When we were in our early 50s Chuck would often say, “When I retire, I’m going to buy one of those big RVs and we can travel around the country and see the sights.” Now this might have been his idea of fun and adventure at the time, but it certainly wasn’t mine. “Have you looked at the drivers of those big gas guzzling things?” I asked him. “They are at least 80 years old and just waiting to have a heart attack.” And to further make my point, I continued on. “Do you know how many five-star hotels you could stay at before you spent anywhere near what the cost of that beast would be, the gas, the insurance, the maintenance plus it only depreciates over time.” And then to finalize my argument, “Those damn things are just housework on wheels for the woman with none of the conveniences.” We never bought a camper. Now don’t get me wrong. I think this is a great idea for those who love the great outdoors and all the things that go with that type of holiday, but it wasn’t for us. In actual fact, neither Chuck nor I liked camping to begin with. When our kids were young, we took them tenting a couple of weekends but that was the extent of that great outdoor activity for us.
Along come the grandkids and since the age of three, they have spent time each summer with us. Usually, it is a few days in some city, living high on the hog and spoiling them rotten by introducing them to the finer things in life. (It is rather interesting to note that most of these experiences were also new for Chuck and I.) But a couple of years ago, I decided these city kids were going to experience some country fun. This announcement was met with absolutely no enthusiasm, but I persevered. I should have known that when you have to tell kids, “This will be fun,” it usually isn’t. But I tried to physic them up by outlining to them, in a very animated way, all the great and exciting things we would be doing.
The camping day arrived. To put everyone in the mood, we first watched the DVD, The Great Outdoors with John Candy. I love that movie. Lack of enthusiasm for my big camping event was definitely evident but there were no objections because that is what you do when you love your grandma. You humour the old dear. Chuck and the boys put the tent up just 30 feet from the family room patio door. (Close to the bathroom if needed in the middle of the night) Supper was served on the picnic table. We were being real pioneers. Marshmallows were roasted in the pot belly stove. I think the fancy name is Chiminea, but I’m not fancy so the description “outside old wood burning pot belly stove” will do nicely. Smores were made. Eventually it was time to sleep.
It was at this time that I was met by a barrage of questions. “Are we going to sleep on the ground?” was the first question which was asked in disbelief. “Well, yes.” was my reply. “Won’t that be kind of hard?” was the next inquiry. Now this is being said to a 70+ year old woman with back issues who was ready to sleep on nails if it would give these kids this wonderful experience. “Well, what do you have in mind?” I asked knowing these kids probably had a solution to this hardship. “We could take some cushions off the couch,” came the response. Permission was granted and I thought that maybe my back just might make it through the night after all. The four of them got to work making their nest comfortable while I hunted up pillows and blankets.
“Hope the coyotes don’t attack us during the night.” Chuck said as he innocently headed towards the tent. God, there are times I could strangle him. After giving Chuck “The Look,” I tried to reassure the kids that although they had heard these animals howling like mad the night before, they were very, very, very far away and wouldn’t come this close to the house. Good Lord, if the tent was any closer, we would be pitched in the family room.
As I entered the evening’s accommodations, I was immediately struck with the thought that I had been transported to another time and location, a Sultan’s tent in the desert came to mind. Cushions from every couch and arm chair in the house were spread on the ground. No worry about “The Princess and The Pea” story here. There could be a bed of glass under these cushions and you wouldn’t feel a thing. The next issue was to decide who would sleep where. Apparently, Griffin’s feet were smelly, Andrew was tooting a lot and Grandpa was poking everyone. Claire and Mackenna were disgusted! Solution – I would sleep in the middle with girls on one side of me and the annoying guys on the other. Everyone was more or less settled when it was suggested that ghost stories should be told. A rather weak attempt was made by the children AND Grandpa did not participate in this activity. He was under strict instructions from me to refrain from sharing any paranormal stories he might have. This piece of advice was also accompanied by “The Look.”
Finally, after an eternity past, everyone fell asleep with Grandma being the last of the group to reach that state. At 3:01 am there were screams in the tent from all the kids. They were getting wet which was strange as it wasn’t raining. Then it dawned on me that I had forgotten to turn the sprinkler system off and it automatically came on at 3:00 am. Unfortunately, the tent was just a screen one so the water sprayed in one side and went straight through and out the other side. The kids went running into the house leaving Chuck and I getting wetter by the minute as we hauled in the cushions. For three days, those cushions were propped up along the hall walls trying to dry out.
I know I did not successfully instill in my Grandkids a love for camping but at least they have, more or less, had the experience. But on the other hand, look at the memories that were created. You can’t beat that.