I was seven or eight years old we had already travelled quite
bit around the Chicagoland and Lake Geneva area, camping with
a pop-up camper attached to my Dad's Dodge van. We had such
a fun time camping and hiking and have many stories to tell.
This is one of the early ones.
was the end of another happy vacation and we were on our way
home. My parents were in front, my Dad driving along the expressway
not knowing what I had in store for him. My Mom was sitting
next to him in the "co-pilot seat" that we all wanted
desperately to claim as the high point of status in our childhood
years. The sole higher eschelon of status was to actually
sit in our Dad's lap and steer the vehicle "home".
sat in the next two rows of seats, quietly reading comic books
or story books. I must have read my Donald Duck comic three
or four times over, so I was looking for something exciting
to end the trip. And then in the recesses of my prepubescent
mind, an idea began to form. I started to chuckle already,
thinking that I really had a winner here.
sister Gina, who was no more than five looked over to see
what was so funny. I leaned over and whispered to my co-conspirator.
Between giggles, I told her what I was going to do. She giggled
with me, however she must have been wiser than I was because
she said "Maybe you shouldn't. You might get in trouble!"
What was trouble when the possibility for fun and excitement
was at hand? If I pull this off, I'll get one-up on Dad and
maybe even my brother Nick would think it was high comedy.
No, I was determined to take hold of the moment and step into
little nervous, I glanced back to look out of the back windows.
Through the double doors of the Dodge van, I could see the
pop-up camper trudging behind faithfully as we sped down the
highway at 60 miles per hour. The sun glinted off of its fiberglass
top. This was the moment. I swallowed carefully and took a
let it out with all the force my body could muster. "DAD!
THE CAMPER'S GONE!"
was a brief moment when all time stopped and I could see my
Dad's terrified grimace as he slowed our van down and pulled
over to the side of the road. We were all jostled like astronauts
heading for splashdown. I grabbed onto the armrest, my grin
plastered to my face, still thinking what a good joke this
was. I could hear the squeal of the tires as we came abruptly
to a stop.
whine of the other cars whizzing past us was the only sound
we heard for a few moments as my Dad tore his fingers off
of the steering wheel. He looked at each one of us to see
if we were alright and then he looked at me, still confused
but at this moment not realizing the cruel trick I had pulled.
looked through the windows and saw that the camper was STILL
THERE. Astonished, he looked at me and all the panic and fury
bore down on me as he asked me and all of the universe "It's
not gone! Why'd you say that, Dan?!"
that moment, I probably could have said any excuse and made
up for it. We were safe, the vehicles were safe and after
a short trip home my parents could both change their underwear.
I'm sure I could have thought up any number of reasons. The
sun was in my eyes. I panicked. I really thought it was gone.
my parents had raised me to tell the truth and that's just
what I did.
just wanted to see what you would do."
mother saved my life at that point, urging my father not to
kill me and instead to get back on the road and start driving
home. A soliloquy of swearing followed us home like a demonic
soundtrack punctuated by my name at various points. As a harmony,
my mother's soothing voice interjected at times to enable
my dad to stay seated and not strap me to the top of the camper
for the rest of the journey home.
be honest, there was so much to do once we got there that
all of my father's anger was directed at unloading the camper
and unpacking. By the time he actually got to speaking with
me without swearing, telling me how foolish this had been,
I had learned the lesson many times over, as well as many
other words that I had never heard before.
this day, I know that curious children are far more dangerous
than malicious children, which is why I know that I am doomed.
I know that I will not have malicious, cruel children, but
rather curious children who will always be wondering "I
just wanted to see what you would do."