I Didn’t Even Know You Could Cheat At Trees

, , , , , , | Learning | April 28, 2020

Outdoor school has been a long-established “rite of passage” for third-graders here — a time to spend three days away from actual school and learn about the wilderness. Like many of the kids who are attending outdoor school, I am Native, which isn’t uncommon for the area we come from, nor the area we’re in.

We are learning about all the different types of trees, but I’m bored of this lesson and start whispering to my friends. 

It is important to know that everyone in my family has rather… unusual names. It is the late nineties when this happens:

Counselor: “[My Name], are you paying attention?”

Me: “I am! But I know all of this already!”

Counselor: “Oh? Then kindly point out the different types of trees you see around us. If you can get them all correct, you don’t have to go on the nature walk later.”

I stand up, walking over to a big spruce tree.

Me: “This is my Uncle Spruce.”

I walk over to the next tree.

Me: “This is my Uncle Pine, that’s my Auntie Maple…”

I continue on like this for every tree, and the councilor — who is also Native — stops me after a while.

Counselor: “All right, [My Name], you know your trees! But they aren’t your uncles or your aunties; they’re our friends.”

Me: “No, they’re my uncles and aunties! I promise!”

The counselor made a note on his clipboard, and we continued on. Later that night, I was summoned to the counselor’s cabin where they were on the phone with my parents. They put the speaker on so I could hear.

The counselor had told them that I had cheated at the tree lesson, which was a punishable offence. When asked how he knew I had cheated, the counselor told them that no one had ever gotten all the trees correct and told them about me calling them “uncle” and “auntie”. 

My father burst out laughing before my mother could explain; her parents had named all their children after trees, and they had taught all the kids the different types of trees! I didn’t cheat. I knew them because my aunts and uncles had taught me about their namesakes when I was little! 

The counselor blushed and apologized.

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