Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Gone Camping

For 18 summers I went camping with my Camping Family (five families to whom mine is not biologically related but might as well be given how long we have known and loved one another). My dad the Eagle Scout and my mom the Girl Scout troop leader both knew - know - a thing or two about surviving in the wilderness and shared with my sister and me a great deal of their knowledge: how to set up a tent, how to build a fire, how to read a compass and roast a perfect marshmallow and leave every campsite cleaner than you found it. My parents tried valiantly to raise an outdoorsy camper...they did not succeed.

I hate mosquitoes and flies. I can't stand woodland varmints. I don't like being dirty or wet unless I know that when I'm done doing whatever caused the dirty or wet state, I can take a shower. Walking, running, or hiking on a hot day? Absolutely. A day at the beach? Count me in. Spraying myself from head to toe with sunscreen and/or bugspray? No problem. As long as I can shower off all of that sweat, chlorine, lake, sand, and product before I climb into my fresh, clean sheets in my soft, comfortable bed. Speaking of beds, I don't like sleeping in confined spaces or on the ground. And last but not least (this one should go without saying), I prefer an indoor flushable toilet over a pit toilet, five-gallon bucket, or wooded area in which to do my business.

I camped a few times during college, but not once since then have I set foot in a tent...including the tent Tom and I received as a wedding gift. (Not to worry, friends who gifted us said tent - Tom and the kids love it and use it regularly.) Until this past weekend, that is, when a Camping Family reunion brought me out of camping retirement.

As (bad?) luck would have it, steady rain and occasional thunderstorms kept me - and a few others - from officially camping on nights #1 and #2. We hung out at the campsite and participated in all related activities and events until bedtime, but then we drove the 20 minutes back to my parents' house so we could return the following mornings clean, dry, well-rested, and happier. (My dad and the more serious members of our 40+ group stuck it out, and to them I tip my hat.) But on night #3, the near-constant rain slowed to a periodic drizzle and we decided to stick it out.
One of our campsites after the first night of rain. No thank you.

I realized of a couple of things about myself that night.

First, I still dislike camping.

Second, I still like nature. While my parents did not raise an outdoorsy camper, they did raise a nature lover. I was reminded - by Will, actually, who took my hand and led me on a short hike to a "beautiful view" - that life outside is cathartic and inspiring and uplifting. Gentle sunrises and peaceful, leisurely sunsets. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Budding spring sunshine, fierce summer thunderstorms, crisp fall breezes, and freshly-fallen winter snow. Towering oak trees, groves of pine trees, and fields of tall grasses and wildflowers.
The "beautiful view".

And third, I still love my Camping Family. The first generation, my "aunts" and "uncles" who have known me for my entire life. The second generation, my "cousins" with whom I grew up. And the third generation, who are now becoming friends - like their parents and grandparents before them - while running barefoot through the woods, building sandcastles at the beach, singing songs around a campfire, and sleeping out under the stars.
Crushing the kiddos at Uno. (Just kidding - I
only won one out of eleventy hundred games.)
Cooking over the campfire.
Crafting dreamcatchers.
Playing chess.
I now apply sunscreen as efficiently and effectively as any
Texan. Note my assembly line and the many obedient children.
Chillin' at the beach.
Playing sand - er, mud - volleyball.
At one point the storms got so bad that we bailed
and went bowling for a couple of hours. It was at
the bowling alley where we discovered that my
sister and Will now wear the same size shoe.
Fresh off the safe sitter course
and already taking care of babies. 
Putting/drawing on Henna.
Scavenger hunt! (See that sun? It lasted for 12
minutes total during our 72 hours of camping.) 
Third generations wearing their red nose scavenger hunt prizes.
Campfire sing-a-long.
For decades - since the very beginning of these camping trips - my dad
has led nightly campfire sing-a-longs with his guitar and ukulele. A few
other musicians occasionally sit next to and play with him on the bench
of honor, and this year Will, who can now play a few songs on the
ukulele, was also welcomed as the band's youngest member.
Watching these two lead our group of 40 in song was such
a powerful moment for me as a mom and as a daughter.
Taking a break from the music to roast a marshmallow or two.
Ready to sleep in our tent!
"This campout is brought to you by mosquito
repellent bracelets, first aid kits, and prosecco."

I may not like to camp, but I can on occasion overlook that technicality if it means spending time with the ones I love surrounded by Mother Nature's beauty.
All 39 of us in attendance. If my calculations are correct, we were
only missing eight second generations/spouses and one third generation.

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