Keepin' It Real Since 1977

Mostly true stories from then & now

Livin’ the Dream in Cabin 12B July 17, 2012

The awesome girls of cabin 12B.

This past week I took part in my annual tradition of counseling at our Church’s week-long Sr. High Camp. I spent the week exploring my faith and relationship with God, strengthening old friendships, and making new friends. I know I probably shouldn’t play favorites, but there was one person who stood out from the crowd this week.  I never caught her name, but she was a sassy old black woman who only made an appearance at night while one of my campers talked in her sleep. For the sake of this post, I will refer to said sassy, old, black woman as La-a (pronounced ‘LaDasha’ because the “-” don’t be silent.)

I’ve known people to do crazy things in their sleep, but I’ve never experienced anything like this.

Sunday Night:

Campers arrived, we all got settled in and by the time “lights out” came, we tossed and turned and didn’t sleep, so much as rest, which is typical first night of camp stuff.

Monday Night:

By now we actually felt tired and sleep came a lot easier. I remember lying there when a noise jolted me awake. I was pretty sure one of my girls had just said very loudly, “Yah!  I’ll fight you!” At the time I didn’t think much of it but I brought it up at breakfast the next morning.

Me: “I’m pretty sure one of you girls were talking in your sleep. Tori, it sounded like it was coming from you.  You yelled, “Yah!  I’ll fight you.”

Tori didn’t think she had said anything in her sleep and was pretty sure it was someone else, but Cathy, whose bunk was right next to Tori’s bed added, “Yah, I heard that. She also yelled, ‘Come at me, bro’.”  At this point I was intrigued.

Tuesday Night:

We slept outside under the stars. The seven of us, along with my friend Shannon, all huddled our sleeping bags together on a tarp. I slept next to Tori.  It was time to go to bed, but we were telling stories and chatting it up, when she fell asleep. Over the next two hours she would randomly blurt things out. After about 10 minutes, I sent one of my girls back to the cabin to get her notebook, a pen and flashlight. Here are some of the things we heard:

“My head’s bangin’ to what’s bangin’! Turn the music up, I gotta fist pump!” (followed by actually fist pumping in her sleep)

“It’s Michael Jackson time!  Don’t touch me Michael! Get away!  You got a twitch!”

“Fire! Fire! Run, Nanna, Run!  I told you to run, old lady!”

“Get your cow out of here!”

“You ugly!  You so ugly, you a frog face!”

“You need to clip those nails. Don’t you dare touch me, bro! … Okay. French tips, with just a little sparkle.”

“Don’t you dare fart in my frigidaire!”

“No, Bigfoot!  Get away from me!  Your feet are too big!  You gonna crush me!  Bigfoot, you makin’ me hungry with that carrot. You want some salad with that dressing?  Bigfoot, these carrots are good- need more ranch though.  No, Bigfoot!  Don’t kiss me, that’s gross. (followed by little kissy noises) No Bigfoot!  No tongue!”

At this point I woke her up before her dream got PG-13. We talked about what she had said, and she remembered having a nightmare about a fire, but before the conversation could go further, she had passed out again.

Also by this point, I had been scolded several times by the camp directors for having such a noisy group of girls. I told them to park their golf cart and sit by my tarp for 2 minutes:

Tori: “Jerk!  You ugly, bro!  You a frog face!  Bugs!  Bugs!  Itchy!  Scratchy!”…

The golf cart drove away.  It didn’t come back. We continued to write down everything Tori said. We stopped after 5 pages.

Wednesday Night:

Things progressively got worse. On Tuesday, most of the sleep talking was intermittent with a burst of chatter occurring every 4-5 minutes or so. By Wednesday, the chatter became nonstop. If there was a pause in the dialogue, it was filled with wild goat-like laughter and the reputation of the phrases, “You scared! You scared, bro!” or “He dead! He dead, bro! He so dead he farts dust!”

Wednesday night’s sleep talking mostly took place in a night club/ karaoke bar? I say this because there was a lot of dancing and singing involved. Also, La-a does not like it when she’s singing and people try to “fart in her microphone.”

Tori: “I gots to sing, bro! Don’t you fart in my microphone! I gots to sing. I’m a black woman and I gots to sing my soul!  Praise Jesus!”

La-a also had strong feelings about how dumb Britney Spears was, with her shaved head, and felt it was an urgent matter that Beyonce get a booty reduction.

After about 45 minutes of non-stop sleep taking, I woke Tori up and would not let her head touch her pillow until all of us were situated and I had some music playing. This seemed to work. Once the music was going, I didn’t hear a peep out of her.

Thursday Night:

During rest time, Thursday afternoon, I showed Tori some video I had taken of her sleep talking. She too was confused as to why she turned into a sassy, old black woman in her sleep. We tried to get her to do the voice from her sleep talking and she couldn’t do it.

Here is a short clip of what happened Thursday night. I say short because she probably went on for a good 40 minutes.

Friday Night:

Oh, boy! What can I say about Friday’s chatter? For a good part of her rambling, La-a is hosting her own television talk show. Let me preface by saying 1.) My nickname at camp is Bubby- and yes, I make a cameo in her dream.  2.) Tori refers to her bed as her “island” since it is the extra one we had to wedge on the floor.  3.) Previously, Tori had been sleep talking about her runaway pumpkin that was going to smash a cat as it rolled down the hill. 4.) One of Tori’s classes she took this week was “Relationships.” In this class campers talked about anything they wanted that had to do with various types of relationships. I found out later that one camper had mentioned the word “sex” once that day in class and there wasn’t even really a discussion about it. If there had been a discussion, perhaps it would have gone something like this:


Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us Everyone…But Mostly My Parents December 25, 2011

Filed under: My Awesome Childhood — Melissa Lewis @ 1:19 am
Tags: , , ,

I'm probably asking Santa for a Care Bear.

I always find it amusing that, when my brothers, sister and I get together and reminisce about the olden days, our memories about certain events don’t always match. Here are some fond Christmas memories that I KNOW are true.

Christmas Pageants A Plenty 

I grew up in a small church, but most of the kids in our congregation were within a couple of years of each other and therefore we were often the stars of… everything. Our specialty: Christmas Pageants. I’ll admit, some of our performances were better than others. My favorites were the ones that did NOT feature musical instruments mainly because I played the piano, flute, and violin. My sister played the clarinet, by brother played the violin and he, along with a couple of other kids played the saxophone. None of us could play our instruments very well but my congregation couldn’t seem to get enough of our “heavenly sounds.”

The Christmas programs I lived for, were the ones featuring costumes, lines, and a children’s choir. If only talent scouts targeted church pageants…

One year, our pageant performed at a local nursing home. My sister was not too thrilled about the idea from the get go. When we arrived, she experienced the trifecta of disappointment. 1.) It was hot. Really hot. Between each musical number, my sister would whisper to me some sort of complaint about how warm the room was. (I probably should have taken her more seriously when she started swaying in big loopy circles.) 2.) The “old people smell” was really getting to her. I’m not fond of the smell of nursing homes either, but after a few minutes, I had forgotten all about it. My sister, however, had not. “I mean it,” she whispered. “I feel like I’m going to barf.” 3.) Gesticulations from the gentleman parked in the front row. “That guy keeps playing with himself. He’s really gross.” She whispered. (Looking back, I’m pretty sure the gentleman was trying to sit with his hands on his lap, but his Parkinson’s had other ideas.) It didn’t really matter though because before she could get out another complaint, her body swooped in one final circular loop before she face planted it right there on the tile floor. She had fainted and was passed out cold. Dad, quickly swooped in from the side, picked her up and quickly carried her away. Just in time too, because without the pageant director having to say a word, I stepped up to, where only minutes ago my sister had been sprawled on the floor, and sang her solo. I saw the whole situation as a true Christmas Miracle.

The voice of an angel. Apparently the theme this year was white sheets, gold tinsel and A LOT of blush.

A few years later, our Christmas Pageant didn’t have such a happy ending. My brothers and sister deny this event, but I remember it with great detail. It took place during the height of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. My sister had gotten, not just any Cabbage Patch Kid, she had gotten a preemie. His name was Jonathan and he had been volunteered to play the role of the Baby Jesus in our church Christmas pageant. Mary was to carry the Baby Jesus, up the middle aisle of the sanctuary, place him in the manger, and ogle  at him while the angel choir sang songs about his blessed birth.

Unfortunately, before the service even started, my sister and our friend Sara were getting into a heated argument over Jonathan. Sara wanted to play with it, my sister didn’t feel like sharing and a tug-of-war ensued. My sister had Jonathan by his little round plastic bald head, and Sarah had a firm grip on his legs. After a few hearty tugs, there was a ripping sound and just like that, poor Jonathan had been decapitated.

My sister’s only saving grace that night was that the Baby Jesus was wrapped so tightly  in his swaddling clothes that it was impossible to notice that his head had been completely severed.  I distinctly remember being terrified that Mary would trip on her robes and Baby Jesus’s head would go rolling up the aisle stopping at the shepherds’ feet. Fortunately our Mary was quite talented at walking and kneeling so the congregation was none the wiser.

Terrifying Gifts

When it came to Christmas gifts, I was never disappointed. Terrified? Yes. Disappointed? No. As a kid I loved games, clothes, toys, and socks. (I don’t think my aunt ever believed me when I told her I wanted socks for Christmas, but due to my extreme repulsion of bare feet, it’s no wonder why I love socks so much.) There was one year though, when not only I, but all four of us kids, received the most terrifying gifts ever. Our uncle had given us each a large framed velvet painting of, what could only be described as, “scary-ass clowns”.  I never liked clowns, and these things scared the crap out of all of us. In fact, I’m pretty sure we made Dad put the paintings in the garage that night; that way, when they came to life and climbed out of their frames, they would at least be locked in a safe place.

Naughty or nice, no child deserves this.

For awhile, the Clown paintings lived in a box in the basement. I’m not sure why they didn’t go straight to the curb, but one day we were out playing and there they were. Curbside, leaning up against the garbage can. Good riddance.

Shortly thereafter, my brothers had been playing in our neighbors’ house and when they came out they said, “You’ll never guess what we found in Brad’s bathroom.” Sure enough, one of our clown paintings had found a home hanging over the back of a toilet. I guess the saying is true. “One man’s junk is another man’s scary-ass bathroom art.”

Santa Pulls An All-Nighter

Every year, my family drove from Des Moines, up to Minneapolis to visit our grandparents for Christmas. It was a four hour drive full of caroling, bickering, giggling and family fun. At Grandma and Grandpa Lewis’s, we had traditions like sneaking  Grandpa pieces of fudge, listening to Manheim Steamroller, and getting a running start so we could leap onto the beds in order to prevent being clawed to death by Tippy the lethal cat who liked to hide under furniture.

One Christmas Eve, we went through our tradition of opening one present before going to bed. The one present always happened to be pajamas. In fact, one year while packing, I asked Mom, “Which pajamas should I take?” and she looked at me like I was being ridiculous and said, “Don’t you think Santa will probably bring you pajamas?” Fair enough.

We put on our new pj’s and headed up to bed. We were very quiet that night because we didn’t want to miss the sound of reindeer on the roof. Instead, about an hour later, we heard the garage door opening. I popped my head up and leaned over the window. (I didn’t want to get out of bed just in case Tippy was hiding out.) “Dad’s leaving.” I reported to the others. “The van just pulled out of the driveway.” We chatted for the longest time about where he could be going and eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, the wait to open presents was excruciating. Mom sent us back up the stairs three times saying,”It’s too early. Your dad’s still sleeping. Go back to bed.” Each time we reluctantly climbed the stairs and leapt back onto our beds. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Mom told us we could go down stairs and open presents. I’m pretty sure that was the year I got Cabbage Patch twins. Who knows for sure. Childhood Christmases all blend together. What I remember most about that Christmas was Dad was really tired.

A wonderful Christmas morning at Grandma & Grandpa's.

Years later, when we were all sitting around talking about “The Year Dad Wanted to Sleep Through Christmas,” Mom finally told us the real story. Our parents used to wrap our presents and sort them into four garbage bags to keep them separated. That Christmas Eve, when they thought we were sleeping, they went out to the van to unload our presents. Only, instead of four bags, there were only three. One of our bags of Christmas gifts never made it into the van and was sitting back at home… in Des Moines. Knowing that all the stores were closed and not wanting to disappoint, Dad had opened the garage, backed the van out and drove all the way back home. Four hours later, he pulled into our driveway, ran into the house, grabbed the lonely sad sack-O-gifts, got back into the van and drove 4 hours back up to Minnesota.

Michael and I at our Foster Care Christmas Party. I believe, Professor, this is what we call irony.

Even more years later when I was in college, I volunteered to help out at a local Foster Care Christmas party. One of my professors had asked each of us to share a story about a Christmas experience. She suggested to me, “These kids probably don’t have a lot of Christmas traditions, so I think it would be neat if everyone shared a variety of traditions. Maybe you could tell them about your Kwanzaa experience.” Hmmm… after I asked several friends, my mom, and Google what Kwanzaa was I decided to tell the story of forgotten Christmas presents instead.  When I finished, one of the foster mom’s jumped up and clapped enthusiastically while shouting, “That’s my favorite! That’s my favorite!”

Yes, enthusiastic lady, that’s my favorite too.