indian Reservation with family friends, so we had 4 adults and 5 kids spread across two campsites. It must have been a cool or rainy evening because we were all in the Holly. The 4 adults sitting in the dinette with the Colman white-gas lantern hissing quietly away on the table. The other four kids must have been on the bed in the rear playing a game or something, but as the oldest of the progeny I had the honor of perching on a camp stool at the end of the dinette table with the adults.

Thrilled at the opportunity to take my place among the adults I was deep into a story about spotting some children jumping out of hiding and heading rapidly towards some tourist's cars as the owners of those cars were lead over the hill and out of sight on an Indian cemetery tour. (Back then we were still allowed to say Indian.) Since my own parents had already lived it I was clearly telling the story to impress our neighbors and strengthen my right to be at the adult table, but things didn't work out too well for me that night.

In the real event, Dad stopped and hollered up the hill to warn the owners that their unlocked cars, something that was common in those days, were in danger of being pilfered as soon as they were out of sight. In my telling of it I got to the part where "And these Indian kids were running like hell. . ."

There was a moment of stunned silence, the parents because of what they had just heard come out of the mouth of one of the darling little children, me because of what had just come out of my darling little mouth, the rest of the kids because they wanted to make sure they weren't in trouble too.

Mom was the first to break the silence.

"What did you say???"

It was a cross between angry chastisement and 'did I really hear my baby say that??'

If wishes came true the floor would have opened up and me, along with the camp stool I was sitting on, would have just disappeared into the darkness below as if I was never there.

But at times like this it seems like kid's wishes never come true.

After that I only clearly remember three things, getting yelled at for cussing, (OK, talked to, but to a kid that's as good as yelled at.) the neighbor sliding half under the dinette table because he was laughing so hard while his wife tried to shush him and haul him back up into his seat, and eventually being allowed to continue with my story.

But somehow my heart just wasn't in it anymore. . .

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