Monday, July 18, 2011

I Wasn't Born in the Jungle

This is one of my two big brothers, Bill.
Bill was seven years old when I displaced him as the youngest member of our family.  Despite our age difference, and the fact that he teased me mercilessly, I loved spending time with Bill.  Still do.

Some of my earliest memories of my brother Bill took place on a family vacation, when I was just a little squirt of 2 or 3 years.  My grandparents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and took all their posterity on a cross-country road trip.  While I remember very little of any of the sightseeing we did along the way, I do remember sleeping in a pop-up trailer, near my brother, Bill.

This seemingly insignificant detail was made memorable by Bill's whispered revelations of our family's past, before we fell asleep each night in that pop-up trailer.  After all, he told me marvelous bits of family history previously unknown to me.  Until Bill told me all about it, I had no idea that--prior to my birth--our family had lived in the jungle.

Yes, the jungle.  Bill told me each night of that vacation, in great detail, about all of the adventures he and my other siblings had in the jungle.  They'd lived in a large treehouse, had two large and very faithful dogs, along with an assortment of jungle animals that were easily tamed.  (Monkeys, elephants, ostriches, zebras, etc.)

I think there was a good chance that Bill had seen Swiss Family Robinson not long before we left on vacation.  But, while liberally peppering his stories with Swiss Family similarities (yes, pirates did attack), Bill threw in his own dashes of creativity.  For instance, the tale of how our sister Lorene was nearly squeezed to death in her sleep by a boa constrictor.  Or the story about how our older brother wrestled a panther that was about to eat one of our mother's freshly baked pineapple pies.  He even explained matter of factly what, exactly, the family was doing there in the jungle:  our father was teaching the jungle tribes geometry, and our mother took in sewing for sailors.

Each night, Bill would end his thrilling tales of life in the jungle with the same refrain:  "And that's what happened when we lived in the jungle, before you were born."

I sincerely believed that our family had lived in the jungle.  Life in the jungle seemed so much more exciting than it was in the small farming community where the family returned to shortly before my birth.  I was desperately disappointed that I had been forced by birth order alone to miss out on all the fun of the jungle.  I daydreamed about Bill's stories of jungle life so often that I'm not sure where Bill's end and my own begin.    Finally, sometime after my eighth birthday, I asked my dad if he would ever go back to teach the jungle natives geometry again.  Only then did I discover that my family's past wasn't quite so swashbuckling a picture as the one Bill had painted for me.

The story that I grew up thinking my family had left behind a jungle adventure shortly before my birth is now a chapter in our family lore.  It's joined the ranks of other family favorites that are retold and enjoyed at family gatherings--with a fresh and growing audience of nieces and nephews to laugh and exclaim over each one.  We love our family stories.

Perhaps that's why my children and their cousins are currently fascinated by these videos.  Family legends retold by a new generation are hilariously reenacted by the adults of the family in the Kid History series.  Over the top wacky, anyone who loves a good family story--especially as interpreted by the grandkids--will get a kick out of them.  Enjoy our two current favorites:

1 comment:

  1. My grandfather thoroughly convinced my mother that she was part Blackfoot Indian- to explain their dark suntanned skin. :)