Friday, October 27, 2017

Camping



The cool crispy air of last Wednesday morning reminded me of camping, something I’ve done only once in my lifetime back in 1968. A couple that we were friends with during the early part of our marriage went camping all the time. They had three girls and a slide-in pickup camper with a bed over the top of the truck and another small one on the side. The girls had tents. Camping was their main entertainment and always part of their vacations. I wasn’t an outdoorsy person, and Jim was a workaholic, so we had to be talked into it but talked into it we were…this one time.

Trap Pond is a State Park in Delaware, actually a cypress swamp, and it was the destination for our weekend camping trip. It’s a shady place on a huge pond that is large enough to be a lake. With grassy open areas it’s perfect for kids to play and families to gather. We had two very young ones, three and four years old. Bill and Donna’s older girls were to be our built-in babysitters. They had lots of experience with their youngest sister, Kelly, who was two at the time.

There was electricity at the Park so we loaded the truck with most of the comforts of home including my electric coffee pot, one of those Corning Ware things with the blue cornflower, a wedding gift of which I was especially fond because of who had given it to us.

Jim helped Bill load the camper onto the truck and then Donna and I loaded our supplies. Since all of us wouldn’t fit into one vehicle, we took our car and caravanned down U.S. 13, otherwise known as the DuPont Highway. Laurel, Delaware, about an hour away, was a straight shot. There we would turn left onto Gordy Road which would take us directly into Trap Pond.

I had been to Trap Pond before on school bus trips. I’m not sure if our bus driver was paid to do this but when the school year was over, he ferried his “kids” to Trap Pond for a day of sun, swimming, and fun as a grand finale to the school year and to kick-off summer vacation. Many other bus drivers did the same so it turned into a year-end event with most of our classmates there for the festivities. It was a beautiful park, but as a teenager that was secondary to the good times we had.

Donna’s girls wanted to set up their tents when we got there so we left that to the guys to help while Donna and I went to check out the facilities and the little store. For a camping area the bathrooms were in great shape, clean, with plenty of toilet paper, and two showers with hot water, a pleasant surprise. The site for the truck camper had electric and a fire pit but no water which meant that I would have to hoof it to the bathrooms in the morning for coffee pot water.

The girls got all their stuff settled in their tents and as the camper got cleared out, I noticed how narrow and tiny our bed actually was. Oh well, we were tiny, too, back then, and it turned out to be cozy, especially with Bill and Donna just above our heads. We yakked a lot and slept very little after playing cards and Monopoly and toasting marshmallows late into the night.

When Jim and I woke the first morning, Bill and Donna were already outside cooking breakfast over a charcoal campfire. They were old hands at this. Feeling guilty about sleeping late I hurriedly dressed and grabbed the coffee pot to make my water run to the bathrooms. Along the way, not remembering I was in a cypress swamp and still half asleep, I tripped over some tree roots and the coffee pot went flying. The pot itself wasn’t damaged at all but the little glass thingy in the lid was broken so the perking coffee needed a hand holding a paper plate over the top and even then some bubbly water escaped and ran down the sides. Eventually we had some coffee, and I had a memento of sorts of our camping trip.

Eric and Erica, our two toddlers, slept in the tents with the girls and from the looks of them in the morning, they hadn’t slept much either, but they seemed to be enjoying their babysitting duties, taking them very seriously. I watched as Deb and Pam each latched onto one of mine. Swimming was off limits unless all of us were watching.

That evening the Park was showing a kids’ movie in a big open air space with a bring-your-own chair or blanket for seating. As we settled in, a light fog descended along with droves of mosquitoes. We had brought repellent so I volunteered to go back to the campsite and get it. When I returned, everyone looked at me and said, “Where’s Eric?” I had no idea. Did he follow me? Yes, they said he was right on my heels when I left. Okay, I’ll go back and look, but there was no Eric. No Eric anywhere. And the fog was getting dense.

Jim found the Park Ranger, the movie screen blanked out, and all the people who had been watching went into action, flashlight beams thick as fireflies. Of course, my fear was the pond. Eric was a water baby just like me. Everyone searched for around fifteen minutes when Jim decided to go back to the truck campsite and look again. When he returned, Eric was in his arms, rubbing his eyes. Apparently, in my haste to get the mosquito repellent back to everyone, I had left the camper door open. Eric had climbed in, pulled a blanket off our tiny bed, and was soundly sleeping on the floor when Jim shined the flashlight inside. Everyone was so thankful Eric was okay, patting us on our backs with big smiles all around. With the fog and the mosquitoes, we all decided to do the movie another night. The kids were relieved since they had stayed up most of the night before and were just as tired as Eric.


The rest of our camping experience was uneventful, but neither Jim nor I found it to be our cup of tea so we never ventured down the camping path again. It became like many other things, a fond memory with a heart tug.

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