Friday, December 19, 2008

Flashback Friday: Tent Indignities, Part I: Hooked on Phonics

Presenting the first installment of a three-part Flashback Friday Series: Tent Indignities. Three stories which all occurred within the same tent at the same campsite, but not necessarily during the same camping trip. I have endured my share of humiliation this week, so these embarrassing stories feature some other characters in my life: beloved cousins.

I have a large, but close, extended family. My maternal grandparents' Christmas card for 2008 boasts a photo of 108 tiny stockings hanging from the mantle, representing themselves, each child, grandchild, spouse, and great-grandchild in the family. I love having a lot of cousins, and while the progression of life and distance have separated many of us from much more than a Christmas-card relationship, I retain fond and hilarious memories of growing up within this big, funny family. The majority of our clan is predisposed to a very sarcastic sense of humor, with an added affinity for fart and toilet comedy. And not just the kids.

For several summers as a pre-teen, most of the family convened for a week-long camping/boating trip at Prineville Reservoir. It seemed that my uncle had some connection there because we always got this particular row of campsites that was boat dock-adjacent and primarily consisted of well-shaded grassy areas (unusual in the Central Oregon desert). Prineville is one of these "camping" resorts with flushing toilets, warm showers, and a convenience store. But it doesn't have a pool, golf course, or day spa, so can still accurately be considered a form of camping. Really, if there is a campfire with s'mores, it's still camping.

After a full day of death-defying tubing behind Uncles Steve and Don's boats, punctuated with breaks for card-playing in the shade to recharge, all of the cousins in my general age group would retire to the same giant tent. I believe it was one of those army surplus tents: a green canvas structure tall enough to stand in and comfortably sleep 12.

I was part of a threesome of girl cousins the same age, we each had an older sister, plus a few cousins from other families comprised nine of us within a 4-year age span. The only two males in this unit are brothers, a few years older than me. Upon arriving at the campground one summer, a novel word began to spring from these boys' lips. Pronounced ree-nob, it was used as a direct insult, in sentences such as, "Shut up, renob!" or "You're such a renob."

Such playful name-calling was a common form of kidding around in my family, so the rest of us girl cousins laughed, while intermittently harassing them for an explanation. They led us on all day without giving in, most likely turning the curious label on those who badgered them about it.
After dark, the tween tent was the place to be. In spite of our parents' best efforts to get us to shut up and go to sleep, we continued telling jokes and being stupid for as long as we could physically remain awake. The primary challenge was to stifle laughter into suppressed snickers without spitting all over everyone. Failure to do so would certainly lead to hysterics muffled by pillows. And that would just invite a flashlight-toting adult to come rapping on the canvas.

Some mighty good s'mores must have loosened the boys up, because one of the older girls finally convinced them to give away the origins of their secret word.

"Just spell it backwards" the older brother said, with an arrogant roll of his eyes.

There was a moment of silence while we all quickly reversed our Hooked on Phonics techniques, followed by a unison groan of disgust. We acted like they we thought they were such childish boys, but obviously were all clandestinely thrilled to be included in such a devious scandal. The revelation was an ideal segue into a new conversation about sex, a topic as mysterious as any for a group of 9- to 13-year-olds (foreshadowing for next week's story).

About as much time had passed since boy cousin explained the definition of renob as it has taken you to read from there to here. At this point one of the girls my age interrupted the new sex conversation by blurting out in utter bewilderment, "Bonner...what's a bonner?"

Confused silence. Then restrained guffaws as not only her pronunciation error was analyzed, but also her delay in reaching the conclusion. And apparently since no one else had spoken up about it, she thought she was the first to figure it out.

Stay tuned for next week's exciting edition of Tent Indignities!


Bridget said...

I REMEMBER THIS STORY!!!! It's one of my favorites for so many reasons. Ah, sweet innocence. Those were the days.

Do you realize that this individual has now been the focus of two FF stories (one on my blog)? Impressive.

Kristen said...

In an effort to protect the innocent, I should say this was not the same cousin who starred in An Alarming Experience. Which, to anyone who knows my family, gives away who it actually was. But that's okay, I don't think that cousin reads my blog. And she has been the subject of two hilarious stories on my blog, in both of which I attempted anonymity for her sake.

Bridget said...

Really? Hm. I thought it was the other one. Memory is funny like that. Either way, she's been a supporting or starring character in quite a few FF. Way to go!

M and Em said...

are you saving the chipmunk story for another time? I'm curious, are there other stories involving me besides the Vegas one?

The Kings said...

Hi Kristen!!! Remember me!? I was Lisa Triffitt - from Tasmania, Australia?! Your Mum emailed me and gave me the link to your blogs. I'm so happy to find you and see your beautiful little girl. Your Mum filled me in on what you are all up to - so nice to see all your little families. I have 4 boys!! I'm living back in Tasmania, and am a full time Mum and love it. My husband Aaron is a high school teacher. Anyway - you can check out my blog to hear more. So nice to see you have one too -it's a great way to keep in touch.


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