My mother hated camping. Hated it. With a passion that only equalled any sort of exercise and finding a spider in the bathtub. And because I wanted to be like her, I had no choice but to hate all of those things, too.
This really became an issue when we made the yearly pilgrimage to the Stewart family cabin at Bear Lake. Of course, just saying “cabin at Bear Lake” is a lie. “Vermin house of ill repute” would be more honest—an old A-frame with no running water, no electricity and one bed in the middle of the room with a mattress that drooped so low in the middle, a couple of grandchildren were lost in the folds, never to be seen again.
Now as a kid, I was too stupid to realize how horrible this was, and instead thought it was THE MOST AMAZING PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE! There were sunflowers! And aspen trees! And a hundred acres to explore! Sometimes we’d sneak a can of Pepsi and a cinnamon sucker, and be gone for hours. HOURS, PEOPLE. And not one adult came to find us! Of course, now we know this as “child endangerment”. But back then, we just called it “lucky.”
Most years, we only spent one night at the campsite, even though the children begged and sobbed for more. I have no idea where my parents or siblings slept—could have been in the car. Maybe they drove home for the night? Hard to say. Because I was too happy to be aware of their misery, since I was on top of the world, lookin’ down on creation, sleeping in the loft with the other cousins.
The next day it was time for Bear Lake. We’d pile into the campers and trucks, wearing nothing but a worn out swimsuit and tube socks. Not one of us sought out a seatbelt, but rather found a spot around the outer edge of the truck bed and just held on for dear life.
The hours at the beach were spent in search of little baby shells and squeezing sand through our fists to make piles of fake pooh. I don’t ever recall putting on sunscreen, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t...even though I’m pretty sure we didn’t. Sometimes a scream of pain cut through the sound of the waves, as a child stepped on a pull tab from a pop can, but the sand soaked up the blood pretty good and we kept on making our pooh piles, because yes, it was that intriguing.
Well, the years passed by and our camping excursions came fewer and farther in between. Then I got married and had children of my own, which is when I finally realized what a helluvathing it was for my parents to take us kids camping, even for just one weekend.
I’ll never forget the year that, as a young family, we nailed our tent to the trailer bed to keep it from getting wet in a torrential downpour...forgetting that nail holes in a tent make for sopping wet EVERYTHING. We angrily mopped it up the best we could and retired for the night.
Around 3:00 that morning, my two year old son woke me up, needing to go to the bathroom. There was no way I was going out into the muck and mud to take him to the outhouse, so I flung off his underwear, held onto his waist and arched his aimer out the tent door, whispering for Sterling to get me some light.
The seconds ticked past and still no flashlight could be found. This meant I had to try to retrieve his underwear in the pitch black, which proved to be nearly impossible. While groping around and hissing for Ster to hurry up and find some light, I came upon a big ol’ wet, melted candy bar on my lap. What the?!
I didn’t know how it had gotten there without me knowing, but I was getting SO annoyed. I whisper-screamed one last time for Sterling to turn on some light, cursing all the while as I used a dirty sock to grab and pick up the candy bar. And right then, the lantern light flickered on...just in time to illuminate...an ENORMOUS HORSE SIZED PIECE OF YOU-KNOW-WHAT CRADLED IN THE PALM OF MY HAND!
Yes, that’s right. Not a candy bar. It seems when he said he needed to go to the bathroom, he was a little bit vague about which kind. And how something that big came out of a bum that small, is beyond me.
Well anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of the horrendous clean up. Let’s just return to the notion that it really is a big sacrifice to take your kids camping. In fact, let’s break it down:
Swimsuits and tube socks—$30
Pepsi, cinnamon suckers, lanterns and nails—$Gobs of money
Every single word I’ve just written in this article that make me laugh until I cry while I relive and retell, and the people who made them possible, bless their hearts—Absolutely priceless