We all have them: family stories about us that we wish would not, but will, stick in the family folklore forever. One of mine is when we went off trail at a state park (although we thought we were on a trail) and we came to a creek and the only way across without swimming was to walk across a felled tree to the other side. I watched as my eager dancing teens balanced their way across, barely. And then it was my time. I, not wanting to give the young ones a good laugh when I fell in the river, decided to take another tack. I would straddle the log and scoot across by lifting my body forward with my arms. They looked disappointed at my strategy. There would be no falling Dad. They were disappointed until halfway across the tree I saw for the first time a huge nodule. They had stepped ever so gently over it but my arms were not long enough to lift my body over the nodule. And I came crashing down, testicles first onto the nodule and let out a groan of pain that left the girls laughing in stitches. This is their go to story when they want to humiliate their father. The famous scoot across the log they call it.
My other story the girls love to tell behind closed doors involves my privates too. One early morning in a small cabin my two daughters who were sleeping in a loft above us came down the ladder. I was half asleep sat up in my boxers on the side of the bed. Suddenly, the girls, with horrified but amused looks, began to point at me. As I looked down I too was horrified as all of my male genitalia had found its way out of my shorts and were now in plain sight for them. The oldest laughing exclaimed as I was covering myself up, “Thanks for the abstinence lesson Dad.” The youngest guffawing, “I am scarred for life. I need a therapist.” And the one whose name cannot be said threw me a towel to cover-up with shook her head. Regretfully, these are stories that will live with me for the rest of my life.
My oldest daughter is famous for creating these stories. She who rushes forward verbally or physically without thinking. She has good instincts and she is smart but to rush forward to where no person has gone before without thinking can lead to disaster. So these stories happen so fast to keep some order we had to name them. So we call them her Maya-isms. One trip on our return she saw some toddlers wading in water having a good time. She gleefully asked me if she could, instead of taking the bridge, wade across. She pointed at the various toddlers and said it would be okay. I relented and left her to take the bridge. It occurred on the first step: a big splash heard around the creek with parents of the toddlers laughing and the toddlers looking puzzled at the inept teenager who could not stand up in the creek. My youngest one, who was to follow, had backed away from the creek as if it had bit her and watched the failed attempts of the oldest falling again and again as she try to stand. The oldest, defeated and humiliated, had to crawl out of the water as a toddler two feet from her looked on. She was soaked and we had a long subway ride home. The youngest and I laughed and pretended to not be with her as she held her head high in a dignified manner, hoping nobody noticed she was drenched. We call this incident the Return of the Sewer Girl. It is, unfortunately for her, now family folklore that the graceful dancer was out graced by toddlers.
Now the youngest daughter, who is as cool as a cucumber, has spent her whole lifetime trying not to have a story. She has watched the Maya-isms come and go and wants no part of the family folklore. She will be happy to be the little girl without the story everyone tells. But fate makes us all have our stories. We were in the highest cabin-Farris wheel in the world. We had scored a cabin just for our family. As we, on the thirty minute ride to top, were mesmerized by the mosque we had seen in the Muslim enclave, the pangolin architecture of their Esplande, the National History Museum, the beautiful Gardens by the Bay, and each sight appeared more awesome. The cameras were clicking, the oohs and aahs were unleashed, we were all having a moment. The youngest had been taking pictures on her phone camera as fast as her finger could go. When the fateful words came at the peak of the ride with 360 degrees panoramic awesome views “Oh my I have internet up here!” As soon as she said it, she knew it was a mistake. As everyone looked at her in disbelief and amusement saying with their eyes and body postures ‘Really that is what you have to say right now’. Trying to recapture the moment she quickly explained she was not on the internet but a friend had messaged her on her phone. Her phone which she was using for pictures had alerted her to the message. And thus she said, I thought wow I have internet. And she took one look at us and knew she had her story. She grimaced in horror but it was too late; fate, despite all of her lifetime of efforts, had given her a story.
Since then she has made efforts to water down the story by sidling up next to me as I gawk at an ancient shrine and say to me, “Dad guess what I have internet.” But she knows her father and he will never let the story disappear in the trash bins of family stories. He will, until he dies, keep that treasured story on the family mantle to pull down and tell it to everyone who will listen.