Traveling and living abroad, I tend to idealize American childhood. I know that my summers were terribly boring, but my memories are full of fishing with sticks and cold cuts, climbing trees, and walking in the woods. Maybe some of those memories have been polished with time, but they are confidence building. I want to give the kids the same thing.
My goals for the summer were never written, but included camping, fishing, and hiking. We only tramped around the backyard woods twice and never made permanent trails. They did fish, though I tried to avoid the worms, fish, hooks, dock, and everything associated with it. We did camp once in the backyard.
Hiking through undergrowth takes concentration, but camping is a bit slow and my mind wanders. I start to think of all the trips that came before. My first camping trips were with the girl scouts. Will the kids experience scouts? There must be troops all over the world. They need to experience that distinctive scent of the green plastic platform tents and the sound of girls trapped inside that large A-frame being catty and mean.
Ah, the memories. The gates are open and the memories rush through too fast to collect: hash campouts (which my phone autocorrected to vampires), Marceline and Toon-Fest, kayak and canoe trips- remember kids people go in the kayaks and the beer and gear go in the canoe! Glimpses into the torrent reveal funny memories and inside jokes. The kind of stuff that is mine to hold onto and at times not hold in, like marshmallows. One of life great mysteries explained.
These are the thoughts that helped me smile as I laid on the cold ground, because someone didn’t want to use the air mattress; at the bottom of a downhill slope, because that is where the tent was pegged; and being kicked by three pairs of feet, because four people don’t fit into a 2-man tent no matter what size those people are, and living in fear because pee flows downhill.
The mosquitoes were terrible, so we all ran and jumped in the tent. The inside of the tent glowed red with light from the star watching app. Star Walk was my frequent companion in Africa, but rarely used during the bright city nights in DC. Ted turned it into a game, blinding us with close-ups of stars and the moon. He played with the app and we never would know what stars were above us. It was a full moon, so maybe we would not have seen much anyway.
Lightning bugs are great to watch from the porch, but nearly invisible through the white, synthetic walls of the tent. The other bugs mobilized, ignoring the bug spray soaking our skin and attacked looking for blood. The bombardment continued as they tested the tent fabric for weaknesses. Lying quietly trying to ignore the discomfort and inevitable flood, I heard creaking. Did the mosquitoes join forces with a ground insect in order to tunnel in? Creak. Creak. I felt around the bottom of the tent. Nothing was moving. Listening carefully I found the spot. Slowly I put my finger down and pushed until, crack! Creaking stopped and I was a little freaked out by the size of the something that cracked under the tent.
At around 11pm I snuck out of the tent to use the bathroom, modern conveniences just steps away. There was something odd about the air. On the way back to the tent it hit me- nothing hit me. There were no bugs biting, wings and legs humming. No bats above. The air was perfectly still. Do I wake the kids and look at the stars? Nope, tell them tomorrow. I tried to sleep. At 2am I bailed on my loving family and went to sleep on the couch downstairs rather than the bed, just in case a coyote attacked them.
The old stories of people sleeping under the stars are romanticized. Cowboys sleeping with a saddle for a pillow, elves and men sleeping in abandoned watchtowers. Are there not Tolkien-size bugs out there? Snakes? Other creepy crawlies that slither, wiggle, and fly during the night? Romantic? In my younger, tentless days I tried it once and would never again. Sleeping under the stars is cold, rocky, and buggy.
A week after tenting, when the family was caught up on sleep, we took down the tent. The large, crushed, critter was not found. The tent, now on its way to Shanghai, has been retired for the season. We have hit everything on the list and the kids had a good, memorable summer. Ted's only disappointment, still no pocket knife.
|Making trails in the backyard.|
|Swimming at Grandma's.|
|Fishing with cousins and the aunts who bravely face hooks and worms.|
|Embedded deer tick.|
|Berries from the backyard.|
|Running with no purpose and no direction.|