BY DEBRA FIELD, MOTHER OF TWO
Since my children were born, we have gone on numerous camping trips to a local park. Every year the Sunday before the Fourth of July, my husband’s family has a reunion in the same place, and cousins come in from all over to attend. On many occasions, we camp in our tents on the prior Friday and Saturday nights. There is one year in particular that sticks out in my mind, as it does with everyone who spent those nights under the stars together. Here is my story:
It started out typical; we loaded the coolers, food, drinks, tents, sleeping bags, pillows, clothes, shoes, scooters, roller blades, bikes, toys, bug spray, flashlights, cooking stoves, cooking utensils (did I mention EVERYTHING?) We tend to bring more with us for two days than we bring on vacation for a week. This is not just my immediate family. I’m talking every family with us brings the exact same things. You would think being pros at this, we would figure out we don’t need six bottles of ketchup, six bottles of mustard (well, you get the picture). Anyway, this particular weekend we had to play in between rain storms. Now, usually we play, it rains, we go into our tents or under trees for a bit, then it subsides and we continue on with our activities. Well, Mother Nature decided to try to ruin our plans and rain for hours. A few family members got into their trucks and drove to a big box store to buy some canopies. They came back, set them up, and the sky continued to open up with rain, thunder, and bolts of lightning, one right after the other. The neat thing about camping is everyone in the campground has the same things in common for those few days. We are there to have fun, sit by campfires, and relax. When it storms, we go into our tents. When it stops, we come out and assess the damage.
Our kids were so filthy that trip. I mean disgustingly dirty where I had to wipe each of them down before they could come into our tent. This had to be done numerous times as they wanted to hop from tent to tent. We probably went through a case of baby wipes in two days (okay, I’m exaggerating) with all the cousins, and I think I threw away at least three pairs of shoes from that trip. I remember one storm lasting for hours, and we all had to work together to keep our fire going so we could cook and keep bugs away. Our cousin dug a trench with the back of a hammer from our campfire all the way down to the creek so the rain water could drain down there. He had a cold drink in one hand and a hammer in the other with a smile on his face digging away. When the kids got scared from the thunder and lightning, we would just laugh with them and act like we had everything under control. That is part of being a parent as I’ve come to realize. Even when you are scared and don’t know what to expect, you cannot let your kids know that, as they think you have all of the answers. Children have their entire adult lives to worry about life, and as kids, they shouldn’t have to worry about anything except being a kid.
During that storm, I went into our tent with my daughter. We sang songs, played cards, played shadow games with our hands and the flashlight, and talked about everything that was in her nine year old head. We talked about the important things in life that she wondered about like: “Where do you think that spider is trying to go?” or “What time do you think the raccoons will come out and eat our bag of chips?” “Do you think we can still make s’mores?”
The sky was a weird orange color when we came out of the tent. I remember my sister-in- law just looking at me with her eyes all big in agreement when I said: “The sky doesn’t normally look like that at 4 pm”. While I was scared for a tornado to hit, all the guys in the family were laughing and told me if a tornado comes our way that I needed to run to the bathroom and grab a sink! They thought it was all a big joke.
Well, we got lucky that trip and it didn’t rain anymore. We were able to go to sleep in our mud filled tents, and still be cooking at 3 am with the serene peacefulness of that park when all the children of the campground were fast asleep. We were the only campsite that was able to have a fire that night, as all the other campsites were completely flooded. The hard work and trench that was dug saved the day, and if you drive by that particular campsite today, you can STILL see that trench!
The reason that camping trip is one of my fondest memories is because of the bonding that was done in those two days. Our extended family always hugs each other after our trips together, but this trip really made us work together, worry together, and laugh together more than our usual, uneventful camping trips. I remember coming home wondering how I was ever going to get all the water and mud off of our tent, then I went by Darren’s cousin’s house and saw that they had theirs laying right across the top of their swing set! Now there’s an idea!
Camping is a lot of work, but to me, life doesn’t get any better than when I’m sitting around a campfire surrounded by the people I love, reminiscing about days gone by and eating s’mores.
Debra Field is married to Darren Field and is the mother of Andrew and Danielle. She also shares her home with her crazy black lab, Bella, and two cats, Princess and Taffy. Debra is a member of St. James Church where she sings in the Folk Group and is on the advisory committee for the YMCA Jets Swim Team. She resides in Jamestown and works part time.