a Shakespearean tragedy in six acts
I’m planning our second vacation within a year. The REAL kind where you stay in hotels with spa services and see “bucket-list-worthy” things and indulge in food that rivals art.
I’m being spoiled, and I gotta admit, it’s glorious.
To date, most of our vacations haven’t gotten past the dream state. We’d talk big, but when reality set in there was either no time, or no money, or no time and no money. The trips we did take, however, had one common denominator:
A little, gray nylon two-person tent. We probably still have it somewhere in that hoarder’s paradise we like to call a garage. And we used to sleep in it. The tent, not the garage.
To pee or not to pee
That is the question. Many moons ago, I went on an overnight retreat with some college friends to an island in the middle of the lake. We were armed with a few coolers, fewer tents, and a bass boat. I was fine with the tent arrangements, but it never occurred to me to ask what the arrangements were for the, uh, facilities. Turns out, there were none. No arrangements. No facilities. We were completely sans potty. No bathhouse, no wooden outhouse, not even a respectable bucket. So, “to pee or not to pee?” The answer was not. Not to pee. Not once. I “held it” for 36 hours.
Might be my proudest accomplishments to date.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks
I was a whopping 8 months pregnant when we set out on this next little adventure with a couple of friends. My body desperately needed sleep, but I did not want to be tossing and turning, as this was the point where I had to wake fully, lift my belly with both arms, and roll carefully in order to avoid stretch-marking. So why we thought tenting was a viable option at this point in my gestational journey I will never know. Yet there we were, camping on the beach on our way to ‘The End of the Road’ in Homer, Alaska. Pam and I got the tent. In retrospect, I have no idea where the guys slept, but I suspect they snoozed on a king-sized air mattress under the stars while she and I were left to sleep on the rocky beach. Rock. Not those cute little pebbles for landscaping. Rocks. Boulders, really. The pitting alone lasted a good week. The resulting stretch marks I carry with me still.
To sleep, perchance to dream
Two years after “tent on the rocks”, I volunteered as the activities director at Midnight Sun Camp. Kacey was two and tagged along easily. Half the camp was comprised of teenage girls who refused to let her walk. My toddler fell asleep one night after dinner in the arms of one of these sweet girls. When we settled into our tent at bedtime, I was exhausted, having been awake since 4:30 that morning. Kacey, however, was bright-eyed and bouncy.
Being a good mommy, (or at least being moderately concerned she would escape from our tent and encounter a hungry bear), I stayed awake and sang songs. Lots of songs. Repetitive songs. Annoying songs. I think I was hoping to bore her to sleep. “Old MacDonald” had an enormous farm. “Found a Peanut” took me from a rotten nut all the way to playing a harp in hell, Dear Liza nagged on and on about “The Hole in her Bucket”, I caught dozens of “Baby Bumblebees”, and “The Wheels on the Bus” went round and round and round and round and…
Sweets to the Sweet
Up to this point in my parenting I had opted not to give Kacey sugar, in any form. No soft drinks, no cookies, no M&M’s, just a healthy little girl who was happy eating fruit and veggies. So, as the Wheels on the Bus went round and round and tried to coax her to sleep, I was the one who drifted off… and woke at sunrise to find my baby girl face down on the tent floor, deep asleep in a self-induced sugar coma, encircled by a rainbow of wrappers from eating an entire BAG of Starburst she had discovered in the suitcase. An ENTIRE bag.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears (and your washer)
When Kevin was tiny, we went to Gatlinburg on the absolute cheapest vacation possible. Our plan was to hike, fish, swim in the river, grill our own meals and sleep in the two-person tent… yeah, all four of us. It really had to be cheap because we had no money. I mean, we had NO money. If we had, you KNOW I would have hired a team of dogs to sniff out the nearest Marriott, but there was absolutely no wiggle room in the budget.
My “shoot from the hip” husband didn’t want to make reservations. After all, we were just tent-camping. We’d “wing it” and find a perfect place. My IOP protested (that’s Internal Organizer Person). She screamed inside my head, “NO!!! We have children and I’m neurotic about spontaneity if it’s not properly scheduled in advance.” But I played along, mostly so I could say “I TOLD YOU SO” later.
We went in June. I mentioned Gatlinburg, right? And 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 spot to camp… and at 11 p.m. we finally found ONE open site.
Out, Out Damned Spot!
The spot we got was on the trail to the bathhouse, so every person who walked by woke Kevin, who at 18 weeks old, had one skill: screaming. And he showed of his talent all night long, every night. Kacey was forced to sleep at a 79-degree angle with her head above ours and her feet in my kidneys. Did I mention she was a kicker?
The following night our car broke down, and I was left on the side of the road for three hours with two hungry kids while Greg dealt with mechanics and tow-trucks. Three hours of “Mama, I’m hungry” from one, and wailing from the other. At least the screamer could use me as his personal vending machine. I quieted the other with a stick of Trident.
Paying to repair the car meant the travel budget had now crossed over into credit card territory. We caught no fish. It rained. And a tick the size of Bora Bora embedded itself into Kacey’s cranium.
By the time we left, we didn’t even have enough money to do laundry, so we made a bee-line straight for Mom & Dad’s house. When we arrived, I placed Kevin on their doorstep. I rang the bell and ran back to the car, leaving a note on his chest that read, “My family is destitute. Will you please feed us, give us a dry bed, and let us wash our dirty laundry?”
At the end of our “vacation” we were frustrated, beyond broke, and taking home a child with a serious lymphatic infection.
Our clothes, however, were spotless.
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