Things we brought back

By Mir
July 15, 2013

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.


  1. Carmen

    What did you read? I’m looking for new stuffs.

      • Becky

        Momentarily distracted by Chickie’s excellent taste in books. I haven’t read The Future of Us (although I have read another of Jay Asher’s books). Placing a hold at the library now.

        • Mir

          She has great taste in reading. The Future of Us wasn’t (IMHO) as good as 13 Reasons Why, but I enjoyed it.

          • Katie in MA

            Chickie needs a book blog! Have you guys read Eleanor & Park? It’s the first Rainbow Rowell I’ve read, but I understand the John Green comparisons…

  2. Sharon

    Grinning here after reading the account of your trip ~ because it sounds like you really did have fun and because it sounds like an ordinary family outing. Feels good, doesn’t it? I’m glad to read that the ebb and flow seems to have returned with the everyday moments ~

  3. Amanda

    Heh. Glad you had a good time! I’m with ya on the laundry thing. What gets me is water; we bring ours in. We can camp w/ 30 gallons of water for 5 days.. including 8 showers, dishes and such. Can’t do that at home. Hmph.

    My in-laws gifted us their pop up 2 years ago. My husband hates the time of year when the storage fees are due. Becomes unbearable about it. When our annual trip comes up he’s so excited to get out of dodge… yeah so annoying.

    This year someone w/a small toy hauler camped next to us, now hubby is thinking of upgrading so we can take one car instead of two. I told him he can’t be an a$$ when fees are due. He wasn’t happy.

    Our yearly trip faired well. With exception of my dog eating a dead porcupine and getting 30ish quill stuck in his mouth, me having an infected cyst rise out of nowhere on my waist and leaving me be oh so pleasant while dealing with said dog, my daughter got a little case of heat exhaustion. We are making memories with our kids, and for me that is what it’s all about.

  4. Megan

    Devouring books is absolutely necessary for a good holiday. Glowering teenagers are what I would call ‘optional accessories’.

    • Amanda

      Mommy doesn’t pack up until she has read at least 1 book, taken at least 1 nap and had one drink during the trip.

  5. suburbancorrespondent

    We camped in Central New York last summer, and I suffered exactly ONE mosquito bite. ONE. Here at home, I can’t stick my head out the door to get the mail without being covered with bites. SO, if you are willing to drive approximately 17 hours, I can recommend a great campground with clean bathrooms. The only bugs are (non-biting) flies. Bonus if anyone is a baseball fan in your family – the campground is 7 miles from Cooperstown, NY.

    The towel count seems low to me, by the way. I use approximately 6 the first day, just trying to keep mud out of the camper.

  6. Kristin

    We just got back from 3 weeks in NH where my hubby is coaching summer league ball. Lots of tales and woes and wonderful stories but in relation to your post, I consumed quite a few trash books in 3 weeks. Not “trash” like trashy romance, but not well-written books that don’t require me to think. I enjoyed it immensely. The answer to your various questions is this: You cannot consume books at home in large chunks of time because of the dang laundry that must be done. While it’s refreshing to have a few days off of daily duties, it’s the coming home part that makes me cringe….THE LAUNDRY.

  7. Rocky Mountain Woman

    Sometimes I think that the coming home is so hard that it takes all of the fun out of it…


  8. karen

    Ah.. the beauty of a normal family camping trip. Rain, bugs, wilted shredded lettuce and all.

  9. Chuck

    I never thought I would enjoy doing laundry but now that I finally have my own washer/dryer again after years without – I almost am enjoying it.

  10. Elizabeth

    Your lovely mother-in-law sounds like mine, also deceased. She loved me.

  11. Sandra

    We went from tenting, to a travel trailer, to now recently a motorhome. We camp about 35 days a year. We try to camp every month if we can.
    Everything you said rings true no matter where you are or how you camp. We leave again in 3 weeks for a 5 day lake/boating trip with 25 people. The amount of work and “crap” we have to bring for that trip is insane. But we love it.

  12. ali

    Shout out to awesome mother-in-laws everywhere. I pink puffy heart mine and the feelings are mutual as evidenced by her response when I was threatening the husband with divorce (all pretend threats). She says divorce wasn’t allowed because she would really miss him afterwards since I would get custody of her.

  13. Catherine

    No see ums! That’s what the bites are. They are about the size of gnats. Unless you were rolling around in spanish moss. Then they could be red bugs, which is the same thing as chiggers. Just sayin, I’ve lived in the south my whole life. I really know my bugs!

    • Dezi Nance

      No see ums hate Avon’s Skin So Soft, I live in Arizona and those tiny tykes love O neg blood!!! I used to get the bites almost year round just being any where near grass, or Arizona’s version of lawns. I pour a tiny bit in my bath and no see ums leave me alone!!! The hardware stores sell SSS here because apparently I am not the only one who is feasted upon any time I walk out the door. Thanks so AVON!!

  14. Wendy

    Ahhh, if only I could convince my party pooper hubby to actually like camping. I have managed to drag him camping once every two-three years if I’m lucky. The two little kids and I love it, and go with my parents whenever we can. Usually only on one nighters, but at least we get some fishing and swimming in.

  15. A Different Kind of Zoe

    My backyard is some kind of internationally-advertised mecca for mosquitoes. That’s the only explanation for the kind of blood loss I suffer without sprays. BUT. My newly-acquired and very woods-savvy fella brought over his Thermacell one night, and I was astounded at how well it worked. Not cheap, but oh-so-effective just lying there on the table. Covers a 15′ square area, plenty of room for chairs and a campfire, or sitting around a mostly-not-leaking pool. Just an idea.

  16. js

    MMmmmm…Ice cream sandwiches. Damn it. Must go grocery shopping now.

  17. deva

    Ice cream sandwiches are the. best.

    And, I don’t know if your kids are old enough for it yet as it’s pretty raunchy, but Cards Against Humanity is a fabulous, hilarious, horrible, yet very fun almost like apples-to-apples game that my husband and I love to play with our friends (because it is made for horrible people, at least, people with very horrible senses of humor, and we are both).

    I love Apples to Apples. My husband is very literal-minded (engineer), so he always looks at me and my family like we are crazy when we put down really bizarre combinations that to us make perfect sense and to him… well….

  18. 12tequilas

    Ooo, how do you make the lentil taco stuff? Is this one of those recipes you sorta made up?

  19. Valerie

    Every heard of Cards Against Humanity? It is like Apples to Apples, only TOTALLY inappropriate by design. Teenagers love it.

    Does camping make you pretty? Just kidding…

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