October 29, 2010

the winter of our discount tent . . . my own Shakespearean tragedy in six acts

We used to have this little, gray two-and-a-half person tent. We might still have it. Somewhere. The point is, we used to sleep in it. No, the point is, we used to lie down in it and wish we could sleep. The other point is, it reminded me of the following:

To pee or not to pee
That is the question. Many, many moons ago I tagged along on an overnight retreat to this island in the middle of the lake, armed with nothing but a few coolers, fewer tents, and a fishing boat. I knew what the sleeping arrangements were, but it never occurred to me to ask what the facilities arrangements were. Turns out, the facilities arrangements were not. We were completely sans potty, not even a respectable wooden outhouse. So, "to pee or not to pee?" The answer is no. Not to pee. Not once. I managed to "hold it" for 36 hours. Yes, I did. Might be my greatest accomplishment to date.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks
I needed sleep. I was 7 months pregnant with my firstborn and this was critical stretch-mark timing. I did not want to be tossing and turning and straining . . . and stretch-marking. We camped on the beach with our sweet friends, Shawn and Pam on our way to The End of the Road in Homer, Alaska. Pam and I got the tent. I don't know where the boys slept, but, in retrospect, I suspect they shared a king-sized air mattress under the stars, while Pam and I were left to sleep on rocks. Not sand. Not dirt. Rocks. And while there were no resulting stretch marks, the pitting from 7 hours on the rocks lasted a good week. I'm just sayin'.

To sleep, perchance to dream
Two years after "tent on the rocks", I spent a couple of weeks at summer camp as the activities director. Kacey was two and tagged along easily, as 50% of this camp was comprised of teenage girls who refused to let her walk. One night, at 7, Kacey fell sound asleep during the hour-long devotional time. When we got to the tent around 9, mommy was sleepy, as I had been awake since 4:30 a.m., but Kacey was WIDE awake. Anyway, being the good mommy that I am, I couldn't just go to sleep until she did. So I rocked her and scratched her little back and sang her songs. Lots of songs. Repetitive songs. Annoying songs. Old MacDonald's Farm turned into a zoo, Found a Peanut took me from "It was rotten" all the way to playing a harp in hell, dear Liza nagged on and on about The Hole in her Bucket, and The Wheels on the Bus went round and round and round and round and . . .

Sweets to the Sweet
I want to preface the rest of this story by saying we opted NOT to give our children sugar, in any form, for as long as we could manage it. And we had managed it to this point. No soft drinks, no cookies, no M&M's, just a healthy little girl who was very happy to eat fruit and veggies. So, the Wheels on the Bus went round and round and round and mommy fell asleep . . . and woke the next morning to find my daughter face down on the floor of the tent, deep in a self-induced sugar coma, her little body encircled by a rainbow of wrappers from eating an entire BAG of Starburst she found in the suitcase. An ENTIRE bag. She liked sugar.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears and your washer
In 1993, we went to Gatlinburg on the absolute cheapest vacation we could plan. Well, maybe not THE cheapest, because we could have gone to visit my parents, who would have fed us and babied us and entertained the kids, but we wanted an adventure. We planned to tent-camp, fish, cook our own meals and sleep in the two-and-a-half-person tent . . . all four of us. It was the cheapest vacation we could plan . . . because we had no money. I mean, we had NO money. If we had, you KNOW I would have been tracking down the nearest Hyatt Place, but there was NO wiggle room in the travel budget.

The cowboy didn't want to make reservations. After all, we were just tent-camping, we would just "wing it" and camp when we found a place that suited us. The internal organizer in me tried to protest. She screamed inside my head, "NO!!! We have children and I'm a bit neurotic about spontaneity if it's not scheduled in advance! But I decided to play along. We went in June. I mentioned Gatlinburg, right? In June? And the fact that we had no reservations? Well, I had reservations alright, but not the kind that held a place for us to pitch our tent. So at 5 p.m. we started looking for a place to camp . . . and finally found ONE open site just after 11 p.m.

Out, Out Danged Spot!
The spot we got was on the trail to the bathhouse, so every person who walked by us woke Kevin up and Kevin, being only WEEKS old, only knew how to do one thing when he woke up: scream. Which he did. Continuously. All night. And Kacey, age 6, was forced to sleep at a 90-degree angle with her head above ours and her feet in my kidneys. Did I mention Kacey is a kicker? The next night, our car broke down, and I was left on the side of the road for 2 hours with two hungry kids, Kevin being the only one able to use me as a vending machine, while Gregory dealt with mechanics and tow-trucks. Paying to get the car fixed meant the travel budget was now seriously overdrawn. We caught no fish. Kacey got a tick the size of Luxembourg embedded in her skull. By the time we left our spot and headed home, we didn't even have enough money to do our laundry. So when we hit Nashville, instead of taking I-40 home to Jackson, we took I-24 straight to Mom & Dad's house. When we arrived, I put my son, still in his carseat, on the front porch with a note that said, "My family is destitute. Will you please take us in, feed us, and let us wash our dirty laundry?" I did a "Ding Dong Ditch" and ran back to the car.

By the time we went home the next day, we were frustrated, broke, and Kacey had a lymphatic infection. But our clothes were spotless.


mnpolutta said...

And people ask me why we haven't and don't take the girls camping.

E.T.'s Mom said...

We went camping when Titus was four weeks old. That's the part I could relate to....the rest of it was just stinkin' hilarious.

Kacey Leigh said...

OOOOOOOOH I remember that tick. Evil, foul, nasty, terrible, "danged" thing!

I'm still terrified of ticks!

And WHAT are you talking about??? That tent was HUUUUUGE!!!!! ...At least...I remember it being huge! :-D

~Stephanie said...

NO, we could have pitched that tent on our coffee table and still had room to spare. :)