Not a Happy Camper

You know what would be a good idea? If we spent the night under a tarp with people we hate and then we can all sleep in body bags, fermenting in each other’s odor, providing feast for infectious insects and incubators for their young. And if we are really lucky, we will wake up moist after a night of aggravatingly catchy out-of-tune sing-alongs still seeing spots and eardrums throbbing from the storyteller who had to blind you with a flashlight while screaming and jumping around to compensate for the lack of actual plot suspense in their fireside tales.

No, it is not! Who ever instated the tradition of family camping trips should be held down, severely paper cut, run over by a lawn mower and then tossed into a baby pool of feasting piranhas, because that is how they make me feel.

Luckily my family is now what I would call Eddie Bauer outdoorsy-with all of our twenty-first century gear, we might as well be rolling the woods in a little, plastic climate-controlled bubble taking pictures. We stay in 21st century (made to look rustic) cabins with running water, electricity and doors we can close on each other. Sporting terrain-appropriate hiking boots and rain repellent garb, my little park ranger mother never allows us to enter the scary dark forest null of bug repellant, bear whistles, toilet paper, sanitizer, water-purifying kit, ponchos, snack rations, a week’s supply of water, a machete, collapsible food preparation station, flare, tranquilizer gun, pepper spray for “all the rapists” she seems to think lurk within and, of course, the infomercial-worthy bottomless fanny pack that manages to fit it all, and will be the cause for my hip-replacement.

But, there was a time, in their youthful parental ignorance when they tried to cling to the nostalgia of their own childhoods and impose their corrupted view of fun upon me. I was so scarred I have yet to face family camping trips again. I’ve gotten invites over the years from friend’s families offering to take me camping, and I always respectfully declined because, well, in all honesty I would rather eat hot pockets and watch VHS tapes of bird watching all weekend.

It was August 1999, a sweltering month when the units loaded up the four door Saturn like it had the capacity of an RV and wedged me onto a booster seat of stale hot dog buns. Prone to carsickness, I swayed, pale-faced upon my throne of generic brand camping food for the whole trip down to Arkansas, actually appreciating the frequent stops my parent’s un-synched urination schedule allowed. We arrived at the campsite at dusk and in my parents’ fury to set up before dark, they really sacrificed quality set up. Tired from traveling, we only did the bare minimum to get the site ‘functioning’ and then hit the hay, or in our case, the disintegrating 12-year-old sleeping bags that felt like lying in wall insulation. I itched my soft skin as I fell into dreams of the adventures to come, or tried to, but unfortunately the serrated rock bed my dad pitched the tent on was making that difficult. I now assume he did this on purpose so I would be awake to hear the rabid raccoon assaults on our tent. While little devil boys might find this appealing, to a six-year-old girl who’s hyper-allergenic skin was inflamed, was sleeping on a bed of rocks and just recovered from her fear of gremlins, it is cause enough to be launched into a full tantrum of psychosis. Just as I was about to scream, “How could you be sleeping?” to my ‘parents,’ a flash of lightning erupted and a boom shook the ground as rain began to pour into our Dollar Tree tent. My parents frantically packed up the gear as I sat in the back of the car soaking wet, gnawing on soggy marshmallows and wondering if this trauma could get me a pony. Never again.

SPOILER ALERT: I also have strong feelings towards conventional  fishing methods. Yes, this may appear to be a Kodak moment, but the real Kodak moment came minutes later when pole was in tree, Dad was caught in line and I was in the stream catching fish with my hands! I am sure Mom would have photographed that if she was not too busy untangling dad.

“Lindsey catch fish, rawwwwrr.”


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