For years, my kids have been begging to go camping during our church’s Holiness Week at a nearby campground. And for just as many years, our answer has been “no”. But this year, things just seemed right to try to make it happen. We were not planning a big vacation of any kind because we spent an amazing week at Disney World after Thanksgiving last year. (If you’ve ever taken your family to Disney, you understand the effect that it has on your savings account.) We wanted to have something enjoyable for them over summer vacation, so we asked some family friends if we could borrow their camper for a week.
My husband grew up with camping. His family joined with other families and spent a lot of time doing the whole camping thing. Unfortunately for him, he married a spoiled, hotel-loving girl. When I was growing up, I suffered terribly with allergies. As if the continual sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes weren’t enough, the whites of my eyes would swell and bulge. To bring temporary comfort to my itchy throat and ears, I learned to made pig-like sounds. Who knew that the action of grunting could be so soothing? All this to say, I love the indoors and air-conditioned spaces. Not that I don’t appreciate the outdoors...I do, but I prefer to take in it’s beauty through panes of glass.
I have, on occasion, agreed to go camping with him. Our first outing together was in Big Bear, California. We stayed in a tent and he graciously agreed to allow me to use an air mattress under my sleeping bag. I quickly learned that air mattresses tend to deflate during the night. Given that tents do not have built-in bathrooms, I found out what it’s like to use the shower house at a campground. Not my idea of clean...but, at least I tried it and I survived.
Nine-weeks after our second child was born, we decided to borrow someone’s pop-up camper for a weekend. I’m not so sure that camping is meant for families of newborns. When everyone else was trying to sleep, we were trying to suppress crying. I was certain we would be kicked out of the campground. We loaded everyone into the van and took a lengthy ride until we had two sound-asleep kiddos.
We took our next camping experience to a whole new level and spent a weekend in a much more luxurious camper that my in-laws were gracious enough to let us borrow. Bump-outs, air-conditioning, bathroom, queen-size bed, TV, fireplace, granite countertops...now this is what I call camping - all the comforts of home wrapped up in a forty-something foot box. This was doable for me and forever spoiled me to any other kind of camping ever again.
Until this past summer. My in-laws decided to take a couple months and go exploring the country in their camper- a newer, much fancier one than we had previously borrowed - which meant a week of luxury was not an option for us this time around. No bump-outs giving extra space. No gas logs to warm up beside. But we did experience lots of togetherness and laughter which is really what’s it’s all about anyway...right? I’m not sure that we’re cut out to be a camping family, but I did learn a few things along the way that I’ll remember if there is a next time around:
* Bats really aren’t so bad when they’re helping to keep bugs at bay while you visit with friends in the moonlight.
* It’s best not to leave bags of garbage sitting outside overnight as they appear to attract whatever critters are roaming while we sleep.
* There is no evading the campfire smell. Just accept the fact that you will stink like a campfire for the duration your time on the campground and rest in knowing that everyone else stinks, too.
* If you want to “fit in” at the shower-house, bring your toiletries in a trendy plastic organizer tray, not a big, bulky gym bag.
* If you snooze, you lose. The early bird gets a shower stall without a long wait.
* Looks can be deceiving. What appears to be BBQ sauce in the condiment bottles is actually apple butter.
* George Foreman really can’t capture the taste of a burger or dog cooked over a charcoal grill.
* Boys will be boys. That’s all I’ll say about that.
* Be prepared with the largest first-aid kit you can find.
* Enjoy the memories...they’ll last forever!