Camping. An exhausting, American tradition. We are about to embark on our first camping trip of the 2011 summer season, and I’m dreading all the lists, packing, organizing, setting up of camp, taking down of camp, loading back up again, unloading it all back onto the floor of our washroom, and then starting to wash and clean it all to put it away for next year’s big trip.
Perhaps most of the burden falls upon the wives, the women of the campouts? I noticed tonight, reading Facebook, that post after post by the “mamas” of the houses read something like this, “Back from camping, exhausted.” Or, “Now the unpacking begins, just got back from camping.”
I find myself tensing in anticipation of my own weekend of exhaustion. I’ve already started making the lists. I have a camping supply list, food list, snack list, clothing list, beach toy list, and list of things I still need to buy for the trip. I should probably make a list of all the lists I need to write.
I already feel dirty and grimy. And am I the only one who gets a little constipated on these types of mini-vacations? It must be a mental block I have with pit toilets.
Then there is the sleep factor: I don’t get a lot. When I was younger, and much more limber, sleeping on the ground was almost comfortable, but not anymore. Also, our two-year-old is a wildman when he realizes we are all in the tent together. He gets so excited by all this family time that he bounds from sleeping bag to sleeping bag.
Last year, on our big group camping weekend, we were woken at midnight to the sounds and smells of vomit coming from our oldest. All night long I tried to vainly catch vomit in my pillow case as my son threw up over and over again. Several times I would hear the retching and dive across the tent only to realize it wasn’t him. Where was that sound coming from? The next tent over? Half of our camp group was violently ill. Is it bad that I was always relieved when the vomiting was happening in another tent?
I don’t think my husband realized all that was involved in a camping expedition. I usually get everything packed and loaded, leaving him with just a few things that require major, muscular lifting. He did get a glimpse last summer when I went away for the weekend and he decided to take the boys on a boys-only-campout. Of course, he started this endeavor at about four in the afternoon and was flabbergasted when he didn’t pull out of our driveway until 6 o’clock at night (finally packed and ready), and then even more flabbergasted when he drove in and out of campgrounds for the next two hours not finding a single site vacant. The tired, cranky boys roasted hot dogs in a day use area and then headed home to the backyard to pitch their tent. I unloaded everything once I returned the next day from my relaxing girl’s beach weekend.
Even though I’m expressing quite a lot of negative energy around this idea of camping, I still like it. I still like the family time. I still like the smell of the tent and the feel of the sleeping bags on my dirty toes. And there is nothing quite like swatting mosquitos around a campfire. Really. I keep telling myself that this is what we do as a family. This is how we make memories. And I am a fan of making memories. I think it is the campfire that keeps me coming back. I love sitting in our chairs next to friends and snuggling with my tired, dirty and stinky boys. I love the conversations, the stories. I love hot drinks in tin mugs. I love the memories we make as a family, the memories that we make between the loading and unloading, packing and unpacking. All that comes between the beginning and the end makes me feel like all my efforts are worth it. At least this is what I tell myself.