This weekend was filled with chaos, the smell of ass, and chocolate pudding.
For my niece’s 14th birthday, my sister organized a camp-out party in my family’s backyard. My parents have the perfect yard for such a venture: an inground pool, lots of space to run, gigantic shade trees in half the yard and full sunlight in the other, and an enclosed deck where adults can hide out when Supersoakers and such come out to play.
Lee and I contributed our tent, which sleeps the two of us or three squealing teenage girls comfortably. That turned out not to be necessary, since one of Jordyn’s friends lent her a tent that could easily sleep the family from “Eight is Enough” and any drunken stragglers they picked up on the way.
Lee was the Tentmaster, and I was his faithful assistant, other than my whining about why this damn pole wouldn’t stay upright or how much I wanted to jump in the pool and get back to my drink. It took us 10 minutes to assemble our tent, and 45 to get the Tent Hotel erect.
When we had it almost done, I looked down and realized we’d positioned the entryway right in front of a fresh pile of crap one of my mom’s dogs had just left as a birthday present. Good times.
One of Jordyn’s friends showed up with a kiddie pool and a vat of chocolate pudding to put in it. No, I’m not making this up. Luckily there were also plenty of adult-beverages for the over-30’s.
By the time Lee and I left, the yard was full of squealing, pudding-coated kids. One of the adults had tried to help a much younger kiddo set off one of those party favors that smells like fried farts so that he could get the girls. The girls were safely in the back of the yard flinging pudding at each other, and the fart-bomb doused the adult, the little boy and the deck instead.
Yeah, thank God for adult beverages.
I can only imagine what my parent’s yard looked like the next morning.
One of the great things about being an aunt is that you can revel in these moments, and then go home to the air-conditioned quiet of your peaceful, pudding and fart-bomb free house. Freshly cooled off from a night swim, Lee and I curled up on the couch and enjoyed the resounding silence.
And I remembered the Wind-Up Willy.
There I was, thinking that compared to this party, my sister and I had been gentle with our parents when it came to the whole summertime kids-being-kids thing. When I was a teenager, we lived in a rowhome with a small backyard. Our above-ground pool took up half the yard. There could never have been a gathering with campfires and vats of pudding. Even if we’d been able to carve out the space, we lived so close to our neighbors that when one of them took a crap, we heard the toilet flush. On one side we had a cranky, morose old bald guy and his gossipy wife.
On the other side lived a couple and their newborn son. They were a quiet church-going family, and just not suited to the rowhome life. We knew were going to have issues when they had a hissy fit over my sister’s front-yard lemonade stand.
So no, there would never be a pudding-party at our house on The Circle. As it turns out, we didn’t need one.
The summer I was 15, my mom worked as a salesperson in a photo studio. Dad still had a day job too. It would be another year or two before he took early retirement and opened a bar. I can’t remember where my sister was on The Day of The Wind-Up Willy, probably over one of her friend’s houses around the corner. I was spending the muggy summer day in the pool, swimming with my best girlfriend, her brother, and another guy from the neighborhood. We were often a foursome on those long school-free days, back when kids spent their summers together outdoors rather than texting and Facebooking from air-conditioned bedrooms.
We were on pretty good behavior. It was too hot to act up. That was a good thing, because our No-Noise Neighbors had just set up a crab feast in their yard. They were sitting at their picnic table with another couple, a mountain of steamed crabs between them. The smells of Old Bay and corn on the cob made our mouths water.
I couldn’t offer my friends a comparable feast, but we did have some leftover pizza in the fridge. I dried off and went in to get it, and noticed mom’s Wind-Up Willy sitting on our kitchen counter.
It was only about as tall as my thumb, and flesh-colored. It had a smiling face painted on it, and little feet instead of balls. Truly, it was nothing more than a silly little plastic wind-up toy, like any other. Only this one was designed to look like a penis. I think Dad had gotten it for Mom as a joke, but I can’t remember for sure.
So I grabbed the pizza and the pecker, and took them all outside. We gave ourselves laughing cramps winding that thing up and watching it dance around the pool deck. When we wound it up and set it down, it would just sit quietly for a second, as if it was thinking.
Then the little feet-instead-of-balls would start hopping, and the pecker would bop around the deck like it had a dance tune in its head. It would bop and boing, the little peckerhead top grinning at us with its painted-on smiley face the whole time.
I worried a little about the crab-munching neighbors. Folks who bitch over lemonade stands aren’t likely to be fond of teenagers with wind-up tallywackers. But Wind-Up Willy was small, and I realized even if they saw something bobbing around they couldn’t really make out what it was. They seemed oblivous to us anyway, with their crabs and their corn and their talks of mortgages and jobs and other boring grown-up stuff.
The afternoon progressed, just the four of us, our cold pizza, our colder swimming pool, and our wind-up willy friend.
Then someone decided to see if Willy could fly. The details are fuzzy. I do remember that the brother-and-sister duo had started bickering by that point. So maybe she tossed Willy at him. Maybe he lobbed it at her. Maybe the boys wanted to see if they could use a pecker with feet to play catch. All I remember is that I wasn’t the willy-thrower. I was floating happily in the pool, blissfully unaware of the fact that a plastic penis was about to fly.
Whoever tossed him had very bad aim. He went sailing over the deck, across my yard, and into the Land-of-the-No-Noise-Neighbors. He landed on their picnic table, lay still for a moment, and then popped up.
My friends and I were silent, a miracle in and of itself when you’re talking about four teens. We stared wide-eyed and horrified as the neighbors and their guests put down their crab claws and mallets and examined the penis that had just landed on their table.
And then, Willy started to dance. Bop. Bop. Bop. The little ball-feet bounced, his little peckerhead wobbled, and his painted smile washed over them as he moved. He jitterbugged around their crab shells, all flesh-colored and happy and pecker-shaped.
I did the only thing a teenage girl who has just been responsible for a penis dancing on her neighbor’s picnic table would do: I took a deep gulp of air, dove underwater, and stayed there for a very long time.
They finished eating their crabs indoors. Luckily for me, my parents had a sense of humor. I guess any mother who HAS a wind-up pecker on her kitchen counter must be prepared for the consequences. And after all, my parents WERE sort of annoyed about that whole lemonade stand fiasco.
So instead of getting grounded for the rest of the summer like most pecker-tossing teens, I gave my family a good laugh and was back out at the pool the next day.