The Perilous Lake Perris Portent

AKA Lake Perris – The Misadventures of a Teenage Jenster

A couple of months ago while perusing my favorite blogs I made the mistake of mentioning to His Girl that I’d been to Lake Perris before and it was, in fact, where I had gotten into the worst trouble of my life (please don’t correct me if I’m wrong about that, Mom). Did you know you can’t just throw out a statement like that and expect people to forget?

Just so you know, there were no sex or drugs involved, though I do believe there was a substantial amount of rock ‘n’ roll. And those of you with no children may not see it as such a big deal. Those of you who are parents, however, will probably shake your head at my stupidity and mutter things like, “if my child did something like that she’d find herself in a high security boarding school until she was 30.”

So without further ado, here it is. The infamous Lake Perris story…


The church I grew up in was full of campers. My dad was the Wagon Master because: a) we did a lot of camping and he knew how the California State Parks worked; b) not only did his truck have a CB, it also had a PA system which he used for camping announcements; c) his daughter (me) had mad whistling skills and was able to get the attention of everyone in a ½ mile radius; or d) he was the only one who offered to do it. I’m not sure which. When I was 14 he chose a campout at Lake Perris, a man made lake in Riverside County.

Not only did my best friend, Cindy, come to church with me and even joined when I did, she also came on nearly all the church camping trips. She was tall and thin while I was short and not as thin. We had one thing in common, though. We were both flat as boards and not the kind of girls who inspired thoughts from older boys, lascivious or otherwise. Kathy, however, was 16 and built like the proverbial brick house. At 5′ or so, she was even shorter than I was, but she had solid curves in all the right places and the French bikini she wore the entire weekend looked exactly like it was supposed to.

Now Kathy only ever came to church or a church activity when she was in trouble for something, which means she was a fairly regular attendee. It seems to me this particular weekend her reason for being there came in the form of a stash of pot found in her locker at school, but it could have been anything. Because she was a bit of a rough girl, a lot of the kids would hardly give her the time of day. My mother – being high on the compassion scale – told Cindy and me to be nice to Kathy. So Saturday morning after breakfast we invited Kathy to come down to the beach with us. She seemed genuinely pleased to be included and came along.

After a while of tanning, talking and listening to that devil music (I have to blame something for my actions) we headed to the bait shop for sodas and a snack. Three guys around 17 or 18 came out of the bait shop and jumped into a ski boat. I don’t believe they even saw Cindy or me, but six eyes landed on the French bikini we were with. And by the way the French bikini started walking, she noticed them as well.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? I imagine some of you are sitting there, glued to the screen, nearly breathless with anticipation as to what will happen next. “No, Cindy and Jenster! Don’t do it! You’re good girls!” Actually, I can’t imagine that any of you are quite that riveted, but it’s fun to pretend.

The guys asked Kathy if she wanted to go for a ride in the boat. And this is where it gets a little foggy. If memory serves, she didn’t even consult Cindy or me and she just jumped in. As an afterthought we were invited to tag along.

For years after the “Great Lake Perris Debacle” Cindy and I argued vehemently over whose fault it was. Easily it was Kathy’s fault because she just hopped in the boat with these guys she didn’t know. But as far as our participation in the scandal – who pushed who? Now that I’m older I can see we were both probably right. I always argued that I tried to talk her out of it but she happily went along with Kathy and she always argued she was the voice of reason while I just blew her off.

I think we both were screaming on the inside, “Nooooooooooo,” but on the outside we didn’t want to appear foolish or uncool. Not only that, but I think we both felt a responsibility to Kathy and neither one of us could leave her to her joy ride alone. So much to my everlasting shame, Cindy and I went on the joy ride, too. I use the term “joy” loosely because I can tell you neither one of us enjoyed it. Kathy, on the other hand, was having the time of her life.

I have no idea how long we were out on the lake other than it was too long. We finally pulled up to the dock and I know Cindy and I were greatly relieved. Though I do have to say for the record, the guys were actually very nice and never did or said anything inappropriate. But I hear axe murderers look suspiciously like nice guys.

When we got out of the boat all I could think of was getting back to the campground. The boys were locals and offered to drive us up to the campground in the back of their truck. Fine, fine, whatever. Just get me back to my people! OH! And drop us off at the entry. I don’t want anyone seeing us with you! As we walked to the truck I heard my name. I barely recognized the voice as that of my father’s. Can you say “busted”?

Up until that time I had never been afraid of my daddy. Since that time I’ve never been afraid of my daddy. In that moment — I was a little afraid of my daddy. He had this glazed, crazy look in his eyes I’d never seen. I had received a few spankings in my life and I deserved all three. If ever a spanking was called for it was that day, but I didn’t get one.

** And for the record, being spanked DID NOT MAKE ME VIOLENT. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Except that I do kick Taylor in the shins sometimes or pinch the tender underside of his arm to get his attention. But that’s another post. **

I quickly changed directions and walked toward my dad and the other people that were with him. I was in trouble and I was humiliated in front of half my church. It’s all a bit of a blur now, but I remember walking back to the campground with several people. You know in the historical-type movies when the villagers chase the outcast out of town? That was sort of how I felt. But instead of being chased out of town Cindy and I were being chased back to our camp site.

Apparently the entire group was out looking for us. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the park rangers were looking for us as well. One of them even asked if we could be out on the lake. “Oh, no,” said my mom. “Jennifer would never get into a boat with complete strangers.” Yeah, I would have thought the same thing.

The worst part of all of it, though, was when Cindy and I were sitting in the back of the truck (with a shell on top, a couch that made into a bed, a built in cassette system, carpeted and with curtains – our little camping oasis). My mom was telling us how worried they had all been and how disappointed she was in our behavior. I remember thinking, “Oh, please! Just beat me now! It would be so much easier to take than this guilt!”

It was bad enough that Cindy and I did something so stupid. But to do something so stupid in front of half the church was horrible. And it wasn’t just my parents who were worried. Oy! I’m embarrassed just thinking about it and it happened ten years ago. Or twenty. Or nearly thirty. Whatever!

I have had a little experience as a parent with the anger that turns into worry that turns into relief that morphs into righteous indignation, but not on this scale. If I think about it too much I am surprised at the mercy that was shown to me when I really didn’t deserve it.

Oh, I was punished. Grounded, maybe? I don’t remember. I try to block unpleasantness from my conscience. Part of my “ignorance is bliss” theme. But a lesson was learned by all that weekend. Cindy and I learned that we really needed to stand up for ourselves. The church learned that “Little Jenni” wasn’t nearly as good as they thought. My parents learned their youngest was more adventuresome than their two oldest. And Kathy learned that wearing a French Bikini could open doors. Or something.


  1. Lainey-Paney on March 5, 2008 at 10:55 am

    silly girl!!!!!

  2. His Girl on March 5, 2008 at 10:58 am

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Thank you for sharing your shame with us. You told the tale fabulously, and I am not one bit sorry I pestered you into telling it.SOOOOOOO funny!!! SOOOOOOO scary!!!as a mother, I am of course just plain horrified.but as your friend, I am absolutely amused beyond reason. Thank you so much !!!!

  3. Shauna on March 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I echo His Girl! As a parent, I totally get the concern turned to worry turned to fear turned to relief turned to anger, thing. As a friend, though ….BWAHAHAHAHA!! You tell the story so wonderfully. I enjoyed every word of it. 😉

  4. The Daily "B" on March 5, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Hilarious! You told that so eloquently!

  5. Travis Erwin on March 5, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Just for the record many a french bikini has laned us guys in trouble as well.

  6. Jenster on March 5, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Lainey-Paney – Silly girl, indeed!HisGirl – I’m so glad my horrific drama amused you. :o)Shauna – ditto to what I told HisGirl.Deb – Thank you. :o)Travis – I have no doubt.

  7. Tanya on March 5, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    If there was ever a time to be too “nerdy” (not that you ever work a nerd, you were just a little younger) that would have been it. I’ve totally done my share of things like that. Thankfully I made it through.

  8. Sherry ~ Cherie ~ ms. herbes de provence on March 5, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Oh Jen, I LOVED this…thank you so much for sharing. Your nostalgia took my back to that time in my life too — where we did things we “thought” were going to be “okay” even when we knew we were walking the fine line. You made me laugh today (as you do many days!)And I love this paragraph — which is the worst kind of punishment we can have!!”The worst part of all of it, though, was when Cindy and I were sitting in the back of the truck (with a shell on top, a couch that made into a bed, a built in cassette system, carpeted and with curtains – our little camping oasis). My mom was telling us how worried they had all been and how disappointed she was in our behavior. I remember thinking, “Oh, please! Just beat me now! It would be so much easier to take than this guilt!”

  9. Sing4joy on March 5, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Oh MAN! When I saw your note – I came RIGHT over. But I am so so so tired. I have to wait. And come back when I can read it properly! No deleting it! I will be back!

  10. Jenster on March 5, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Tanya – Oh, I’m still a nerd to this very day. :o)Sherry – Yes! Guilt is the worst EVER!S4J – It is a bit long and exhausting! I promise I won’t delete. What would be the point? It’s already been read and commented on…

  11. KT on March 5, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Oh Jen, I laughed and cringed at the same time. I feel so bad for your 14-year-old self! I understand completely why you jumped in with the bikini! Thank you for sharing, and may you never be humiliated in church again. Take care, Katie

  12. His Girl on March 5, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    totally forgot to mention that you and I will have to torment S4J in october with our whistling skillz. I would love a chance to show off, I mean, hear your whistle!!!

  13. Becky on March 5, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    You crazy, crazy girl, Jenster. And having the entire church out looking? And the park rangers?! I can see why you still cringe, lol. And why Katie will be under lock and key, lol.LOL, HisGirl ~ you are all sitting in some austere Amish restaurant, and suddenly you two break out with your whistling.

  14. Sing4joy on March 5, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Well well well. Jenster. SO.Hahaha – just teasin’. It is nice to hear this story ‘ten’ years later when we know the outcome was good. It saddens my heart deeply to think of how fuzzy the lines of right and wrong become for teenagers. Especially since I am in that season of parenting. On to funner topics…..Your title: INSPIRED. Hello. THAT is funny!Following the french bikini: Who couldn’t envision that?Btw – when I was much younger than that, I actually did get lost. I must have been 5 or 6 and wandered down the beach away from my parents. Had their whole CB club looking for me (yes, we had a CB in our Dodge Colt)They found me a couple miles down PCH. My CB call sign is “Lost and Found” Got it that day. ** And for the record, being spanked DID NOT MAKE ME VIOLENT. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Except that I do kick Taylor in the shins sometimes or pinch the tender underside of his arm to get his attention. But that’s another post. ** CRIKEY YOU CRACK ME UP!Now – as far as whistling contests in Amish country…I do not have any desire to be trampled by hundreds of horse-drawn buggies because you two have scared the whits out of them!I DO however, think it would be fun to have a picnic at Lake Perris in December (where it could actually be warm enough to do so) and where it would be perfectly appropriate to have a whistle-off!

  15. April on March 5, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    FINALLY!! Loved the story. I guess you are not a goodie-goodie after all. Thanks for the laughs. Do you know that I am in the first row of homes below the south side of that dam? Yep! I’ll be sure not to let K wear a french bikini over there anytime soon. LOL

  16. Gretchen on March 5, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    And this is why you are wise beyond measure (yes, kids, your mother is wise!). Everyone needs a Lake Perris incident from which to worry, grow, and fight back righteous indignation. :)Great story. Now go quickly and burn all evidence of it so your kids don’t see one of your weaker moments. ;)xxxooogretchen

  17. radioactive girl on March 5, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    But I always think I learned so much from all my mistakes that I wouldn’t want to have not made them. Even though if my kids ever did half as much as I did, I would kill them!I think neither of those were complete sentences. I blame the tamiflu for that. I do love reading stories about your wild youth though!

  18. Jenster on March 5, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    KT – I continue to humiliate myself at church every now and again, but not like that! :o)His Girl – Except that you don’t have to use your fingers and I do! You’re so lucky!!Becky – Katie is only a year away from being the same age I was! CRIPES!S4J – A couple miles down PCH??? Now THAT’S scary!! And I was pinching Taylor’s arm tonight at the mall. He just laughs at me. :o(April – I don’t think I’ve ever been considered a goody, goody. A goody maybe, but not two! lol And I had no idea you lived right there!Gretchen – Too late. They already know the story – complete with warning about what will befall them if they EVER act so stupidly!Radioactive Girl – Go get some sleep, girl!! :o)

  19. CindyS on March 5, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Ah Jenster, the power of our peers. I wasn’t a rebellious kid but I did have a ‘mothering’ quality and I would have got in the boat also. I wouldn’t have by myself but I would have if my friend went and I felt sorta responsible for her.Where my heart jumped was when they offered to drive you back to camp – I’m not a mother but I don’t get into vehicles with people I don’t know.Isn’t it horrible when you do something your parents are so sure you wouldn’t do!I’ll have to tell my scary story – it’s only as I got older that I realize I probably dodged a HUGE bullet as a young girl.CindyS

  20. Jenster on March 5, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Cindy – I’m intrigued and dying to know your story!

  21. Lynilu on March 6, 2008 at 12:02 am

    *#)^$ typos! Who’s making me do that????I would have been livid with my daughter for doing something like that!!And I would probably have been guilty of doing it myself!!Thanks for the story. It made me think of some of my own, uhmm, poor choices which I naturally blamed on someone else!! LOL! Geez, how did we survive to adulthood? 😀

  22. SeaSpray on March 6, 2008 at 4:41 am

    Hi Jen-I enjoyed the story. You tell it so well! Obviously you were a good girl! And your parents were very loving.I hitch hiked from up here to 2 hours away down the shore by myself at 14 yrs old. I thought I could get away with it. There was an APB out for me. Really…I had planned on having a friend bring me back the next day.I kept my guardian angel busy. You have inspired me. Maybe I will post it and turn it into a meme. Do you think that would work. I will tell them that it would be neat to hear any teen years story they want to tell. No rules about length – whatever they want to share. Then maybe i will tag or make it open. But I think it would be neat to hear some more bygone days stories. What do you think?Thanks for sharing yours and for your recent comments. 🙂

  23. Jenster on March 6, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Lynilu – I have no idea how we survived! LOLSeaspray- Oh my goodness! An APB!? You win! :o)

  24. R2K on March 6, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    : )

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