Friday, November 11, 2011

Well, that was just ridiculous: Aug. 10, 2003

One of the most consistently bewildering experiences of family life is the fun-idea-turned-disaster. Everything from art projects and playground outings to cooking and shopping for shoes has the potential to devolve, with dizzying speed, into chaos.

So yeah, definitely plan to go camping with the children. That's a great idea.

Do we know how to have fun,or what?
    Hey, you know what’s fun? Camping. Sleeping in a little tent in the dirt, eating hot dogs that are burned on the outside and raw on the inside, searching for a place to pee in the dark in the woods in the middle of the night. Yep, camping is fun.

    You know what else is fun? Storms. I love the way they send rain horizontally against the house and knock down trees and take out power lines and provide helpful hints about where those leaks in the roof are. Storms are terrific in every way.

    You know what’s the most fun of all? Why, camping in a storm, of course! There is nothing like it. You should try it. We did, and, boy oh boy, was it fun!     

    It started with a simple, yet fun, idea. "Hey, let’s go camping," I said. "Camping is fun! We could take Jack and our friends, and they could bring their sons, and we could all camp together. Wouldn’t that be fun?"

    My husband, who is a lunatic, thought that was a super idea. Our friends, also lunatics, agreed.

    "Yes," we all cheered. "Let’s take our 3-year-old sons camping in the woods and sleep in tents in the dirt and eat hot dogs that are burned on the outside and raw on the inside. FUN!"

    I picked a weekend for this fun activity. The weekend I picked, according to the weather-predicting people, would be hot with a chance of scattered rain. That is what the weather predicting people have been saying every day since 1947.

    "Good news!" I told my lunatic husband and our lunatic friends. "There is a chance of scattered rain. Scattered is not very much. Let’s go camping!"     
    "Yea!" they all said. "FUN!"     

    So we packed our large, family-type vehicles all full of every single thing we own, wedged our children and ourselves inside and headed for the Hiwassee River in Polk County (county motto: Your Cell Phone Won’t Work Here.)     

    The campground I chose is one with beautiful old trees towering above and a lovely little creek meandering behind and a picturesque collection of bathrooms with hot and cold running water and flush toilets nearby.

    "I love this campground," I told my husband. "It has such pretty trees and such a nice creek and such close potties."

    "Yes," he agreed. "This will be fun."

    We all unloaded everything we own from our large, family-type vehicles, set up a big old tarp to stand under in case it rained, and fired up the grill so we could burn some food that would nevertheless remain raw in the middle.

    The three boys found a pile of dirt and sand and immediately crawled into it and began applying it directly to their faces and hair. We set up our tents, tossed the kids some juice boxes and parked our large, family-type behinds in folding chairs.

    "This sure is fun!" we all said.

    A helpful stranger-person wandered through our campsite and remarked that he’d heard a storm was passing to the north but was unlikely to do much but sprinkle us.

    "Did you hear that?" we all said. "We’ll get sprinkled. That will be fun!"

    It did, indeed, start to sprinkle, so we got under the tarp. Then the wind started to blow, and we all laughed and said how camping sure was fun. Then the rain got sideways, and the wind blasted us with flying sticks and leaves and rocks. We grabbed our kids and dove for our family-type cars.

    We sat in our family-type cars for quite a while — at least 17 hours, it seemed to me at the time. We drew pictures in the condensation that formed on the windows. I crammed a towel into a leak I hadn’t known existed in the passenger-side door seal. Raindrops the size of peach pits battered the car. Then the hail started.

    You’d think it wouldn’t hail in July, but you’d be wrong.

    "Honey, you sure can pick a weekend," my husband said.

    When the storm let up a little, we put on our raincoats and peeked outside. All around us, the lovely old trees had crashed to the ground, missing our tents by inches. The meandering little creek had flooded, leaving half the campground under water. And the power and water were out, so the helpful managers of the campground locked up the potties for the night. And all the local roads were blocked by downed trees, so we couldn’t leave.

    Not that we would have left. No way! Camping is fun!

    We cleaned up our flattened campsite and started a fire. Our friend Bill ripped branches off a tree that had fallen approximately 1 centimeter from his tent. "At least there’s plenty of firewood," he said.

    We had a giant campfire and sat in our wet folding chairs and ate marshmallows. The boys discovered that their sand and dirt pit had become a mud pit. Even better!

    Then an ambulance came to get a guy who had been under a tree when it fell. Our sons got to see fire trucks, flashing lights and actual emergency people in full gear, which they enjoyed immensely.

    I felt kind of guilty about how much fun they were having at the expense of the poor, under-a-fallen-tree guy until someone informed me that his injuries were "serious but not life-threatening."

    Well! In that case! Here’s to camping!

    Yep, camping is fun.

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