Friday, September 21, 2007

The (Not So) Great Outdoors

What is it with boys and camping? Not to generalize - I know that there are a lot of girls who love to camp. I am just not one of them. Let me clarify by saying I have nothing against the great outdoors. I like to hike. I like to go to the park. I like to explore. I like to come home at the end of the day and sleep in a comfortable bed with indoor plumbing just steps away. But in my male-dominated household (MDH), the desire to camp runs deep. A cabin won’t cut it. A “camping” trip has to involve a tent and communing with nature.

Thus far since my children were born, I’ve managed to only be subjected to one camping trip. On that trip, Luke was slightly over two years old and spent most of the trip in the car poking his head out of the sun roof. The swimming pool was closed, which is one of the reasons we chose that campground, so the boys had to play naked in the water spigot much to the chagrin of our camp neighbors. Even though we were accompanied by my uncle and his family, who are camping aficionados and gourmet cooks even over a campfire, I did not enjoy the camping trip. Maybe, as I often do, I had over-planned, over-obsessed, and over-stressed about every minute detail. I can, at times, be my own worst enemy. A two night camp was downgraded to a one night camp and I was grateful to return home.

My other strong memory of camping is the trip I took with my husband John’s family before we had children. The campground of choice was a long drive south to the Missouri-Arkansas border. There were cabins available on the grounds, so John’s parents rented a cabin and all of us kids set up camp on the lawn around the cabin.
My memories of this trip are as follows:

1. It rained. A lot.
2. During breaks in the rain, the men sat around the campfire and burned things. Have you ever seen anyone try to burn one of those small, “sixtel” kegs? I have.
3. Rather than showering in the cabin, I went to the nearby outhouse-type bathhouse. In the middle of my shower, when I was already soaped up and it was too late to turn back, I made the mistake of looking up at the ceiling. There was a bug above my head. And this was no ordinary bug. This bug must have come up from Arkansas to visit its Missouri cousins. It was a size of which I’d never seen, except for on the Discovery channel or in National Geographic. There have been four times in my life when I didn’t care who saw me naked. Two of these were during the births of my children. One was after my SCUBA open-water certification which took place when the outside temperature was 45 degrees and the water temperature was 55 degrees. And the other was this day, in the shower, with the bug from the Underworld dive-bombing my head. Let me just say that had you walked in at that moment, you would have seen me bending over naked with soap in my hair and a shoe in my hand, pounding the floor of the shower furiously.
4. John insisted on bringing our “big red truck” because it could hold more stuff (translation - beer) than our car. He wasn’t concerned that it was older than dirt and had only been starting after pouring gasoline directly into the carburetor. So, we took the big red truck. When it was time to leave – surprise! – the truck wouldn’t start. John tried his trick of pouring the gas in over and over, but instead of the truck starting it caught on fire. John’s dad ran into the cabin and got the fire extinguisher, and we put the fire out before the truck exploded. After all that burning in the campfire the night before, who would have thought we would have been faced with an unwanted fire?
5. I am irrationally afraid of spiders. This includes all spiders, no matter how small. To me, spiders are not the gardener’s helper or nature’s pest exterminator. To me, spiders are way scary and definitely out to get me. After the smoke settled from the truck fire, we were standing in the cabin talking and working out our transportation home. I looked down at the floor to see a spider the size of a Chihuahua less than a yard from my foot. He immediately sensed that I spotted him, and all of his eight hairy legs stopped moving in mid-step, as if to say, “The jig is up.” I told you spiders are out to get me. I’m not sure what happened to him due to the fact that I ran screaming from the cabin. I guess that just proves that I’m not safe from spiders on camping trips, even when in a building.

Until I experience a camping trip that is memorable for good things to replace the above, I will continue to battle my boys’ desire to camp. But if I never go, I’ll never replace the memories that keep me from going. It’s a quandary, but one that I’m happy to continue if it means that I don’t have to go camping.

Luke peeking out of the sun roof.

Digging a moat to keep the rain away from our tents.

Playing naked in the spigot.


Anonymous said...

I love camping! I just cant ever find anyone who wants to go with me!

Suburban Correspondent said...

I am so with you on the camping. But you really should encourage the camping trips - you know, as father-sons bonding time. While you stay home and take care of things there...