The Dangerous Housewife's
In our case, family camping is a bit like the chicken
and the egg. Did we start camping because we couldn't afford the more traditional
American vacation (hotels, planes and Disneyworld)? Or because it seemed
like a fun thing to do which had the fringe benefit of being cheap? Whatever.
Barring some isolated disasters (referred to in our family as "interesting
moments"), our camping trips are the highlights of our days.
We've learned some important lessons along the way. Bring
more than one pair of shoes, for instance. This was found to be a good
idea while hiking after a rainstorm, and my then-six-year-old son noticed
that he was walking shoeless. After a frantic and time-consuming search,
we found his shoes buried under six inches of sticky mud, several yards
from where he first noticed them missing. Holding the slimy pair gingerly,
we climbed down an embankment to wash them off in an innocuous-looking
stream . . . which had a sneaky and tempestuous undertow. The shoes loosened
from our grip: we watched helplessly as they were carried downstream, never
to be seen again.
Then there was the time we left the tent door open. To
this day, the person responsible claims that it was not a careless act,
but rather a deliberate one, whose purpose was to air out the tents (just
as easily accomplished by unzipping screened windows, mind you).
The sky was getting dusky and we all smelled a bit of
woodsmoke. The beginnings of a campfire intended as our dinner's grill
made the air hazy; we moved slowly with the unhurried ease of satisfaction
from a long day's peace. Suddenly, a noise.
"Daddy! Something's in the tent!"
"No, it's just the rustle of a squirrel's tail,"
my husband replies poetically.
"No, Daddy! Squirrels' tails aren't black with white
We look at one another, our eyes growing larger and larger.
We fight the urge to scream in unison like some ridiculous cartoon, "SSSSKKKKUUUUNNNNKKK!!!!!"
Heck, we are a living, breathing cartoon.
"What should we do, Daddy?" my daughter
"Nothing!" my husband snaps in a fierce whisper.
We glance with peripheral vision towards our tent, as
though looking through the sides of our heads will somehow lessen the chances
of confronting the skunk. What we see is not a skunk, but three
skunks: a mom and her babies, settling in for a last-minute power nap before
that evening's forage.
The mom circles the inside of the tent, much as a dog
does while seeking just the right spot to settle, and finally plunks down
amidst the puffery of the sleeping bags, her babies similarly comfortable.
A long, very long twenty minutes later, she rises, refreshed. Her
babies are nudged from dreamland and they saunter daintily out of the tent.
In one last act of nonchalance, Mama Skunk stretches mightily, then yawns
gustily. I could almost swear I see her wink at me, as she continues on
her way, followed by the babies, out of sight.