Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Smell of Childhood....

From the time Citygirl was three I've been taking her camping.  The first time was laughable.  I learned quite a few things on that overnight in the woods:

1) I had been camping all of my life but I had never been 'The Grownup' on the trip before.
2) 'The Grownup' has to pack more than a tent and sleeping bags.
3) Waking up in a camp with no coffee is horrid.
4) Other campers, although total strangers, are sympathetic to this fact and will give you coffee (AND Tylenol) if you look pathetic enough.
5) You need to find other people who are better at adulting than you are to go camping with.

Fortunately for us, we soon after met our neighbors across the street. Their three young boys and their orange tent ("The Rainmaker") were veteran campers, willing to let us tag along while I figured out 'The Growup' thing.  THEIR friends had two boys, and a girl nearly Citygirl's age, and a huge canvas tent they lovingly referred to as the Taj Majal.  (The first time I met them, they were assembling this tent in the dark.  Their then-11-year-old boy was assisting as dad instructed:  "Move the pole left.  Left!  NO, MY left!  You'll NEVER be a f***ing engineer!"  I debated the wisdom of staying.  I'm glad I did - that line is etched in camping lore and laughter forevermore.)  We all camped together at least once a year for a long, long time, returning each Memorial Day Weekend to a local campground, adding family and friends as time went on.


Kidney failure. Transplant.  Constant concern about germ exposure.  Our campground flooded and the team worried that leftover contamination from the flooding would make it an unsafe place for Babygirl for a year or so.  Citygirl's graduation weekend took us out of town one year, and....I don't really know what all else happened.

So this year, for the first Memorial Weekend since 2010, we went camping at 'our' campground.'  Many of our campground friends have grown up or moved away.  But some still come, and for Babygirl this is campground "home."

"Remember that time we had that race where people had to put their heads down on a bat and spin around and then ran?  And people ran right into parked trucks?"  "Remember those people over in the corner who always had that HUGE fire?"  "Are we going to build the big slip-and-slide on the hill?"  For a child who often cannot remember being anything but sick, such memories are sharply sweet.

Home. Return to a simpler, worry-free time.  S'mores around a campfire, teaching a new generation Grampa's song about the bear, and spending time on the thyme-scented hill where Citygirl and I used to lie with Bobbe and Tory, watching the stars until we felt sure it was the earth moving under us, and not the stars moving over us.


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