Camping…growing up, I lived for tent camping every summer. I like the smell of a smoky sleeping bag, the feel of a squishy air mattress protecting me from the bumpy ground, and the sound of a zipper closing for the night.
I am twelve years old. I lay, eyes closed, listening to others wake up and start moving around the site. Getting breakfast ready, starting the fire, making coffee. The dads wake early and make breakfast for the whole crew. Then we kids set off in all directions for the day: swimming, riding bikes, exploring dead-end roads, hanging out at the camp store.
Late afternoon and all the children converge at the campsite…hungry! My dad makes finger sandwiches…white wonder bread, butter, see through thin onions, salt and pepper. (When you are hungry, these onion sandwiches really hit the spot!)
I tell my dad that I’m bored. He says,
“Go lay down on the highway and see
if there are any cars coming.
I go, and lay on the worn, yellow-orange
stripe. Rising my chin, I glance momentarily down the deserted country road. Nope…
So I go back and grab the one book I’ve brought… Hotel for Dogs. The best spot is on an air mattress, beside the tent, in the sun. I read to the end, sigh, pause, flip the book over,
rub my hand over the creased front cover and begin again. The beginnings of bibliomania!
The moms also are galavanting the day away…where…??? (I think this was the beginning of mom’s treasure hunting for antiques.) They return for dinner duty. My favorite meal is campers stew: hamburger patties covered with carrots, celery, onions, Lipton’s powdered onion soup, and ketchup wrapped in tin foil and cooked over the fire. (You had to be very careful unwrapping–sand always seeps in some how.)
As the sun sets, it’s time to stoke the fire. Carefully small sticks are laid in a teepee (Girl Scout training comes in handy here.) Larger and larger branches are added. Dry leaves. Pine needles. As the flames grow, lawn chairs begin filling with people. The dads duet on “Splish Splash” and “Tom Dooley” then the rest of us join in on “You Are My Sunshine“. Blankets begin to bundle still bodies. As long as you are quiet, you can stay up. No grown-up will hustle you off to bed. One by one, sleeping children are carried and tucked into soft sleeping bags.
Adult voices laugh and talk deep into the night. The crackling fire wears away to glowing memories.