Of Campfires and Cowgirls

I bent down to give him a hug and noticed the huge gap in the front of his mouth.
“Hey! What happened to your teeth?”
“That’s my surprise! I told Grandma not to tell you – my two incisors fell out. I got $3 each!”
I told him that now we looked alike, and I pulled out my braces, revealing my missing eyetooth. He had already seen this trick, so wasn’t overly impressed. He asked me to remind him why I needed plastic teeth, and I told him my adult teeth never grew in. But I assured him that his would.
“Aunt Jenny – when we go bowling, don’t forget to put your teeth in, or people will make fun of you.”
“Do I look hideous without my teeth?”
“No. But I just don’t want people to laugh at you.”
“You’re right. I should put them back in.”
I dropped my bag on the floor of my six-year old nephew’s bedroom. He was temporarily displaced for the weekend, but happy to be camped out in a sleeping bag in his older brother’s room.
“I got my room all ready for you. We put new sheets on the bed!”
Pale blue flannel that matched the dark blue bedspread. Tiny cowboys atop bucking horses, with lassoes twirling above their heads. I looked around the room and saw a red bandana hanging from one of the antlers of the deer skull in the corner. I wondered if I would dream of the wild West – of campfires and cowgirls, ranches and wranglers – but I didn’t. Instead, I dreamed of Gollum, his imaged locked firmly in my brain after sitting through several hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy before realizing that I didn’t care what happened to the ring.
It was my older nephew’s 9th birthday, so his mother planned a bowling party for him and nine of his friends. I volunteered to chaperone and act as official photographer, accepting the intense pressure of being the designated photo-documentarian for a skilled scrapbooker such as my sister-in-law.
“I’m picturing the layout right now – there are ten boys and ten pins. I’ll have them all lined up like bowling pins, so you’ll need to get individual photos of each of them standing straight.”
Within moments of meeting all the boys, I had identified my favorites. There was Nick, the tall one with the soft voice wearing the grey shirt. He’s a nice one. He smiled sweetly and congratulated each of the boys as they stepped off the lane.
“Nice job! High five!”
And Scott. So tiny I could put him in my pocket.
“Should I smile?”
“Yes, you can smile. Just be sure to stand really straight.”
Evan reminded me of Harry Potter, with even finer features. He has perfect enunciation, according to my brother, which makes me like him all the more.
“Open my card first! I picked it out myself – it’s so funny!”
The card wasn’t all that funny – I think it was a pun about being one in a million – but he picked it out himself and his smile was infectious. I didn’t know boys bought each other cards, but they all did. Nick’s was handmade, of course.
That other boy – the one who drooled as he showed no one in particular how he could fit his entire mouth around a plastic cup, the one who hoarded the orange bowling ball even though it was the only one light enough for most of the boys to carry, the one who stole my younger nephew’s most powerful Yu-Gi-Oh! cards – he’s the one I would watch out for. He stands at my brother’s front door, sometimes for 20 minutes straight without ringing the bell. He just stands there, hoping someone will pass by and invite him in.
“Feel how heavy my present is! It only costed $20!”
The one who, like most of these boys, has not yet mastered tact.
My nephew calls him up, “I really hate you for stealing my cards, but I don’t have anyone else to play with, so do you want to come over?”
He says sure.
I watch in awe as the boys devour the birthday cupcakes, wiping orange and blue frosting on their pants and sleeves before continuing the game.
“Aunt Jenny, can you make sure you don’t eat any of the candy in my room?”
“None of it?”
“Well, you can have a Snickers. I have three of them.”
“I’ll try my best, but sometimes I eat candy in my sleep.”
“Even with your plastic teeth? Okay. I’ll put it in a drawer, then.”
As I fluff the cowboy pillow and pull up the cowboy sheets, bathed in the soft glow of the cowboy nightlight, I think how nice it is to have someone to remind me to put my teeth back in.

19 Responses to “Of Campfires and Cowgirls”

  1. Dave2 Says:

    Wow. Six years old and he’s already into cowboys… this makes me kind of embarrassed that I still have SpongeBob SquarePants on my bed.

  2. asia Says:

    He is the cutest cutest cutest little bowling thing I have ever seen!

  3. jenny Says:

    dave2: spongebob? and here i totally would’ve guessed batman. or do you save those for special occasions? ;)
    asia: thanks! it was really too much to watch these little guys bowl. i wanted to steal some of them, like so many Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

  4. Karl Says:

    Ha, gotta love kids. They’re so funny.
    “Can you not eat any of my candy?” Precious.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    Home home on the range. This is lovely!

  6. Tracy Lynn Says:

    Being an aunt is the bestest thing in the world, isn’t it?

  7. Laurel Says:

    I get to sleep on Star Wars sheets in my 8 yr old nephew’s bottom bunk. Nothing like hearing (in that forced whisper) “Ah-Ah. Ah-Ah. AH-AH! Is it time to get up yet?” at 4am, with his little head peeking down from the top bunk. Worth the interrupted sleep every time!

  8. shari Says:

    So now you’re telling me that in addition to their prodigious writing talent, these nephews also have mad bowling skillz AND they’re cute??!! And one of them courteously puts his candy out of reach so as not to tempt you in your sleep?? Gah! I love them!!

  9. sandra Says:

    I have two nieces, so it’s mostly princess stuff — but that said, my older niece requested to go bowling for her birthday (yesterday).

  10. jenny Says:

    karl: isn’t that hysterical? and he was carrying an armful of candy (that i gave him) upstairs as he said it.
    vivian: thanks! it was like being at a dude ranch.
    tracy lynn: the absolute bestest! all the fun and none of the work!
    laurel: star wars? bunk beds? that’s so cool!
    shari: yes, i’m afraid that’s exactly what i’m telling you. they’re crazy cute!
    sandra: princess stuff sounds fun, too. i’d love to study the differences in social dynamics between little girls bowling party and little boys bowling party. let’s talk about getting a grant for that research!

  11. sbukophile Says:

    So the real question is, did you sneak into the drawer in your sleep and eat his candy? (I love kid logic!)

  12. sizzle Says:

    did you eat a snickers?
    kids are so cute. especially when they aren’t mine.

  13. roy Says:

    You sound like a natural, with those kids there. Mad kid skilz.
    “…but sometimes I eat candy in my sleep.” Beautiful.

  14. sbukophile Says:

    Um, Sizzle, were you copying my comment, just changing the words to make it seem like it was your idea ;-)

  15. jenny Says:

    sbukophile: somehow, i was able to resist! (and no, sizzle didn’t copy you – i approved both your comments at the same time. great minds…)
    sizzle: it was hard to resist, because i’m a big snickers fan… i did steal some of his temporary tattoos, though. :)
    roy: it’s easy to have mad kid skillz when you only have to entertain, not discipline. :)

  16. Don Says:

    Let’s face it, gurlz make natural boyherds. That’s why we have den mothers, and team moms.

  17. jenny Says:

    don: is that why? you know, i did feel particularly authoritative as i was telling each boy to stand up straight and smile. they actually listened to me!

  18. churlita Says:

    What a sweet post. I remember when my girls and their freinds were still that young and sweet.
    Now I want cowboy sheets.

  19. Don Says:

    Yes. Any woman not their mom or teacher has total control. But not when they’re older, say eighteen. Too late by then, else the Marines would have been using female DIs long since.