Oh great, here we go again … My little brother and I shot a glance at each other across Grandma and Grandpa's extended dining room table. Dinner was long over, but we sensed that the aunts and uncles were gearing up for yet another nostalgic storytelling marathon.
We were antsy to be excused so we could play games or explore the basement with its endless hiding places. But we knew that once the stories started flowing, one tale would lead seamlessly into the next, and we'd be trapped at the table all evening.
My dad is one of 12 children in his family, all within an 18-year span. As kids they pretty much had free reign of the outdoors, so there's no shortage of wild tales. There's the infamous account of the time they caught a rattlesnake and put it in the binocular case for safekeeping, the time they lowered my uncle Danny through the second-story window—in his underwear—during bridge club, and the time they launched off the swing into a trash can filled with water.
And then there were the countless trips to the ER—the time the tricycle ramp experiment went awry and Aunt Ruthie broke her arm, the time Uncle Paul ended up with stitches in his head after swimming in the off-limits city fountain. And of course there was the time they tried to cross the swollen Yakima River in an old playpen.
We grandkids heard the same stories over and over from the time we were old enough to sit at the table, and even the most dramatic of the tales had become commonplace. Nothing changed in the retelling, except perhaps for a few embellished details here and there, or my poor grandmother's fresh horror at the things her children had kept from her until they figured they were no longer in danger of a spanking.1