We had three sisters, the husbands, and eight kids in one house for a weekend in the mountains. The lot of cousins immediately took to the woods and built two stick forts. Everything was great until the young teenagers got there. Not from our clan, but from a neighboring cabin. The cousins came crying to us immediately, complaining that the teens threatened to dismantle the forts, and had mocked the little kids, to boot.
Yet every time I poked my head out and tried to verify whether there was, in fact, a mean-teen infestation, the teens seemed as harmless as can be, minding their own business and being polite. Naturally, I figured the high altitude had affected my offspring and their cousins. I told the little ones as much, but they seemed adamant, even a little wild in the eyes about it, focusing on nothing but the initiative to protect their forts.
For example, we went to see some giant Sequoias and I asked the kids, "Isn't this great?" To which they replied, "We need to get back. They're going to take apart our fort."
Later, standing in front of a frozen-over waterfall, I said, "Wow, kids! Look at how gorgeous that is!"
To which they replied, "We really need to get back and protect our forts."
When we finally got back to the cabin, sure enough, the teens had misappropriated many of the sticks from the two forts to build a third one.
I tried to explain to the kids that it wasn't so bad because their forts, for the most part, were still intact. And now, there was even a third one to play with when the teens weren't around. My eldest did a quick pow-wow with his cousins upon this discovery -- not to mention after disregarding my seemingly meaningless suggestion of seeing the bright side -- and then decided they all had somewhere else to be, away from my voice of reason.
I didn't trust them.
I followed a good pace behind and watched until they settled on top of a big rock. For the next five minutes, I watched them rub the tips of sticks against the big boulder, side by careful side. Finally, I made myself known and asked what they were doing.
"Sharpening sticks," one said.
"What for?" I asked.
The littlest one, the one who manages to make skinny jeans look baggy, said, "To make the teenagers pay for killing our forts!"
Whoa, whoa, whoa, I thought. It was like "Lord of the Flies," but with parkas and fluffy bunny mittens.
They were making impromptu spears and getting their game faces on, except my youngest. He was over by the side of the boulder, chewing on some baby pine needles, calm and serene, without a hint of the soon-to-be fort wars kindling in his eyes. This scared me even more, as I'm quite aware of my youngest's philosophy in these matters of revenge, which is something along the lines of: Everybody falls asleep sooner or later.
And, as if he could suddenly sense my worry and wanted to make me turn gray faster, he asked, "Momma? Where do the teenagers live again?"
"No," was all I said to him, hoping it was enough, as well as hoping the word would encompass and provide a definitive answer to every naughty deed spinning in that tiny head.
If I wasn't going to put the brakes on their desperate revenge, someone might get hurt. Worse yet, one of the teens might egg my car, and no one can wash that stuff off.
That's when I said something that I would have never expected to come out of my mouth, especially in the beautiful outdoor setting we were in. "How about you guys all go inside and watch TV? I'll let you watch something that I usually say no to."
And so they did. Nary any blood spilled over a stick fort.
The kids spent the next day acting like a bunch of loons, always looking over their shoulders and asking if they could spend the night in the fort to guard it from further pilfering. My sisters and I kept insisting to our kids that they had it all wrong; that the teens weren't doing anything wrong or behaving in any taunting sort of way.
Yet, on the morning of departure, I went down to the forts to collect any trash the kids might've left behind. That's when I saw the sign, written by the teens. It said, "Ha ha, little kids! Eat it!"
I kept the contents of the message to myself, knowing those punk teens wouldn't have been so smug if I let my five year old loose on them, hopped up on pine needles and quiet revenge.
-- Heather Ijames is a community columnist whose work appears here every third Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. Send email to her at heatherijames@hotmail. com.