A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
By Peri Kinder
Summer means camping. Outdoor living is a wonderful way to acquaint your children with Lyme disease, tourniquets, tick removal, poison ivy, skunk identification, rabid chipmunks and tent life. Why go to a hotel when you can sleep on the ground in a Ziploc bag?
It’s a mythological fact that camping builds character. Okay, I’ll admit camping builds some characters; the Unabomber comes to mind. After living in a remote cabin with no electricity or running water, Mr. Unabomber started a nationwide bombing crusade.
But still, families plan extravagant camping adventures and look forward to spending an inordinate amount of time living like squatters in the mountains with their loved ones. Their days are filled with card games, sing-alongs, murderous rage and fishing.
And by the way, fishing is not a sport. “Sport” indicates a level of exertion, sweat and training. I’ve never seen a sport that involves kicking back in a camp chair and swilling a cold beer while holding onto a stick. It could easily be confused with the sport of TV watching.
One of my daughters refused to even cast a fishing line, afraid she might hit a trout on the head with a lure, causing it to need glasses for the rest of its fishy life.
Hiking is another fun camp activity, if “fun” means you enjoy carrying toddlers for a 4-hour hike that would have taken only 20 minutes if they would walk like a functioning person.
And who can forget the hellish outhouses where you just know there’s a snake coiled up behind you or a spider creeping around the toilet seat or a swarm of wasps waiting for you to exit.
When nighttime rolls around and it’s time to build a fire, you soon realize it should be called building a smoke. All the green wood your kids gathered creates billows of hot, grey air that infiltrates every piece of clothing you own. Plus, the wind blows through the campfire, distributing hot ash, eye-melting smoke and pieces of exploding branches so everyone around the fire can enjoy the great outdoors.
Once you finally have a campfire merrily dancing in the pit (usually around 2 a.m.), it’s fun to roast marshmallows that your kids won’t eat because they’re burnt, and look at the stars.
Me: Aren’t the stars beautiful?
Daughter #1: It’s making my neck hurt. Can I stop looking?
Daughter #2: What if a star fell on us right now?
Daughters #3 and #4: (Crying because they don’t want a star to fall on them.)
Me: Forget it. Go get in your Ziploc bags.
Safety is always a concern when camping. “Don’t Feed the Bears” signs encourage campers to lock food in the car so bears don’t get into your Oreos. Shouldn’t the signs also warn you that a bear can easily shred your tent, looking for juicy, human-flavored tidbits? But, hey, as long as the Oreo cookies are safe.
Once camp is over, a miracle happens. Everyone forgets the scraped-shins, fire-singed fingers, burned breakfasts, lost underwear and temper tantrums. And suddenly you’re planning next year’s camping trip to acquaint your children with dehydration, crazy hermits, leaf toilet paper, stinging nettle, wet socks, outdoor swearing and organic granola. Because why go to a restaurant when you can eat soot-covered hot dogs in a rainstorm? λ