when i was about five i went on a trip with my family to the mountains to see some "indian mounds" as they were (and maybe still are?) referred to. it is possibly at this point in my life that my fascination with all things native american began. that i can't remember, but i do remember this trip vividly for other reasons as you shall see.
at the age of five i was a very willful and spirited child. (actually, according to my parents i was very willful and spirited from the moment of my birth which i think is their way of implying that i was basically a holy terror from infancy on. hard to imagine, i know. my sister, on the other hand, was the golden child before she was infected by that demon known as "puberty". always right at my mom's heels. very demure and well behaved. my how things have changed.) so, while my parents and grandmother strolled slowly along absorbing the history of the place with my sister at their side, i was on a fast track to the end of that endless serpentine mound. i couldn't see it, but i knew it had to be there and i was going to get there first and win, you know? i took off running and could hear my grandmother yelling at me. my mom, too. they were convinced that i was going to fall and roll off the edge of the mound. i ignored them as usual. i had confidence both in my ability to stay upright while running at full speed and in their ability to be overprotective. so i kept running and, wouldn't you know it, fell and rolled right down the very steep side of that indian mound.
the next thing i remember is being at the very bottom and looking up and seeing my dad peering down at me from what seemed like a million feet away. he was telling me that i had to climb back up because the sides were too steep for him to come down and get me. i thought he looked appropriately worried about my predicament.
by this time i was no longer feeling so confident about my athletic abilities and thought there was no way in hell that i could climb back up. i think i really though "there is no way in hell" because i cursed like a sailor when i was a kid. even as i thought this it was apparent to me that i really had no choice but to attempt the climb, so i bucked up and grabbed onto the ivy growing up the side of the burial mound. at heart i was a survivor.
i made several failed attempts and kept ending up unceremoniously back at the bottom. on my bottom. each time i grabbed back onto that damn ivy and tried it again. i think i was pretty close to tears by this point, but just when all seemed hopeless and i though my family would abandon me to the wilderness, i made one last desperate grab for my dad's outstretched hand and felt myself hauled up and deposited back on the top.
the reaction i expected (my mother and grandmother in tears, swooping down to comfort me and make me feel better) was certainly not what greeted me upon my return to the beaten path. my mother was trying to look stern and worried at the same time but was failing miserably because she was too preoccupied with trying not to laugh. my dear, sweet grandmother, on the other hand, was not even attempting such pretenses. she was laughing so hard that she was on the ground, had tears streaming down her face, and, get this, had peed in her pants.
she tried to stop and to apologize and act like she was all worried and shit but i knew better. i had seen the truth and it was not pretty. it involved my family laughing at my expense and my grandmother wetting her pants. i mean, seriously. she was way older than me and even i never wet my pants. my pride was injured and my dignity was offended (yes, even at five i could be pretentious). i vowed to remember this day always and, as you can see, i did.
the threat of this story comes in handy at family gatherings when my grandmother likes to tell the same embarrassing stories about me over and over. and over. like the ones where she compares me to my mysterious great uncle richard that i never had the pleasure of meeting. he was known as the "peculiar one" and i am, according to her, "just like him". she knows that she can't take this type of storytelling too far however or i might just smile and say "remember that time you..." and she would have to start telling the other stories that i like better. the ones where i was a prodigy child and everything i did was golden.
don't let the familial stance fool you. these people laughed at me. and look at me- i'm so small and innocent.