Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Great Outdoors – “Hey, Wanna Go Camping?”, Part I

By K. Taylor, Aurora ON.  “Hey, Wanna Go Camping?” I rediscovered something about myself this past weekend; something I’d completely forgotten. It was similar to that feeling when you plunk your hand in the pocket of an old coat and feel the sharp edges and silky sheen of a ten dollar bill. I felt that little leap of the heart, the joy of rediscovery, the feeling that maybe the world isn’t completely against you after all. It was nice.

It all started a few weeks ago. My son was away at a friend’s cottage, my husband planning a business trip, my daughter flopped -bored- on the couch and another, less cheering, feeling was bubbling up from the pit of my stomach. An anxious glance at the calendar confirmed the worst; summer was slipping away from me. Despite all the little things we’d managed to do (eating ice cream has been checked off our summer bucket list more than once)I had the sense that we needed something big. We usually rent a cottage but that had been foregone for financial reasons, and yet I was gripped with a certainty that things were awry, we needed to do something fun, hang out as a family. And we needed it to be cheap.

Now we’re Canadian; it’s summer; we need a cheap getaway. The answer was obvious, right? Think s‘mores. Think burnt hot dogs. Think mosquito bites. Think the epitome of what it is to be a Canuck when it‘s not parka weather. The great outdoors was calling.

In a burst of clarity and absolute certainty of the path ahead (or maybe I’d just had too much caffeine) I knew what we must do. I called to my husband, “we must do this!” I said. “Before this season has slipped through our fingers like grains of summer sand!” (Actually I’m paraphrasing, I think what I actually said was something along the lines of: “Hey, wanna go camping?”)

Either way, he shrugged, grunted, nodded, something of the sort; he’s a pretty agreeable guy. And so the plan was in place. Just like that ten dollar bill which had been patiently waiting in your pocket all those long hot days of summer, I had stashed away this part of myself, then completely forgotten about it when the hurly burly of life took over. Sure we’d had campfires and gone to the beach, but when was the last time I’d slept in a tent, lounged by the fire in the middle of the woods? Too long ago.

I’m ashamed to admit that at ten years old my son had never been. Shameful, no? Terribly. And it was time to rectify that. “Come on kids!” I called, “wanna go camping?” excitedly waving that weeks flyers at them as they stared back at me with rather glazed eyes. “Tomorrow we camp, but first we shop!” (Ok, paraphrasing again, but since the only equipment we had was from our pre-kid days and consisted of a two-person tent, two sleeping bags and a pot that looked as if it had been put away dirty twelve years ago, there was some shopping in our future.)

Luckily ‘tis the season for cheap outdoors camping gear and so we hit a local retailer. “We want this tent! we wanna go camping?” The children squealed excitedly, pointing at one that would sleep the entire Maple Leafs team and half the Jays. While I distracted them with the promise of their very own spork (even ten year olds think sporks are cool) my husband loaded the cart with something more suitable and were able to find ourselves a tent, air mattresses, sleeping bags and a few plastic plates etc without breaking the bank. Maybe we cracked it a bit, but it’s definitely not broken.

“Sure we’d had campfires and gone to the beach, but when was the last time I’d slept in a tent, lounged by the fire in the middle of the woods? Too long ago.”

Some of you may now be rolling your eyes. Air mattresses? Yes. Gone are the days of hard dirt floors with poorly positioned rocks and twigs poking the backside. And if you judge us for that you should see the tent we did get; just as people used to manage in a thousand square foot house and now can’t breathe without at least double that, so even our tents are on steroids these days. As my main memory of camping as a child is being wedged into a small orange triangle between my father and my brother, and throwing up all over my brother (shh, he still doesn’t know about that) then in this case I say progress is good.

We are not, as you may have gathered, serious campers outdoors. Portaging has yet to reach our radar. We will not be packing light; filling our sacks with water purifiers and packages of strange, unrecognizable freeze dried foods. Instead we filled our trunk with marshmallows, boxed macaroni and hot dogs, which admittedly are pretty strange and unrecognizable foods themselves, but that’s what we ate as kids at a campsite. And come to think of it that might explain the throwing up.

The first hiccup came when we tried to stuff four air mattresses, our rather large tent, sleeping bags, pillows, coolers, a suitcase and all the other odds and ends required for two outdoors nights (Really? All this for only two nights?) into one rather small trunk. We did contemplate the extra room we would have if we left one of the children at home but that started a squabble as to who it would be, so we gave in and let them both come. We’re suckers that way.

And then it was time. We waited for the torrential downpour to stop (it did)and the weather to warm up (it didn’t) then we were on our way. Laps loaded with bags of sand toys and cheesies, the kids heads just visible above the piles of pillows and sleeping bags we’d wedged all around them (they both appeared to have made it in, that was good) and we were on our way, the wipers smearing away the last of the rain, and the heating turned on high.

K. Taylor
Aurora, ON


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