October 7, 2000: When last we spoke, I was still an interested but apprehensive virgin camper. We got back from our 2 week vacation tonight (the first seven days we camped) and I am here to report my experiences. We planned to spend two nights in a state park just north of Columbus, OH and then go to a gathering of homeschoolers at a state park in northern KY.
The weather forecast was calling for rain, rain, rain in OH and they were right on target. When we informed the park employee that we wanted a tent site, she raised an eyebrow and said skeptically, “Well if you decided to stay, you’ll be the only ones out there. Why don’t you drive around and look at the campsites?” It was sad: mud puddle connected to mud puddle, the fire rings encompassed in impenetrable seas of muck, no place to rig a tarp. The Husband was discouraged while I tried to be positive. “Why don”t we just set up our tent on the nice paved place where the vehicle gets parked?” I asked, all innocence. He dryly pointed out that the tent needed to be staked to something. Hmmm. In the end, we decided to take one of their Rent-a-Shacks. It was an 8 X 10 prefab structure with a tarp roof.
I had a lovely gourmet meal planned for our first night: grilled fish (happily marinating in the cooler as we drove all day), a yummy risotto from a mix, and steamed fresh broccoli. Thankfully, I had brought a generous amount of fish, because I neglected to remember that at home we grill fish on a grid with small openings; over the campfire we had a simple grill with big spaces and so The Husband lost large portions of our entree to the fire beneath. I dumped the broccoli in with the rice and slopped it all onto our plates. Nobody complained about the food — they were too busy shivering in the chill rain. I kept encouraging everyone: “Hurry and eat — some hot food will make you feel much better. Hurry and get into your sleeping bag — you’ll be dry and warm.” Really, I was the Pollyanna of camping. If you could have seen me, I feel sure you’d have given me a medal.
After I’d hurriedly washed dishes, we crept into our sleeping bags. The Husband and I were sleeping on two single platforms and the children were on the floor. As I lay there for hours watching my breath and listening to The Husband’s snoring, I actually had the following mental conversation with myself:
“You really should get up and check the kids.”
“I’m too cold to get up.”
“A good mother would get up and check them.”
“If they really needed anything, they’d say something.”
“Maybe they’re dead.”
“If they’re dead, it won’t do any good for me to get up.”
Then I started thinking, “You really are a good person, Lori. You could just get up and get in the van and head back to PA and leave them all here, but no, you’re sticking it out like a trouper. They’ll never appreciate all you are going through. Listen to The Husband, he’s completely oblivious to these miserable conditions. Just snoring away as if he was home in our outrageously comfortable bed.”
Then I started feeling guilty about how spoiled I am. I thought, “Just think about all the people throughout history who’ve had to endure conditions far worse than this. Think of the Jews during the Holocaust, who were forced to run from one concentration camp to another and were simply shot if they couldn’t keep up. You’d probably say, ‘Just shoot me and get it over with.’ You wouldn’t even try to survive because you’re such a big baby.”
Then, as I lay there dying to go to the bathroom but loathe to go out into the rain, I began a litany that was to last most of the night: the “It Could Be Worse” chant:
“It Could Be Worse — you could be menstruating.”
“It Could Be Worse – you could be pregnant.”
“It Could Be Worse – you could have a baby.”
“It Could Be Worse – you could have a baby that was screaming right now!”
And that was my first night of camping. Amazingly, the morning dawned bright and beautiful, with sunshine and crisp air. The rest of the week was idyllic: I felt like an old hand at camping by the time we got to KY, the weather was great, and I really enjoyed myself. I’d do it again in a minute if I could have an air mattress that didn’t leak. But that’s another story…