Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nature Girl Meets Her Nature

Since it’s August, most of us are thinking about vacations. We live on the Jersey Shore, so it’s not like we don’t see vacationers all around us. They are the families who look really, really stressed at the beach with little kids running around and plastic toys spilling everywhere. Since we live here, they are kind of a seasonal oddity to us along with ticks and mosquitoes.

Of course, we want to go on vacation, too. While I was teaching and working on fall syllabi, I decided the kids should have some kind of vacation until we leave for Virginia in a few days. There’s a campground a few miles from us, so I went on a mining expedition in the basement and found a brand new tent. I remember buying this tent about ten years ago while in a postpartum haze with Emma strapped to me in one of those cotton papoosey slings. I had no idea what I was thinking at the time since I can barely stand in the yard for fifteen minutes before the bugs and the humidity get to me.

“What is that?” Christopher asked as I dragged it up from the basement.

“A tent. I think we should go camping.”

“Camping.” He looked at me for a second. “Mom, do you sit around and think up these ideas for us? And don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s like you’re getting early dementia. Your ideas are getting worse and worse.”

“I don’t have dementia because I want you guys to get close to nature. It would be good for you to leave your computer and video games for a night. I think you should consider it.”

“So now, exactly why do you want us to pretend we’re homeless?”

I never looked at camping in quite that way. But I decided to put the tent up in the backyard. Maybe if they fooled around with the tent back there, they would want to go to the campgrounds.

Now I have never put up a tent before, and this slept four so it wasn’t that big. Emma had a couple of friends over and we took the box and some poles out to the backyard.

We struggled for about half an hour. One of the girls looked at the box. “There’s a door!” she exclaimed, “I don’t see a door on this tent.”

“Maybe we have to cut a door,” the other girl suggested, “you know, just cut it out.”

“Really?” I asked, “I never saw anyone do that,” I said. "They just zip them, don't they?"

“I think the door appears magically once the tent is up,” Emma suggested hopefully. "Remember the closet to Narnia?"

I looked at Emma. “I think I better see if there are directions.”

Of course there weren’t. The box was nearly ten years old, and it had been snooped in a few times and there were no directions. I stared at the box for a few minutes trying to figure out what went where.

We were still out there without a tent when Philip and a friend came into the yard.

“Oh,” Friend said, “we used to camp all the time. I love putting tents up!”

After a few minutes, Friend looked at me. “Umm, you know why this isn’t working?”

We all looked at her blankly.

“You guys are putting the tarp up. This is only the piece you put up when it rains. This isn’t a tent.”

We did find the tent in another part of the basement. Philip and his friend put it up. No one went near it. It's still out there, now being used as a trampoline for our psychotic squirrels. I am waiting for that friend to return because I have absolutely no idea how to disassemble the thing.

We have found a lovely hotel in Virginia where you slide a card into a slot to get to your room.

I think that’s a really good idea for me.


Rick said...

Hello Anne. This posting has such a wonderful narrative voice that I fell right into it. Unfortunately, I then saw and read the Chapter excerpt on the right hand side of your site and fell in love with that, too.

Would you mind terribly if I included your blog on my favorites list to let the other writers that drop by my site know about you if they don't already?


Elizabeth Bradley said...

Wow, that picture at the top of your post is something else. I made my kids go camping. Now they love it. But I'm over it! lol! I'd rather stay in the hotel these days, thank you very much. Where a vacation FEELS like a bloody vacation. I agree with Rick. Love your writing.

Glynis said...

Oh lol, I remember those days. We put ours up, inside out once, so we had to grow arms to open the zip door. When the other campers told us ' your tent is inside out', we replied with ' it is to stop it fading'.
Hotel holidays are far more relaxing.
Loved your story.

K.C. Shaw said...

I love the idea of camping, but once I actually get out in the wilderness and pitch the tent, I always think, "What the frak was I thinking?" and wish I was at a hotel instead.

I love the pretending to be homeless part. :)

Anne Spollen said...

Thanks, Rick! You can include me in just about anything. These are the kinds of comments I need to read when my story isn't going the way I had hoped and I think I have to go train to become a stock broker.

Thanks also, Elizabeth! And, yes to the hotel. The more I thought about camping, the more I knew I was just not cut out for it. The bathroom part especially.

Love that retort, Glynis! Perfect.
I told my kids that and they said it sounds exactly like something our family would do.

Right, K.C. In the age of green (and we recycle, reuse, preuse as in less consumption, hang laundry, all that) I hate to admit it: I like to LOOK at the woods, but actually being in it just makes me think I'm going to develop a terrible fever or welty rash from some kind of sucking insect like a tick or a leech. Probably not what you should be thinking about while communing with nature.

Mary Witzl said...

We have a tent somewhere too. It is smelly and nasty and mildewy and full of all the bugs that got into it the last time anyone went camping. When I want to commune with nature, I go outside and garden for an hour or so. That always cures me.

Carrie Harris said...

I'm not laughing at you. I swear. I'm laughing with you. Of course, if you're not laughing, then I guess we're back to option number 1.

adrienne said...

I did the same thing - bought a tent and put it up in our back yard. Our yard is so small it took up the whole space. So some friends of ours (who were going on a REAL vacation) let us pitch the tent in their yard, so we could stay and look after their bunny. That's about as much roughing it as I need...

Anne Spollen said...

I know -- I like PICTURES of nature, guys. I really do. I might even by some paintings of lakes and stuff, but I don't actually want to go near the mud.