Our house looked like an army barracks gone awry. Piles of clothes, stacked laundry baskets, and assorted gear lay spewed across the floors and propped on top of sofas. We lost the cat (temporarily) amidst the clutter. The scent of Deep Woods Off filled the air. This could only mean one thing.
It was time for our first family camping outing of the season.
I love to camp. My husband and I spent many weekends loading our belongings into a pack, hoisting it up onto our shoulders, and trekking up the area mountains. There was something liberating about carrying "just the necessities" in our backpacks, feeling the burn work its way through the hamstrings, and reaching the top of the peaks to take in those views!
But nowadays we do camping, family style. Our tent is a 3-room "condo" model, our portable screened- in porch is packed with three cartons of cookware and two coolers, and "roughing it" means treating ourselves to a steak and chicken dinner just one of the nights.
This trip, however, offered us a new experience. For the first time, we camped with three other families AND stayed at a private campground. Don't get me wrong. But private campgrounds make me think of those Jellystone family campsite flyers found piled next to the bathrooms in those rest areas along east coast highways. They make me think about Dirty Dancing and the Catskills. They make me think about Chevy Chase and those National Lampoon vacation movies. They make me think about Randy Quaid (I'm not sure why, but for some reason I always parallel Randy with Chevy.)
I also had some anxiety about being with three other families for three days straight. I mean, I LIKE these people! And although I am your typical ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, I take my private side very seriously. Could I actually be social 24/7? At least with my family we can exist in silence, the kids buried in their Gameboys, my husband in a book, and me in a magazine. That's relaxation to us. We'll pay our fee to camp just for that.
Maybe it's reaching a new point in my life. Or it's what happens when you reach middle age and have a growing family. But family camping with friends at a private campground, with most of our household belongings in tow, was actually quite fun. I watched as my daughter took a new step towards independence as she took a walk down to the general store with only mom's cell phone and a friend. That's a big deal when you're nine. My son was totally into his 36-hour non-stop playdate. The grown-ups were able to hang out by the fire and talk about life, jobs, and kids. I remembered how much I loved toasted marshmallows and ate way too many.
Family camping reminded me that simple things can add up to big deals. As we run around trying to keep up with our overscheduled lives, pulling over from the fast lane into campsite #47 was one of the healthiest things we could have done for ourselves. For just a few days, life seemed to slow down and I felt like I slowed down with it. I had my proof that although the world as we know it today is very different -- fast-paced, busy, stressful -- we can bring it back to calmer, more peaceful times like we remember from our own youth, if we really want to.
That's a secret worth sharing.