My child has been begging to go camping. I have hesitated to take her, given her complete and unholy terror of flying insects and intense aversion to outdoor bathrooms. Reaching a compromise, we planned a backyard campout for the Memorial Day weekend.
The day of the campout began with much needed yard maintenance to prepare a nice place to camp. I spent the morning mowing the front lawn and entertaining portions of the neighborhood girl gang. At lunch, we all took a break to recover from the heat. In my case, I took a long, luxurious nap.
After I woke up, I put the hammock up between the trees in the front yard, because what is a campout without a hammock? Then I began mowing the back yard and getting it ready for the tent. In the middle of that process, we received a pet turtle, and so we spent some time creating a turtle habitat. We are now a family of 2 people, 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 turtle, and 2 goldfish. I’m going to start charging admission to this house that is quickly becoming a petting zoo.
By this time, it was time to hit the local Wal-Mart to join with all the other Memorial Day celebrators in procuring all the cookout necessities. Over $100 later, we left with all manner of campfire cookout food and 1 bona fide fish tank, because I am now willing to accept that we have become fish people. Also, because I am no longer willing to change tank water every other day when there are such blessed inventions as water filters.
We returned home and immediately set up the new fish tank. It came with an LED light that changes color, so once it was all set up, we sat in front of it mesmerized by the colors, the bubbles, and the fish making fish faces.
Finally pulling ourselves away, we began setting up the tent. I need you to understand the weather conditions under which I took up this occupation. It was approximately 1000 degrees with 10,000 percent humidity. I bent down to open the bag containing the tent and that action alone caused me to be immediately drenched in sweat. By the time the tent was up, I felt like I had walked into a swimming pool with all my clothes on.
Still, we soldiered on and started the campfire. We ate chips and dip and roasted hot dogs, and we didn’t completely swelter from the heat. We made s’mores and enjoyed the hypnotic effect of a campfire. All the while, Stax whined in protest that he was not included in the festivities and was sent to his bed inside the house.
As the sun set, we cleaned up from the cook out and let Stax outside. I walked with him around the tent as he inspected it, hoping to prevent any Lab-like chewing behavior. Rather, he immediately marked the side of the tent as his territory. Thanks, boy.
I went inside to gather the rest of the bedding we needed for our campout, keeping an ear and eye out for any shenanigans Stax may try to pull. Stepping back outside with an arm full of blankets and pillows, I found Stax happily laying in the grass while eating our lantern. By the time I pulled it from his jaws, he had already chewed off the handle. Upon further inspection, it was found to be incredibly slimy but still in working order. Nothing a good cleaning wouldn’t fix.
We settled into the tent, leaving Stax on the outside. I would have liked to have him in the tent, because despite his many flaws, he is my emotional support beast. My child, however, does not find him as charming as I do, but we both found comfort in his large form being present right outside of the tent door.
My child asked me to read to her, and handing me her small, green Bible with a ladybug adorning the cover, she asked me to read the first chapter. By the light of our now handle-less lantern, I read aloud the account of The Creation. The atmosphere of the creation account had never before felt so fitting as reading it in a tent, by the light of a lantern, with the moon and the stars peaking through the window.
Next, we read two chapters in the 1st book of the Magic Treehouse series, and then we settled into the stillness of the night. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, as I was exhausted from a day of yard work and setting up backyard camp. I had just switched off the lantern and closed my eyes, when a light rain began to fall.
“Ahhh, it’s raining!” I happily exclaimed.
“I’m scared! We have to go in!” my child declared, not at all sharing my delight.
“Look, it’s just a gentle rain. Even Stax isn’t bothered by it. He hasn’t even moved,” I pointed out.
“Oh yeah,” she said, “He’s not freaked out at all”.
Taking her cues from the emotional support beast, she settled back down into the pillows and blankets, and we enjoyed the sound of the rain that only lasted a couple more minutes. I lay there, sinking deeper into relaxation, enjoying the sounds of the insects and frogs singing, until a new sound made its way into my consciousness. Quickly, I realized that sound was Stax snacking on the guy lines of the tent.
“NO!!!” I yelled, as I bounded out of the hobbit-sized opening of the tent. Stax lay there completely unfazed by my exuberant exit from the tent and happily chewing the lines. That was the end of the campout for Stax, as I escorted him to his bed inside the house.
The humans attempted to settle back into the tent, but we were newly aware of how hot it was after exerting ourselves. Every few minutes, one of us would declare, “It’s really hot” and the other would agree.
At one point during this exchange, my child said, “Well, at least we got a tent so you can go camping when you want to. I can have a sleepover at Nana & Pop’s or a friends house”.
In response, I burst into laughter, and she promptly covered my mouth with her hand.
“Does that mean you would like to go inside now?” I inquired.
“No,” she responded, “I’ll try for a few more minutes.”
By 9:30, we were in the house, safely tucked into our beds and enjoying the air-conditioning. I fell asleep more deeply relaxed than I usually do, with the scent of the outdoors and campfire fresh in my hair and the song of nighttime creatures still in my ears.
The tent is still up in the yard, and we keep looking out of the window to make sure that Stax isn’t using it as a giant chew toy. The spirit of camping seems to have nestled into a small part of my daughter’s heart, as she keeps saying that she would like to try to sleep out again tonight.
Maybe we will sleep out all night in the tent, and maybe we won’t. Whatever time we get to spend together outside will ultimately serve us well, with the slower pace and fewer distractions it allows us to enjoy.
Happy Memorial Day!