Two of my best girlfriends and I take an annual Moms/Kids camping trip. We started this at a “close-ish” park in 2009 with a toddler and a few pre-schoolers. We stuck close in case shit hit the fan and we had to call home for emergency needs like running another set of matches out because these ones don’t work. You know, big things.
Of all the years we’ve been doing this now, there are a few stories that stand out more than all the others. Sure, there is the annual whip-cream shot after waffles in the morning. And yes, there’s usually a craft and some roasting of things. There’s some bike riding (and bike smashing that one year I backed up over my daughter’s bike) and scootering. Kids learned how to bike while another learned to walk. But of all these stories the few we pass down each year go something like this:
“The Year of Raccoons”
The year we all slept in tents was an epic achievement. It was the first trip and I was daring this adventure with a newly turned two year old toddler. As would become the “norm”, Michelle and Laura arrived first and had their shit together. I, probably after a wrong turn, arrived late and sweating.
We set up camp and successfully fed children and wore them out effectively. After kids were asleep in each of the three tents, Michelle and Laura’s kids each in the smaller one near the edge of the camp and my two kids in Our Giant Red Tent Of Mansion. We sat in our pride sipping our beer when suddenly they came out of the woods; a thousand eyes. I kid you not, A THOUSAND EYES were glowing at us from the edge of the wood, not ten feet away.
We did the only natural thing any mom would at that point; squeal and jump on the table and call our husbands. The husbands did not find it necessary to save us from, what they assessed, were raccoons. Instead they sighed heavily and HUNG UP leaving us out in the woods with our raccoon perfect baby-meals and our gnaw worthy toes. I’m pretty sure one of us might have even said, “The Dingo is going to eat our babies!”
We had a very bright idea at this point, brighter than the sets of eyes closing in on us slowly. We grabbed the two older children and we placed everyone in the Giant Red Tent of Mansion. We crawled in next to the children to protect them, should a raccoon grow an opposable thumb and work the zipper, and waited until we fell asleep to the sound of tiny paws scampering by us to easier targets.
The children didn’t even bat an eye when they woke up that we’d all slept in the same tent. The evidence of the night before was kept to a small bit of trash strewn about and the blood-shot eyes of three tired moms.
We decided that from then on, we’d never visit that camping site again. And we kept to that for exactly two years. But, once we did go back, we swore to stay in cabins only. “Because raccoons still can’t unlock doors.”
Not yet, anyway.
“The Kids Gone Wild” year.
We still laugh when we picture Trev stripping to his intense whip cream buzz. You know what? A picture is worth a thousand words so let me keep this short. A video will explain it so much better than I can.
“The year I smashed Lauren’s Bike”
This is a short story because that? Pretty much sums it up. “Mom, stop reminding me of my bike. It makes me sad,” she used to say.
Now she says her new bike is too girlie. “Want me to back over it for you, hon?” She grins.
“The Year of The Weird Women Doing This :: GRIN ::”
It started drizzling. Then it started poring. The kids were neatly tucked in four beds, some sharing screens because let’s face it; we’re modern ladies and sometimes screens are OK. Like 10pm on a camping trip when moms want to not deal.
Trevor comes down to tell us of a Weird Lady he saw on the wall in our cabin. “She was doing this!” He scrunches his face in a weird grin and shuts his eyes. “You mean you could see that in the knots on the wall?” He looks perplexed. “Well, ya. On the wall.” “Oh, no, did you tell the other kids? They’ll be scared.” “Er, yes… Um.. Ya.”
We talk about what to do. Do we pre-empt a nightmare? Do we ignore it? They’ll probably just go to sleep and not stare at the weird lady in the knots, right?
Fifteen Minutes Later Laura comes down from the cabin with something in her hand and she’s laughing.
“This is the lady on the wall” she says breathlessly. She is wheezing from laughter. I look at the paper.
Dear god it’s terrifying.
WHY was this on the wall? In our cabin?! We all dive in fits of laughter, us girls heaving and crying and laughing until we can’t stand it. The whole imagery of the children sitting on their bunk watching the Lego Movie and noticing.. This.
Only to have your mom say something like, “Well, there are things on the walls. Don’t read in to it.”
“No, Mom, there is an actual picture of a weird lady doing THIS.”
Reality is sometimes so much funnier than perception. Especially with these ladies.
I can’t wait for next year. Or every adventure and tradition in between. We have so many now, it’s hard to count. But the traditions of our friendship, the photos of the kids at various stages, keeps me grounded. Time really is slipping away, ever so slowly at first, and faster every stage. If not for the yearly traditions that staple me to the experiences of our friendship, I’d float away in daily chores and work and laundry. I’m so thankful for these families that remind me to live and breathe and laugh-
To laugh until I can’t breathe and then finding a breathe again, sucking in the sweetest air of all life provides. “There’s Gold in Them Hills.” Thank you for the reminder, ladies. I hope to repay the gift.