I miss Otto’s mother the most when we’re getting ready to go camping or when we’ve just returned. Otto loves to recount stories of his youth, when his father wound his way around the country to various military bases on short assignments, and the family would pack up the station wagon and the Prowler camping trailer and spend their time at nearby campgrounds while his dad was working. Otto and his next-in-line brother have fond memories of these trips. Otto’s mother HATED them, not the least of which, I suppose, because she was spending an entire summer trapped in a small space with small children while her husband was almost never around.
As a result, while she was still alive, any time we were preparing to camp, she would demand that Otto put me on the phone. Then she would grill me about whether I REALLY wanted to go. She would assure me that Otto could handle it if I told him I didn’t want to. In a conspiratorial tone, she would tell me that there was no shame in admitting I hate camping and asking my husband not to make us do it. Those talks always made me feel a little sad for her, that in a different era she hadn’t felt like she could put her foot down with her husband, but they also always amused me and made me feel loved, that she was so concerned about MY feelings, Otto’s be damned. I think she never quite believed me when I told her I enjoyed our trips.
Surveying the carnage from this trip, I’m beginning to understand why this was so incomprehensible to her.
It didn’t rain the entire time we were gone, but… it rained. A lot. So in our pre-trip prep, Otto parked the camper in our driveway and scrubbed the exterior and vacuumed the interior. Then we washed all the bedding and scrubbed down the inside. After just a few days out in “nature” (a.k.a., mud), the camper looks like it’s never been cleaned (inside or out). Here at home, everyone does laundry weekly. Out in the woods, you spend a few days away, you come home with twelve loads of laundry. I don’t know if this is new math or what, but yeah, it does start to seem a little insane. How did four people and one small dog use ten towels? The world may never understand.
We packed up enough food to feed an army for a week, and the remains of the pantry are exactly as you’d expect. All of the potato chips are gone; ditto the bulk of the ice cream treats. (The only reason those aren’t ALL gone is because I brought an industrial box of ice cream sandwiches, and even my little piggies were not able to decimate the entire thing.) The giant tub of cut-up raw veggies I’d slaved over before our departure? Only half-empty. The lentil taco mixture a certain vegetarian had INSISTED upon and sworn she would eat every night, if allowed? Well, there’s some of that left over as well, because everyone knows you can only eat that if you have iceberg lettuce shreds, and somehow the lettuce bag was punctured and the shreds browning and that was a MAJOR CATASTROPHE which resulted in painstaking selection of salvageable shreds the first night and a total rejection of tacostuffs the second night because WITHOUT LETTUCE ALL IS LOST.
Our three containers of sunscreen returned with us, untouched.
The giant canister of Bug Be Gone Poison Cancer Cloud is about half empty, now. In order to take the dog out to do her thing or even to assume our customary position of sloth in camp chairs required a thick cloud of carcinogens to keep the bugs at bay. Even so, Otto and I were both remarking this morning that we seem to be covered in tiny bites. Not mosquitoes, I don’t think. The stuff in the can seems to keep them away pretty well. Chiggers, maybe? My feet, especially, are chewed up.
Apples to Apples made the trip—both literally and figuratively—as per usual. I vaguely remember something about Monkey playing “crystal balls” as an example of “horrifying” and then an explanation that went along with it that caused Chickadee to offer a gleeful, “That’s what SHE said!” and a pause in the game for highly inappropriate laughter. All anyone has to say to the kids now is “clink! clink!” to make them completely lose it. I, obviously, cannot WAIT to try it in front of some of Chickie’s friends.
I may have mentioned in the past that I bruise easily…? I am a delicate flower, after all. As much as I love our little camping trailer, space is cramped, and after a couple of days in there I look like Otto’s been beating me. I bang my hips into the counter, my thighs into the tabletop, my arms on the cabinets, my shins as I climb up into our bed. The good news is that my new collection of bruises somewhat distracts from all of the bug bites.
There was exactly zero cellular signal at our campground, which was naturally terrifying for the text-addicted among us, and then there was a brief squabble as we were packing up to leave because SOMEONE was completely convinced that I had somehow lost her phone. I never really followed the logic there (assuming there was any), but SOMEONE fumed at me the entire way home, and later the “missing” phone was found… in her backpack. I AM A MONSTER. On the bright side, it’s not a real family trip until there’s a glowering teenager, so, you know, mission accomplished.
I brought four novels with us because I was unable to decide beforehand which one I wanted to read. When we got back, I’d finished two of them, and after we unloaded and started laundry, I finished the third in about twenty more minutes. I don’t know WHY I don’t feel like I can devour books in giant chunks here at home—something about work and chores and real life, I guess—but there is a singular enjoyment in reading for hours that I seem only able to access from the camper.
In short (as if that’s ever possible, with me): It was a good trip, I think.