BY MARNY STEBBINS – GAZETTE COLUMNIST
My husband bravely suggested we go on a family camping trip next week. I politely reminded him that I currently direct our own smelly camp right here in the yard, every day. But our camp has air conditioning and dry towels. Our camp has a refrigerator stocked with white wine.
More rustic, he coaxed.
I motioned to the basement bathroom. Nothing is more rustic than that forgotten cave by the laundry room. In fact, it is referred to as the “camping bathroom” because no one dares to enter without a sturdy pair of flip flops for armor. I keep a fresh can of bug spray and a flashlight right outside the door and swear I’ve heard the howl of coyotes outside the window. Need a stale towel? Just reach around the corner to the piles of beach laundry waiting to be noticed.
Can’t we just make s’mores in the fire pit and refrain from showering? We could whittle bars of soap into little bowls and eat trail mix out of fanny packs …
I was too desperate in my pleading, and now I have spent three days gathering what appears to be a sample of everything we have EVER purchased, to put in waterproof bins to haul to a campsite.
I made the mistake early on of directing the kids to pack their own bags, and now my kitchen table is lined with Ziploc bags pumped full of Barbie clothes and Legos, ChapStick collections and fishing lures, a bag of rocks from our garden.
Yes, we are currently planning on transporting a baggie full of our own garden rocks to meet, what is sure to be, our new favorite bag of “rustic” rocks at an unknown campsite. Because, once challenged with packing only a few “favorites,” we suddenly have favorites of everything we simply cannot imagine leaving behind. Including our own outdoors.
But a family of six traveling in a minivan does not have the luxury of indecision. We barely have the luxury of headroom. I quickly reminded them of the last time we went camping.
Prepared for a month-long voyage across the Atlantic, all four kids broke into tears when their legs, cramped up to their chins over bags of medical supplies and mini-grills, had lost all circulation. Our toddler, once released from her car seat restraints, took one step into fresh air and toppled into a bush. Meet the outdoors, dear.
Unfazed, they throw their bags on the kitchen floor.
Something is leaking … and it’s yellow. I seriously consider just tossing the entire bag in the garbage. But, since we are running low on luggage (and Ziploc bags), I muster my courage.
And … honey. Its honey! For just a moment, I’m relieved. But then, I remember the historic affection bears have for honey.
“That’s my shampoo, Mama!” my shortest camper squeals.
Followed by a hefty chuckle from her older brother. A guilty chuckle.
“It looks like shampoo,” he defends. “And its travel size!”
I picture my daughter coming out of the shower stall with honey spiked hair. And then I try not to picture the middle of the night dismemberment by a hungry bear.
Apparently, adult supervision is necessary for survival.
I peel back a hot pink luggage flap: Velvet Christmas dresses and fruit treats. Somebody’s planning on celebrating nature!
Next, I peek into a suspiciously flat duffel bag: a sweatshirt and an iPad charging cord. Somebody’s planning on avoiding nature.
No underwear or socks.
No swimsuits or toothbrushes.
No … items of actual use.
Maybe we should just go tribal on this trip, embrace nature open-hearted and … unclothed? Just one good bacon fry might spur some fresh interest in clothing.
My 4-year-old emerges from under the kitchen table covered in the first-aid kit. My daughter has unpackaged the French press and is determined to make fresh orange juice from the Clementines she dug out of the “grocery bin,” and my son has created a travel habitat for his gecko out of the cooler. It better not be the wine cooler.
Yes, what I really want is some more quality time with these people in the wild. What would that be like?
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