You know the meme made from a 1950's ad that features a lady lounging in a bed piled high with pillows, arms raised over her head in a luxurious stretch? She's smiling a beatific smile, her face suffused with the satisfaction of a good night's rest... right above the caption "I love NOT camping."
That's me. Seriously.
I hate camping. I love nature, for short periods of time, where climate control and hot showers are a given at the end of the day. I love a long walk in the woods, feel closest to God while wandering in the forest, in the foothills of the Appalachains where I live. A perfect day is a leisurely hike topped off with a good meal served to me by an attentive waiter in a cozy lodge with a big stone fireplace and 800 thread count sheets in my room.
Sleeping in a tent, on a tiny camp pad, my hips and shoulders grinding against the ground all night, out in the elements, spiders surreptitiously creeping along the tent poles, waiting to drop in my mouth as I snore, while I sweat or freeze or get rained on...Christ. That's pretty much my idea of hell.
So how did I end up in this damn sleeping bag in late October, freezing my ass off in the 40 degree chill at 3 a.m., wrapping a pair of sweatpants around my HEAD because I didn't even have a hat, you ask?
HOW?? Because I love my son just a tiny bit more than I hate camping.
It was time for the annual Cub Scout Fall Family Camping Jamboree. A two night "getaway" (getaway from what? Plumbing?) at Scoutland on the lake. And this year it was freaking freezing!
Don't laugh, Yankees. To a Georgia girl, 40 degrees is flannel and fleece weather if you're sleeping INDOORS, under a quilt, with your slipper socks on!
My little boy really wanted to go though, there was going to be "like, BB guns and archery and a haunted trail and everything" so I bought some tents, and a campstove, and a big-ass pack of hot dogs and told my husband to quit whining and get in the car, because by God, we were going to the great outdoors!
Now it was 3 a.m. and I regretted everything. I lay awake, sweat pants around my head, trying to sleep while shivering in the cold and listening to the night sounds around us. Soft snores from the other tents in our clearing. Some moonlit geese calling to one another on the lake, the gentle susuruss of the wind through the pines and to my surprise, a much more familiar sound echoing in the stillness.
My childrens' raised voices in the night, coming from the tent beside mine.
Daughter, annoyed and sleepy: "Hey, you're kicking me! Quit moving around!"
Son, indignant: "I have to pee!"
Daughter, unmoved: "Well, get mom. Mom, MOM! Will has to pee!
Me, irritated that they are yowling like everyone's tent is soundproof: SHHH! Y'all are gonna wake everybody up! Hush!
Daughter, stage whisper : Mom! Will has to pee!
Son, stage whisper: Mom, I gotta go to the bathroom!
Me, freezing cold, not wanting to exit the sleeping bag: WILL! Can you not just use a tree? They are everywhere around here!
Son, horrified by the thought: NO mom! It's DARK! I'm not going out there alone! There could be BEARS!
Me, EXTREMELY dubious: Son. There are 2,000 campers out here this weekend. I highly doubt there are BEARS around here.
Son, urgently: Mom, come on! I gotta GO!
Me, resigned: Sheeeeesh. Fine, fine. Let me get my shoes on. Meet me outside the tent.
From a few feet away, I hear the sound of a tent zipper opening, closing, opening again...closing...
ZIP, zip, ZIP, zip, ZIP, zip, ZIP!
Son, panicked: MOM! MAMA! I'm trapped in the tent!!
Me, choking back laughter: Oh my god, just wait a second! Stop the zipping! I'll be right there!
At this point my husband wakes and adds this eloquent comment.
Husband: Snooore, snort, whaa?
Me, gently: Go back to sleep, babe. I have to take Will to the bathroom.
Husband, rolls over: Snuffle, snooore.
After rescuing Will from his tent flap prison, we began the grueling hike to the bathroom.
Ok, it was probably about 200 yards from the campsite to the concrete block box that served as a restroom - but it was cold, Man! - and ankle-turning dark, even with the flashlight blazing on my phone.
Stoically, I marched in silence through the woods but in my head I was grumbling up a storm.
Damn camping trip, damn cold night, gonna be damn daddy longlegs in that damn bathroom, and then my son took my hand.
Whether it was to steady himself as we walked over the uneven path or fear of the dark or just the urge to take his mama's hand, we quietly walked through the night together.
The sudden warmth of his soft-knuckled, little-boy fingers curled around mine did a 180 on my heart.
I looked down at the top of his head, chestnut hair faintly glowing in the moonlight, and wrapped my arm around his shoulder.
His head was nearly level to my chin. 'When did THAT happen?' I marveled. My little boy wouldn't be little much longer.
He glanced up at me and I noticed our breath crystalyzing in the chill autumn air.
Me, enchanted: Hey...I'm a dragon! Giggle! and I breathed a lungful of steam into the night.
Son, with laughter rising in his voice: I'M a dragon! and, all smiles, blew his breath out to mingle with mine.
Me, feeling tears start to prick my eyes and getting all mom-emotional: I love you, baby.
Son, all matter of fact: I love YOU, mom.
Yeah, so I seriously love NOT camping, but if moments like this come from a few nights in a tent, I suppose I can handle it - once a year, anyway.