Today, Mom decided to pull out some of the old homeschooling binders that she had (we were trying to remember who had the highest ACT score. We're pretty fiercely competitive). While perusing one of the binders, I stumbled across one of the essays I'd written for college back when I was sixteen. Since I was still being homeschooled by Mom at the time (she liked to keep me busy), I'd decided to also make it count towards my spelling lesson of the week. I'd forgotten that I'd written it...until now, anyway. The result was amusing.
Anyway, without further ado, allow me to present A Day in the Woods.
It was a clear summer day four years ago. Our expedition set out as loudly as was humanly possible; my siblings and I bolted out the back door at top speed, heading for the woods. Carefree, exuberant, plans for the day fresh in our minds, we were the axiomatic archetype of capriciousness. Not to be wordy about it or anything.
Plowing up dirt and grass, we skidded to a stop at the base of an oak tree. The grand patriarch of this part of our forest, he offered the best climbing around. First, my brother, cognizant of all the nuts around the tree, mentioned this find, which promptly led to an abandonment of all plans for the time being as we raced to gather the acorns. Soon, however, candid remarks offered by contentious siblings turned the area into a battleground. In good humor, we pelted each other with “bullets” and, grabbing sticks, commenced to “swordfighting.” This turn of events could only disturb the woods for so long; soon we were flat on our backs, out of breath. Peace was made between the pirates and the royal navy, and we were ready to begin the ascent.
I hoisted myself into the tree and lent a hand to the others. The birds chattered at us as we trespassed into their domain, and the squirrels snatched some of our ammo from the ground and scurried off. Up and up we went, higher and higher, until we were at the top, or as high as we were going to go.
The view was excellent. Sitting with our backs to the rough tree trunk, we ignored the discomfort and admired the scenery. Even though we were—are—not aesthetically minded, we could still appreciate the surrounding sights. My brother promptly started to make up new adjectives to describe the area and was instantly and effectively sedated by popular request. The general conclusion afterwards was that wrestling in a tree that high up was just dangerous, so we descended the tree. I stepped on a rotten branch, resulting in me beating them to the ground by a good five minutes.
Once they made it to the ground and I took stock of my new assortment of bruises, we headed off for tree two. Some anomaly had caused one of the branches to grow out almost perpendicular to the trunk six feet from the ground. It was really thick and had convenient handholds in the form of small branches growing straight out of the main limb. Needless to say, we practically ran up the slope and swung like monkeys in and out of the branches. My brother started making drum noises and was shoved out of the tree by a vengeful older sister.
The drum re-ascended the tree amid loud protests. A shower of leaves fell upon the protesters, who promptly turned on me. I don’t care what Galileo said; I know I hit the ground harder and faster then my erstwhile brother-turned-word-creator-turned-drum. I scampered back up the tree and confronted my sisters. I didn’t get the chance. The drum had taken its revenge.
Peace momentarily restored, we began to have a yelling contest; i.e. whoever yelled the longest without taking a breath won. Since nobody was willing to concede defeat, there was very nearly a mass exodus from the tree right then and there. I suggested turning our thoughts to other pursuits, such as an animal-imitation competition. My brother won this one with his impression of a sick horse; I don’t think he meant to do that, but it knocked his older sister, the hairball-inducing cat, off her perch convulsed with laughter. The youngest person in the family, the dying cow, was hanging limp over two branches while me, the Spanish duck with a sore throat, threatened the winner with dire consequences if he didn’t cut it out and let us catch our breath.
The unanimous conclusion of said contest resulted in a general consensus that “our family had talent.” Looking back now, I wonder what we ate that afternoon. I’m guessing it was high in sugar. Or caffeine. But I digress.
By now, it was almost dinnertime. I suggested seeing if we could jump from our perches without getting hurt. A vote was called for. Two “ayes” and the reappearance of the horse were counted, with the end result that three of our number were writhing on the ground in helpless laughter, choking out dire threats against the naysayer smiling benignly down at us from his perch on the tree. Obviously, we had lost what little sanity we had to begin with. I recognized that and called for a return to the house. The horse drummed his way out of the tree and fled for his life as a mass grab was made for him. We reentered the back door sweaty and bedraggled, multi-colored from numerous bruises. We didn’t care.
As I recall this incident, I am convulsed with helpless laughter every time, as I was on that afternoon. I wonder exactly why we set out on that expedition and why it stands out so well in my memory. There must have been dozens of such incidents in my past. Why do I remember it in particular? Was it our good-natured squabbling? Our weird contests? Our constant descents?
Or was it because Mom caught us red-handed in the chocolate chips that night?