Spring is officially here. For some families, you know the ones, it’s time to get out the camper, RV, tent or trailer and gear up for weekend getaways. To the lake, to the mountains, to the river, or even the RV park….every weekend a new adventure!
Camping is the All American Brand of Affordable Family Fun. Throw a few chips, hot dogs, and marshmallows in a bag – chill the beer down in a cooler. For breakfast? Eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese – its all in the pan to cook up a camp omelet. Yummy! Everybody’s in ~ we can leave right after work Friday afternoon. Don’t forget your swim trunks, fishing poles, boots, water bottle and backpack for the family hike tomorrow. Let’s Go!!!
Exit scene. Enter our family.
One disabled and highly allergic son. The other son, uncontrollably wild and just as allergic. No eggs, no feathers, no dogs, no cats, no chemicals, no peanuts, no tree nuts, no petrol products, no trout, no shellfish, no wheat, no milk, no soy, no hay, no pollen, no mold. No fun.
But wait! We can “try” to do this, right Honey? My husband’s family has a gorgeous bit of land north of where we live. My husband possesses a mental box full of wonderful memories spending time with his immediate family camping and fishing. They would spend time with his grandparents who lived close by the property when he was young. He and his brother tore up the back 10 with ATV’s as teenagers. His uncle, my Father in Law’s best friend, has adjacent property with a wood fired stove to bake the family’s Thanksgiving turkey. We had many good times there before we had the boys, didn’t we Sweetheart?
Hiking up my big girl pants to wedgie heights, I know we have to try. Urban survival is one thing with an Autistic son, but in the woods, without all our usual routine and necessities? Repeat this mantra: “Must be brave, must be brave, must be brave…..”
To the general store! We needed all the “stuff”! Tent, sleeping bags, night light, flashlights, folding tables, Coleman stove, two kiddie fishing poles with matching tackle boxes, air mattress, camping chairs, and every other thing my husband thought was “critical” to have on hand. We are going to use all this equipment for years to come, right Honey?
To the grocery store! Soda (the perfect stimming liquid), frozen pizza (I think we can bake this on the camp stove..), chicken nuggets (would these work okay on the end of the marshmallow stick?), frozen french fries (maybe baked in foil packets?) and one steak for us. Comfortable foods, served in a uncomfortable place just might work, right Dear? Adapt or die time.
Nebulizer with AC adaptor, Benedryl, Zyrtec, Cortisone cream, alka-seltzer, band aids, Epi-pens for the car, tent, backpack and pockets of all. Can’t be too prepared, right?
The van with no paint was full with our family and new “stuff” – we were finally on our way to the great wildness known to our boys as “Chewelah”. This was where my husbands favorite family stories are set. His mother, whom I never had the chance to meet, passed away before me and the boys came along. These stories always honor her and the bonds their immediate family shared. The boy’s Uncle was going to be camping too, just like when they were younger sons themselves. Uncle was bringing Oakley, his Siberian Husky given to him by his Father for his birthday. Oakley, he was a really good dog.
My children were ethered with excitement. Arriving later in the afternoon, nervously we set up “camp”….taking all the new “stuff” out of boxes. We struggled with tent poles, held the boys back from branding themselves on the Coleman stove and started handing out snacks, I did not have a clue what to do while “camping”. The stress-o-meter started listing just a touch……
Activity #1. Fishing!…..jump back in the van, drive to the historical fishing hole of my husbands youth. Get out of the van. Hike over to the spot. See a dried up trench. Get back in the van, drive another 15 minutes, reassure the boys we will fish, check out the next dried up hole. Scratching his head in confusion, where the hell did all the fishing spots go? Well, I suppose after 15 years they could have changed addresses, Sweetie.
Activity #2. There is no activity number 2 today. Back to camp. Get off the dog! No shoes in the tent, repeat shoes off and on five thousand times to throughly annoy parents and the other campers. Take a Benedryl. Boys! Again, the dog is not a horse, get off him! Give a nebulizer treatment. Yes, you are bleeding. Find the band-aids. Make dinner. Drink an adult beverage. Roast marshmallows, pretend your kids really like them melted, It becomes clear they don’t but it is pretty fun to play with fire. Youngest son showing every gang sign that he’s a budding pyromaniac.
Blow up the air mattress, get out the sleeping bags, its time for bed you little bastards. Forgot the plug for the air mattress, sleep on the ground. All four family members sardined in the tent, the new camp light doesn’t work. The youngest son is just as fascinated with flashlights as fire. My husband, having indulged in more than one adult beverage, needs to relieve himself.
He makes it to the tree line, I think. He’s singing a song. Happy husband rounding the curve but misses the entrance. Flattens my side of the tent. Other campers are very aware of my husbands relief and subsequent battle to re-enter his castle. We have lost the popularity contest already. Beautiful.
The next morning dawns another perfect day. The boys emerge, without shoes, to jump on the dog. My sister in law woke up with acne – feeling the stress perhaps? Pizza and chicken nuggets again for breakfast. More nebulizer treatments. “Get away from the FIRE!”. My brother in law gets stung by a hornet. Ouch! Give him the first aid kit. He takes a Benedryl. Discover the hornets nest 10 feet away. Sweet Jesus, really? Dead sons walking……
We decide that our family has enjoyed (endured) enough of this “camping” thing and start packing up. Giving in early was not a punishment. But it did look like a crime scene. Taking less care, we start shoving what was our savings account, back in the van. ” FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, GET OFF THAT DOG SWEETHEART!” Where’s my epi-pen?
Look up – it’s Black Grandma & Grandpa! Are the boys super thrilled to see their friendly faces, or maybe… its the Happy Meals they’ve managed to smuggle into the wild? What a heartening moment for Black Grandpa. To see the next generation of his family enjoying the land that was his families legacy…..motivated enough to come and visit. That’s family for you.
We happy campers flamed out within 24 hours, never to try again. Total cost? $576.42. Seeing my husband look up at his father and over to his brother with his son on his hip? Priceless.
As a more mature family of four now, we enjoy vacations as regularly as we can. Airplanes, hotels, it’s the city life for us. Museums, art galleries, arcades, plays and performances for this group. While my little family couldn’t fool Mother Nature that weekend, we survived, and all the while I was being choked to death by my big girl pants. ~ Wendy Frye
“A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.”