Aug 19 2008

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Backyard Campout

Posted at 9:23 am under Blog Post

This is where it begins: two tents pitched in the back yard on a warm, dry, late-summer afternoon. Immediately following dinner, five kids carry a bunch of stuff outside and fill the tents. Pillows, sleeping bags, extra blankets, flashlights, stuffed animals, playing cards, books and games – the sheer mass of it all is quite formidable. No matter. This is no backpacking trip.

Judy stays in the house to harbor anyone who’s too afraid to stay out there. The bigger kids have camped out before but this is the first time for John and Mason, the two 4-year-olds. We expect at least one of them to cut and run. I kiss my wife, take a deep breath then slip out the door. It could be a long night.

Everyone’s too excited to sleep, naturally. They marvel at the full moon just now rising into the night sky, then chatter excitedly while filing into the tents. “Zip up the screen door!” I yell to the other kids as I usher the youngest camper, John, into my tent. The mosquitoes are bad this year and the repellent they’re all wearing is only marginally effective.

Through the screen of my tent, I can see everyone in the other tent three feet away. They giggle, jump around and shine their flashlights everywhere. I settle them down a bit then read one bedtime story. My “no talking” rule goes into effect at 9 p.m. and “lights out” at 9:30. The giggling continues a while longer, until I threaten to send people in the house. By ten, all is quiet. A train rumbles past. A muscle car roars down a nearby street. A dog barks in the distance, but the incessant creak-creak of crickets gradually lulls my tired crew to sleep.

Potty runs into the house occur every couple hours or so. I remain ever vigilant, grabbing a few winks as I can. Shortly after sunrise, I’m the first to awaken. I quietly do a Sudoku puzzle while a warm breeze wafts through the tent and leaves rustle. A cardinal calls out, then blue jays, then robins.

One by one, my grandkids pop up like wild lilies opening in the spring. They awaken to the wild ever so slowly – all but the eldest one completely unaware what is happening to them. They’ve been exposed. In due time, my little campers will beg me to take them into the woods for a night or two. And someday I will.

It begins on a Sunday morning, with all six of us crowded into one tent, laughing and talking. Judy is up and fixing breakfast before anyone can drag snacks into the tent and make a mess. She and I are surprised that both of the two younger ones have taken to camping as well as they have. We see lots of camping trips in our future. All we need is another tent for her, the dog, and more stuff.

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