My family recently returned from our yearly camping trip to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We slept mere yards from a cool ice-carved lake, dined next to a babbling rock-strewn feeder brook, and walked next to glacial-deposited boulders. During the day, my semi-amphibious children splashed and swam at various levels of water competency. We ate in the open air, mostly unbothered, but occasionally with the forkless hand swatting a flying intruder.
At night, the ethereal incandescence of very own Milky Way was ever present and provided a context for the connect-the-dots constellations, observable planets, and shooting stars. Far below this skyscape, each evening we started a campfire – a tiny speck of light underneath the magnificent background glow of our native galaxy. Flames leaping toward Cygnus and Polaris, the campfire provided warmth. It resonated a gentle, audible crackle to accompany the percussions of the babbling brook. And it flickered an eerie orange glow – the perfect ambiance for scary campfire stories.
We sat around the fire and I read from a book of scary tales, while my wife and the kids listened. The stories went by names like the Hook, Screaming Jenny, Piece by Piece, and Bloody Mary. The kids are young, so I edited and ad-libbed on the fly. Even with the gruesome details censored though, eyes were widened and spines were tingled.
But, as I watched my daughters listening intently, I realized, I could do better. True tales of horror and the macabre. Stories to which every parent could relate, and that can cause panic-stricken sleepless nights. We’ve all been spooked by stories of creepy figures in the shadows and ghosts that can’t find their resting spots.
But what about authentic parental dread? – stories like these:
The first one is called The Wicked Tweens. In this cringe-worthy tale of innocence lost, the dormant puberty monster emerges from its deep dark lair. And it’s pissed. No adult will be spared. But in a last ditch effort to avoid a most certain doom, our hero father, against all of his musical appetites and desires, purchases two tickets to the One Direction concert and appeases the little monster… for now – Mwaaahaahaahaa!
The Smart Phone Forevermore fast forwards to the time my daughters have left the world of play phones, and gulp, are now on the provider Family Plan. Each has a cell phone of her own. Calls are made to coordinate the next day’s outfits. Statuses are updated. Pictures posted to Instagram. Texts pile up at a frenzied pace. And all the while the vile Verizon CEO mastermind cackles his evil laugh in an extravagantly-furnished and darkened corner office. And then, it happens… the first bill arrives. Arrrrggghhhh!!!
In the distant future, my oldest turns 16. And so begins the tale of The Learner’s Permit and the On-Street Parking Space of Doom. Feeling confident with the basics of accelerating, braking, turning, and backing up, my kid gets behind the steering wheel and I slide in the passenger seat. It’s time to learn parallel parking. The doors lock with an audible CLICK. Seat belts are engaged, mirrors are adjusted, and the insurance card is checked for currency. A bubble of dread-filled sweat forms on my brow as we begin the lesson. We approach an open on-street parking spot – between a gleaming red Audi convertible and a muddy jacked up pickup truck with an over-sized rebel flag sticker and replica male gonads hanging from the rear tow hitch. We pass the spot, stop, and the shifter is pulled toward Reverse. Nooooooo!!!!
Seventeen. As in seventeen years old. My oldest is getting ready for the prom. The Girl and the Moron from Hell is a tale of cautions optimism turned to sudden doom. You see, we’ve heard a lot about her prom date and we’re excited for her. After all, this is that ridiculously expensive school sanctioned event of social awkwardness that every kid dreams about. But then he arrives, carrying a bunch of yellow dandelions from the neighbor’s front lawn. He’s listening to awful music – way too much bass and no guitar. He cannot speak in complete sentences, and the incoherent fragments are filled with grammar that would make Snoop Dog cringe. And worst of all, he’s a New York Yankees fan. Runnnnnnnn!!!!
In College Tuition and the Discretionary Income Noose my second daughter enters college while the first is still an undergrad. Not content with a reasonable in-state school, she decides to enroll out-of-state… a state with high taxes… to a private school… with a near bankrupt endowment. She moves into a plush downtown dorm and begins ordering textbooks. Meanwhile, back at our home in New Jersey, the discretionary income noose tightens, and tightens, and tightens… Hellllllllp!
Afraid yet? Good. You should be. I’m shuddering as I type this…
On next year’s Vermont camping trip, my daughters will be seven, five, and three. They are indescribably dear to my wife and me (it’s true – I checked the thesaurus but the correct explanatory words simply do not exist). Already, I am very much looking forward to the trip – to the good times that create memories greater still. And as you can see, I have some time before my stories of teen macabre begin to unfold. But, when the sun goes down and the fire springs to life next summer – when the next campfire story time nears – I may have to turn my head and stifle a small scream.
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by Andres, who can also be found blogging at Estonian World.