She immediately started packing and making ready all the supplies she felt we had (after consulting friends) and I scheduled a trip to REI to purchase the essentials we did not: Gunpowder, ham hocks, and guitar strings.
Let me back up...
My wife hosted a "girl's night" at our house one night when she knew I would be gone and wouldn't eff it up. So they met and she hosted, and by the time I got there they were all half lit up and had convinced Leslie that camping with the entire family would be not only fun, but good for her. And honestly, given the group they probably had the best shot at convincing her because all of them work with Lily on a day-to-day basis during the school year. They were going...built in support...why NOT go?
And of all the thousand reasons I would ordinarily have been able to dream up, I came up with..."but the laundry" and ..."but grocery shopping..." and I was ignored and we were going camping and that was fine. And the reason it was fine is the same reason that the group we were going with had the best shot at convincing Leslie. It wasn't just going to be us. We'd have built-in support.
Emma was, of course, beside herself with joy. She has wanted to go REAL camping for as long as we've been going backyard camping, so for her, this was the realization of all her desires. Fishing/camping out/s'mores...
Friday I got home five or ten minutes early. Leslie had essentially packed everything, and as is typical for our pre-trip organization and packing, she was stressed to the gills and finding it extremely difficult (I assume) to reply to any questions in any sort of..."civil" tone.
A blogging friend sent me a Facebook message telling me to have fun and not to drive my wife insane. I replied, "I promise not to drive her crazy if she lives through the fucking drive...her stress manifests itself in the form of excessive shrewery."
Leslie gets stressed before trips or parties and then bites everyone who comes within range. Fine...bites me when I come in range. She gets over it very quickly and is apologetic and sweet, but I find that her stress level ratchets up higher the closer we get to departure. And then once we depart, like a rubber band snapping, so too does her stress. Meanwhile though, we were in the final minutes...
The blogger then asked, "how does your stress manifest itself?"
"I start saying fuck a lot."
But really what happens is I get super defensive and immediately bite back and make whoever bit at me as absolutely miserable as possible, which is the exact best combination for building to a fight.
When we arrived we put up two tents because we didn't have a big one, and Leslie and Lily took one while Emma and I took the other. And it's probably for the best because we verbally bit and scratched halfheartedly at each other until...maybe Saturday. Because....
Once we were all together, and at the campsite with tents set up and children fed, the rain began to fall. And we huddled together, our three groups, under a canopy, drinking beer and getting soaking wet from about 9:00 until we dispersed to our respective tents a shorter time later than perhaps we would all have preferred had the weather been different.
Leslie took Lily at her usual bedtime but the patter of the rain, or perhaps the barking of dogs or happy shrills of playing children (you never think about how loud kids are until you're in a tent with paper thin walls trying to put your 7 year old to sleep) kept her awake. Or maybe she just had to go to the bathroom. An hour or so after we put her to 'bed' (Dora sleeping bag) she asked to go to the bathroom...and we rigged our potty seat in the corner of the tent for privacy and Lily, after much sitting, went...and then fell asleep.
I'm trying to gauge whether this was "the low point". It's close. But maybe wait a bit...
That night the rain fell almost constantly. At one point it was dripping inside Leslie and Lily's tent and I realized the rain flap that covered the mesh "vent" at the top of their tent was on sideways and left an opening. We fixed that and fixed most of the problem...
Over in my tent, I slept like crap for the most part. But I slept. And where there was some water, at least there was no point where rain was just falling directly from the sky and into the tent. There was some periodic dripping that came tap, tap, tapping on my sleeping bag...but I'd rearrange the flap, or move my sleeping bag to one side or slap the water away or whatever and it would be fine until it would find some other ingress and start again a half hour later.
Emma and I both woke several times when the rain fell heaviest, and I think I woke once and for all around six in the morning when the roaming leak found its way directly into my ear hole, with me playing Hamlet's father to mother nature's Claudius. But unlike King Hamlet I woke, batting away at God's own wet willy before sitting up and realizing that this was 1) as much sleep as I was bound to get and 2) I realllllly had to pee.
Leslie too was awake, texting me when she heard the rustle of my sleeping back against the air mattress. I got up and wandered to the bathroom, leaving a sleeping Emma behind before relieving Leslie so she could go.
We assessed the damages in Leslie and Lily's tent...
Where the air mattress raised the sleeping bags off the ground they remained dry, so that should have been most of it, but the backpacks with all the dry clothes? Those remained on the tent floor where the rain puddled and ponded and saturated everything that should and must remain dry (unless you go without clothing) while they slept.
All of Lily's clothes were soaked.
The adults gathered into an impromptu counsel of war...should we stay? Should we go? There was no consensus, but I was leaning toward going. This might have been our low point had one of the groups not attempted to start their truck only to find the battery completely dead. Nobody else in the group could drive up the wet grass of the hill to jump the vehicle, and with the battery dead, they couldn't shift it into neutral in order to push it down the hill to us.
This then...this was the low point. Car dead, soaked clothes, rain still falling, sad children...
And Lily slept on...maybe that's the candle flickering in the night...because Lily just kept on sleeping. And when she woke and Leslie began feeding her, I was taking clothes and backpacks in dripping bundles down to the front offices laundromat. Who knew?? Camping/laundromat! Victory is mine!
And then the rain stopped and the sun came out. And we pulled the sleeping bags from the tents and drained the water, draping them over our vehicles and letting the sun dry them out. We got coffee from the office and finished drying out our clothes. The kids rode their bikes down to the playground, the fire was rekindled, and a fellow camper drove his four wheel drive up the hill and jump started the truck. And the consensus was...one more night.
It's going to be hard to lay it all out for you because so much got jammed into that day, and I've already put off posting this for so long because there was so much...and there's only so much you all will read before you're like..."Wall of words! Done!!" So many things I want to write about that would stretch this post out...the half whimsical purchase of the camp knife and thoughts of whittling away at drift wood by a camp fire, the remembered packs of wild kids, peddling off into adventure and away from the parents' watchful eyes...maybe another post another time.
So let me try to sum up:
S'mores, mountain pies, swimming pool, campfire, charades, wading, fishing, bike riding, basketball, whittling, beer, and a cloudless day with a cool night under starry skies, Lily, in pajamas, sitting on our laps and gobbling roasted marshmallow from the point of a fire-blackened stick, and then again sleeping peacefully until morning. She really was a good girl throughout the whole thing and LOVED the dog (Chesney) who came along with one of the families. It feels like I'm doing the actual camping part a huge injustice since most of this is about the rain...but it felt nostalgic, like a trip from MY childhood. The kids riding together in a big pack...getting on their bikes to peddle down to office to buy something, and then racing them back to play basketball...everyone included...everyone watching out for each other.
And Emma offered this, "This was probably the best weekend of my whole life." Almost like she had that father's day backyard camping trip so many years before.
And so we'll try again next year, and hope for a better first night. As for "real" camping...maybe this is as "real" as it needs to be, with a pond stocked with fish, a laundromat "just in case", clean bathrooms and showers, a playground, basketball courts, and a swimming pool. We'll take the Montana camping trip when we have this version down to a science.
|Entrance to camp|
|Emma and my quarters|
|Just prior to rainfall...|
|Day 2...She's "king of the world"...at the playground|
|I am mauled by a bear and made its bitch.|
|Lake Moraine...in which worms died to bring us fish.|
|Blue gill...Emma caught it but refused to kiss it and turn it into a prince.|
|The great white whale that I pulled from the depths at great personal risk.|
|pretty in the foreground, pretty in the background, pretty all around.|
|She did this without prompting|
|The camping crew...|
|Chesney bids farewell to Lily...|