Don’t Mess With Old Folks

Jake had no plans to pull a stunt like that on his parents.  At least, not at first.

Jake’s young family was camping for the weekend with his parents to celebrate their 40th anniversary.  Saturday afternooon, on the spur of the moment, Jake’s parents had decided to go into town to get more supplies for their anniversary party.  They left their motorhome in Jake’s care.

As his parents were leaving, a thought occurred . . . this would be just the opportunity he needed!  Why not?

“Okay,” Jake told his wife Sharon and their three children.  “Let’s prepare a little surprise for Grandma and Grandpa for tonight.  They’ll be gone at least an hour.”

Jake described his plan.  The children giggled with excitement.  Sharon smiled.

“We’ve lots of time,” Jake added.

But the first surprise would be on him.

Turns out, his parents had locked the motorhome doors.


“Do you suppose,” Sharon asked. “That they suspect we might have something up our sleeves? Your parents know you, Jake!”

All five checked the outside of the motorhome carefully.  At home, his parents hid a key to their house outside.  That’s in case they locked themselves out accidentally.  And they also told Jake where to find it, should his family come to visit when they were away.  And that was often . . . being avid anglers, campers and explorers.  So, surely they’d hidden a key somewhere outside their motorhome. Nope.  No such luck.

Jake and his family used half the precious hour looking for an apparently nonexistent spare key.  Must be with them in their car, they concluded.

So, how were they to pull off the practical joke they were planning?

“Someone has to get inside . . . somehow,” Jake said.  A passing thought about breaking a small window . . . “just a little one” . . . were quickly and firmly dismissed by Sharon.

Jake and Sharon’s middle daughter Kim, 5, was a quiet one.  But she was sharp, and so where her eyes.

“Hey, Daddy, look at that little window,” she said, pointing to a window above the kitchen sink in the motorhome.

Everyone looked up.  It was a rectangular window in two parts, each nine inches wide and about 12 inches high.

“It isn’t closed,” Kim observed.

They looked more closely.  Sure enough.  One side wasn’t pushed fully closed.

Jake and Sharon wondered if maybe, just maybe, one of the kids could get in that way.  Good idea.

It wouldn’t be quite as easy at it looked.

First, Jake stood on a stool and reached up.  He slid the window a couple of inches. Then it stopped.  It was blocked.  A stick had been placed at the bottom of the window for security.

“Right,’ he groaned.  “I should have guessed!”

His mother was obsessive about personal security.  His dad was casual about it.  Mom prevailed, of course.  Try as he might, he couldn’t get his arm through.  He’d hoped to remove the security stick.  No luck.  He couldn’t reach it.

Now what?

Tracey, the eldest, was seven and slender.  Jake and Sharon thought that maybe Tracey’s arm could make it through the window and remove the stick.  Tracey agreed to try.  The idea was that she crawl through the window and then open the door.  It seemed worth a try.

Standing on the stool, Jake lifted Tracey up.  Her arm fit through the small opening just fine!  She got the stick, and then managed to slide the window open most of the way.  She climbed onto her father’s shoulders and squeezed through the narrow window.  Her feet disappeared just about the time they heard a thump inside and a tiny whimper.  Next, they saw the door handle wiggle.  Then the door opened . . . a smiling Tracey was on the other side.

In they went . . . all five of them.  They pulled the blankets and the sheets off the queen-sized bed.  The top sheet was folded in half and placed at the top half of the bed, with the fold facing toward the foot.  Then, they folded the bottom sheet in half and placed it on the bottom half of the bed, the ends facing the foot. The blankets and the pillows were replaced on the bed the way Jake’s parents always made their bed. This would give the impression the bed was just as they’d left it.  The bed sheets looked normal.  They chuckled at the notion that when his parents tried to slide their feed into the bed, they’d be stopped half way.  The bed had been short-sheeted.


Just for good measure, and feeling nasty for having to break into his parents’ motorhome, Jake grabbed a box of his father’s favorite breakfast cereal – grape nut flakes.  And yes, he sprinkled a liberal helping between the upper folded sheet, raisins and all.  They took care to smooth out that mess. They didn’t want any lumps to give away their skullduggery.  Again, they replaced the sheets, blankets and pillows as they’d found them.

The dastardly deed done, they celebrated!  Briefly.  Then the five conspirators skedaddled out of there and back to their campsite, giggling all the way, to await the return of their children’s grandparents.

Supper and the anniversary celebration around the campfire that followed were a challenge . . . keeping the excited children from spilling the beans.

After what seemed an eternity, it was bedtime.  The kids were beside themselves with excitement.  After heading for bed in their camper, they watched the kitchen/living room lights go on in the motorhome . . . then the bedroom lights went on . . . then the bathroom light went on.  All the lights stayed on . . . and on . . . and on.  The children begged Jake and Sharon to stay up.  They didn’t want to miss anything that might be going on inside the motorhome.


 “What do you suppose they’re doing?” Jake asked Sharon.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” she replied, their youngest wrapped in her arms.

It was getting harder and harder to keep the children from bursting out laughing from all the excitement.

Then they heard his mother’s voice say something, loudly.  They heard her laugh.  It sounded a bit strained.  Yes!  Then a deeper voice said something.  Jake decided it was probably a really good thing the children couldn’t hear what their grandfather might be saying.

Finally, there was silence . . . just silence.  Nothing more.  For over an hour they waited . . . listening hard . . . barely breathing.  Nothing.  The kitchen and bathroom lights stayed on . . . and on.  Jake and his family finally went to bed.  Curiosity kept all of them restless for a very long time.

Next morning, everyone in Jake’s family was bleary eyed as they emerged from the truck camper.

“Good morning!” Jake’s mother said cheerily.  She was sitting beside the campfire, a steaming cup of coffee in her hand, tending a bkg pot of home-made hot cereal.  His father looked up, smiling, as he gathered the grandchildren up on his knees, the way he always did.


Nothing was said about the practical joke. Nothing!  Not even a hint.  The suspense got beyond excruciating for Jake and Susan! Even the kids said nothing . . . but they’d probably forgot.  They were so tired their little heads were nodding over their bowls of breakfast cereal.

Just before noon, they broke camp and headed home to their separate cities.  Still nothing.

Months passed. The mystery remained unsolved.

A few days before Jake and his family was to leave for their next visit with his parents, a letter arrived. He recognized his mother’s gracefully precise handwriting on the envelope.  He opened the envelope.  Inside was a lined recipe card.  There was nothing on it.  He turned it over.  One word was written on that side, in his father’s distinctively bold handwriting:  “Gotcha!”


Jake, Sharon and their three children had to wait until they arrived at his parent’s home before the older couple explained.

“Geez,” Jake would say later. “How I hated those smug looks on their faces!”

And Jake realized it was all his fault, mostly.

First, his parents suspected from the start he would lead his young family into pulling some sort of prank.  That’s why they’d locked the motorhome doors before going to town.  They didn’t expect Jake’s family to gain entry.

Next, Jake had forgotten his father often had a bowl of cereal before going to bed.  Yup!  When his Dad grabbed the box of cereal, it was almost empty.  Jake had dumped most of it into their bed.  His father had opened a new box of cereal that morning.

They figured out the rest.

The sounds that Jake and his family heard that night?  His parents admitted to play acting what they thought Jake, Sharon and their grandchildren expected to hear.  Then, leaving all the lights on, they put on their eyeshades, promptly fell asleep and had a good night’s rest.

Lesson:  Don’t mess with old folks!


“Don’t Mess With Old Folks” is Copyright 2013 by James Osborne All Rights Reserved

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