A Tale of Two Campers

Before meeting my husband, my idea of camping was going to a lodge or cabin equipped with all the comforts of home. While there was some campfire time and perhaps some hiking, the majority of the time was spent in a climate controlled environment with beverages and indoor activities. Since meeting my husband, camping has been more of a mano-a-mano showdown with nature. Let’s just say, we see camping differently.

I remember one of the first times we went camping together. We were out in the middle of nowhere. When we finally parked the car, I stood outside and marveled at the beauty of the forest. You could hear the wildlife conversation taking place all around. Not another person around to spoil it. As I looked around though, I didn’t see a campsite so I ask, “How far until we get to the campsite?” Well to my surprise my new-found love said, “We’re here. We’ll set up camp right over there.” Now, I knew we were not going to go to a lodge or cabin, but the middle of nowhere?

Every bad slasher movie flashed before my eyes. But love is blind and apparently dumb so I went with it. To be honest, it was pretty cool to be surrounded by nature. We had a small portable propane grill so cooking was a breeze. We even had a covered potty. While it is not as good as running water and a toilet, at least I could sit in a covered environment while taking care of business. Fast forward seven years and we have reached some compromises when it comes to camping. Even though, when we go camping, we have two totally different experiences.

This weekend, we took our kiddos camping to a local campsite. Still not the lodge or cabin I would have wanted but also not the middle of nowhere. Our campsite had many amenities not afforded to me on that first camping trip. We had a general store, an on-site restaurant, a park with swing sets for the kids, a fire pit, and our very own picnic table. But most important of all, our campsite had running water!!! Hot shower type of running water.

The kids were so excited to go camping. They were running around everywhere. They kept gathering sticks and throwing them into the fire pit. They cheered in unison as the fire grew taller and taller. To say my husband and I parent differently is like saying that day and night are different. While I was busy trying to make sure nobody got burned, he was busy encouraging the junior pyros. I was glad when it was finally time to eat as it gave me an excuse to have them settle down without being the party pooper.

We dined on hot dogs, chips and juice. I’m not winning any mother of the year award for that dinner but they gobble it down like it was candy. After dinner settled in a bit, we broke out the marshmallows. I may not be a seasoned camper but I know one thing for sure. No campfire is complete without roasting marshmallows. At least not to a kid.

Roasting marshmallows turned out to be quite the debate with el hubbo though. Apparently, the right way to roast a marshmallow is by slow death. Imagine that, I went through life for years doing this the wrong way. Everyone I know has done this the wrong way and must immediately be in-serviced. No more blaze on the marshmallow, no more blowing it out before biting into the crunchy goodness that gives way to a warm, melty center. No, we must let the poor marshmallow hover over the flames dying a very slow and painful death. Meanwhile, we must contemplate a marshmallow that will never meet our expectations because we have salivated for what seemed like hours. Finally, when the gods, the wind or a gut feeling gives the sign it is ready, we pull the marshmallow off the stick only to leave behind half of the almost warm and now deformed fluffy victim. At that point we may enjoy our pseudo warm marshmallow with a squishy (not melted) middle. Who knew?

Night covered the campground and with it came an uncomfortable cold. It was at this point I began to question the decision to go camping. I didn’t expect temperatures in the 80s but 35 degrees in the last week of May seemed a little low. My “mom worry” set in and I was sure my kids were going to be little popsicles by morning even with their warm PJs on top of their clothes and winter coats over that. Daddy seemed oblivious to this concern. I don’t remember whose idea it was to go camping but as I see daddy enjoying the campfire – ignorant of the unavoidable ice-storm headed our way – I decided it must have been his. A Mom would have checked the weather. A mom would have decided against what was now, very clearly, a poor choice.

I began to bundle up my little future popsicles and zip up their sleeping bags. Meanwhile, daddy was still by the campfire enjoying a beverage. Now that was a sight. There he was, enveloped by the night with only his silhouette traced by the light of the campfire. Here I was in the tent negotiating gravity since the tent was set up on a slope. As I zipped up the last sleeping bag I was hoping that I packed my babies well enough to survive the impending blizzard. And there he was still, enjoying his beverage by the campfire. How does he do that? How does he sit there enjoying the night, the fire, his beverage when we have a blizzard to worry about?

Just as I was about to enjoy some of this wonderful nature myself, it began. The delightful sounds of wildlife conversation turned into sounds of belligerent grown ups who must have had one too many beverages. I began to silently wish them to stop. Didn’t they see all the children around them? Didn’t they realize that we moms go out of our way everyday to ensure our children are not exposed to these words? I peeked into the tent to see if my kids were still awake. Either they were really good pretenders or they were asleep. I decided (for my own sanity) to believe they were asleep.

Finally even the adult children pooped out and went to sleep. Peace at last. I wriggled into my sleeping bag and zipped up for the night. It dawned on me at that point that I had not gone camping for a couple of years. In that time, I had forgotten what sleeping in a tent, on the floor with only half an inch between me and the earth was like. I was quickly reminded.

It was at this point that I began to question my decision-making skills. I have always thought of myself as an intelligent woman. I went to college. I was successful in my chosen career. Where did I go astray? I wondered, what sane person gives up a bed for a tent? I mean, what is that thought process like? Let’s see warm, comfortable bed or cold tent, hard floor, knee in my back and a rock up my butt? I looked around to see if there was anyone else who could share in my misery. Not a soul.

The children were in their protective cocoons just in case that blizzard materialized. The hubbo? Well, he was sound asleep right next to me working on “snoring symphony #3” in C major. Suddenly the beverages by the campfire made sense. A little beverage, tons of layers, curl up into a ball and don’t move. I thought to myself, I can do that. I began a wrestling match with my sleeping bag to find that perfect spot where the rocks wouldn’t pierce into me…at least not as much. I closed my eyes exhausted and anxious to sleep.

12:30 AM and I still couldn’t sleep. Hubbo was busy on his third encore and I was getting pretty tired of the same song. I contemplated nudging him ever so slightly so as to stop the death of a bear sound coming from the love of my life. Had he always snored this loud? It must be the still of the night amplifying the sound. Oopsie, did I accidentally bump my dear wonder of a man? I held my breath to see if the sound would stop. No such luck.

1:30 AM Sleep had evaded me thus far. I began to contemplate a break for the car. I thought to myself, what is the worst that can happen? I could perform some quick acrobatics and hop over one husband, one kid, and one bag. The soft cushy leather and heated seats of my SUV were calling me. I began to actually consider this plan until I sat up and realized how warm it really was inside my sleeping bag. I knew then that I would freeze if I dared leave the safety of this pod. I was a prisoner. I was certain the blizzard had passed over us and left us stranded inside this tent. Everyone else must have perished in the blizzard. How else could you explain the fact that no one had come to see what the noise coming from our tent was. Surely if I heard those sounds from our neighbor’s tent I would send my husband to see if everything was okay.

2:00 AM Every bone in my body told me to call it quits. I couldn’t feel my toes, my nose was running, and I had a permanent indentation on my left thigh from the rock that had nestled itself onto me. Why did I agree to this torture? I remembered why it had been a couple of years since I had gone camping. I turned to my husband and explained to him how we wouldn’t be doing this again. I explained to him how maybe, just maybe we were too old for this sleeping on the ground business. I made a very good argument for cabins and lodges. I took his snoring concerto, now in D minor, as consensus.

2:30 AM I resolved to sleep sitting up. I could no longer try to sleep on my sides, back, or stomach. Everything hurt. I drifted in and out of sleep for the next couple of hours. I looked around and could not understand how all of my loving family could be asleep so comfortably oblivious to the fact that mommy was exhausted, cold and in pain. I began to wonder what would happen if I accidentally woke up the hubbo. I wondered how quickly he would get cold if his sleeping bag accidentally unzipped. Although I would never unzip a camper’s bag, the thought of him freezing just a little brought about a smirk. After all, I was cold, awake, in pain, and exhausted. He on the other hand was sleeping like a baby.

5:00 AM Are you kidding me with the birds? Did all the birds on earth converge upon the one tree above our tent in an effort to ensure we heard them? I decided at this point I hate birds.

6:00 AM The kids woke up. My precious little man announced, “It’s time to wake up mommy! Get up!” Wake up would imply I actually got to sleep. My husband rejuvenated and ready to go announced that it was time for a hike. Well, let me tell you my husband dear. Unless you have some type of super elixir and new hips, legs, arms, and feet this mommy is not going anywhere. It dawned on me that he did not experience the same night I had just survived. He had not worried about the blizzard that apparently never came. He did not wrestle with his sleeping bag. He didn’t have all types of rocks up into body parts that I don’t want to discuss. He didn’t have one child kicking him in the back. No, he stayed perfectly still in the same spot all night as he performed numerous encores of his symphonies. This man enjoyed the campfire, his beverage, knocked out for the night and was ready for a hike. Two totally different experiences – same trip. Now how is that possible?


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