Monday, July 23, 2007

South Korea and Newton Van Tootin

Eli 5.11 (version change on July 31), has been away from school for four weeks, all of which were jammed with various summer camps. He won't be going to this school in the fall--he'll be going into first grade--but he wanted to go back for a few last weeks (mostly, to get a birthday party at school, I'm guessing).

So last Monday, he went back to school. I always pick him up on Mondays at noon and take him to lunch, and when I walked out to the playground, his favorite teacher rushed up to me. "I am SO jealous about your vacation!" she said. She was just beaming. "South Korea, parasailing, skydiving--it sounds fantastic!"


Eli waved at me and started walking over. In the meantime, I saw his other teacher, and she said "Well, Eli had quite a summer vacation!"

Eli hugged me from behind, and we started walking toward his school building. I said "Buddy, what did you tell your teachers about a vacation?"

He immediately looked a little embarrassed.

"South Korea?" I asked. "Parasailing? Skydiving?"

"Um, yes," he said, with a sly little smile.

That's right. My son (and your Internet-adopted son) convinced both his teachers that he went to South Korea on vacation, and got to parasail as well as skydive. Even better, he drew a picture of himself parasailing (with a giant rainbow behind him) during art class. It's on our refrigerator now.

I explained to him that he had to be careful about who he tried to fool with made-up stories, but the whole time I was fighting my face, because I was a split-second away from bursting into laughter.

I told this story to my boss, and it was a good thing I did, because he told me a story about his brother George, when he was still a boy in the 1950's.

In the summers, George went to an exclusive boys sports camp in Mount Ida, Arkansas, called Ozark Boys Camp. My boss's dad was a printer, and he did all the printing for the camp, which he bartered in exchange for a camp session each summer.

This camp was a big deal, so renowned that kids actually came from outside the country just to attend the camp.

When George was twelve, he went away for his four-week session at camp, and when he came back, he told his mother that a Dutch boy had come to camp that summer.

A boy named Newton Van Tootin.

Van Tootin's father was an actual prince, and when Newton flew to the U.S., he was accompanied by both the family chauffeur as well as the family chef. Each afternoon at 3 p.m., his chef--driven by the family chauffeur--would arrive at the camp and give homemade ice cream to Newton and all his friends.

George's mother believed him.

A few months later, his mother saw the camp director at church. After exchanging pleasantries, this conversation began.

"I heard all about the Dutch boy," said the mother. "That must have been very exciting."

"Dutch boy?" asked the camp director. "We had several boys from France, but I don't remember anyone from Holland.

"You know," said his mother. "The one who got ice cream every day from the family chef."

"What?" asked the camp director.

"His father was a prince," said George's mother. The camp director just stared at her with a blank look on her face. "The Dutch boy," his mother repeated. "Newton Van Tootin."

The camp director smiled. "Did George tell you this?" He asked.

"Why yes, he did," said George's mother, and the camp director burst out laughing. It seems that George had quite a reputation for being a prankster at camp.

This, obviously, secured him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

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