Thursday, August 9, 2012

And That’s Why We Have Something Called "Indoors"

In the far recesses of my long-ago memory, I fondly remember camping with my family. I was a wee little Sassyfat in those days, not even a big sister yet. We camped at the beach and in the mountains, and the activities always involved stuff like hiking and fishing. To this day, the musty aroma of tent canvas and pungent aroma of bug spray always make me smile. I loved camping – when I was too little to be expected to carry stuff, help pitch tents, cook anything, or clean up the campsite. When I was just a tiny little tagalong whose only job was to stay within sight of my parents, camping was a whole lot of fun.
Sometime between then and now I became firmly entrenched in my role as an indoor girl. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to go outside from time to time – weather permitting. But I've grown rather attached to the modern conveniences of the great indoors. Like air conditioning in the summer and central heat in the winter. And refrigerators. And microwaves. And indoor plumbing. And, for the love of Pete, television. My general idea of roughing it is staying at a motel that doesn’t have a pool. I’ve reached a point in my life where I can proudly self-identify as an ardent non-camper. Or can I?
Last Fall, El joined the Girl Scouts because she wanted to go camping. Seriously, that was her whole reason for joining. I had misgivings about her desire to go camping, but I fully supported her desire to join the Girl Scouts. I figured it would be a good after-school activity for her, help her form relationships with other girls her age, teach her some valuable life skills, yadda yadda yadda. I was hopeful when the service unit director said at the intro meeting that troops pick their own activities and there is no requirement to go camping. I was thrilled when her troop leaders declared that camping was most certainly not on the agenda. After all, the troop was full of 2nd and 3rd graders who were parented mostly by other indoor people like me. Score!
Fast forward a few meetings. One of the troop leaders had gotten wind of Girl Scout Night with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. The event included game tickets, access to the play area and bumper boats, dinner, a campout in the outfield, and breakfast the next morning. For reasons I will never understand, this event went from being an “Oh, by the way, here’s something to think about…” to “Woo hoo!!! We’re going camping!!” As the offspring of mainly indoor people, the girls in El’s troop were so excited about sleeping in a tent that this event became the sole focus of all their fundraising efforts. Somewhere between “Yay, no camping this year!” and Christmas, I found myself staring down the barrel of a night in a tent on a baseball field with a couple hundred Girl Scouts.
Girl Scout night was originally scheduled for early June. Praise Jesus Unfortunately, there were severe storms that night and both the game and the campout were cancelled. El was profoundly disappointed, and like a good Mom I hid my profound relief as best I could. I didn’t even do a happy dance (in front of her) or anything.
Girl Scout night was rescheduled for late June. That night called for intermittent thunderstorms. The game was on, but the campout was postponed until August. El was again disappointed about the camping, but she had so much fun at the game that she managed to live through her disappointment.
She spent most of the game
pressed up against that railing...

...except for when she was testing gravity
in the play area
When August 3 finally rolled around, I have to admit: I kinda hoped that Mother Nature would let me off the hook once again. But she did not comply this time. August 3 was a typical late summer day in Maryland: hazy, hot, and humid with Code Red air quality and repeated warnings to stay indoors. Turns out typical summer temperatures are not enough to get you out of a Girl Scout campout. Damn! Since there were no thunderstorms in the forecast, the outing proceeded as scheduled.
Since the game portion of Girl Scout night had already happened, the campout was scheduled for a non-game day. I was actually happy about this because it meant that we would have a chance to pitch tents in the outfield before midnight. Yay, silver linings! The gates opened at 6:00 p.m. and the girls were given free range over the play area and bumper boats for almost three hours. A good blogger would have taken lots of pictures to share here, but the battery in my phone was just about dead and I wanted to have the ability to contact the outside world for as long as possible. Let it suffice to say that El and the other three girls from her troop who came had an absolute blast. Surprisingly enough, the other two moms and I had fun, too. And there weren’t even frozen adult beverages to be had.
When it got to be about 8:30 or so, the stadium let us bring in our gear and start setting up our tents. I was armed with Good Ol’ Pops’ 2-man tent, two sleeping bags, and more pillows than I could carry without looking like a caricature of an overburdened pack mule. (There’s only so much comfort I’m willing to sacrifice here.) Luckily, Good Ol’ Pops had insisted Lilly and I practice pitching the tent before he let us leave his house with it, so it only took me 45 minutes or so to figure it out in the dark there at the ballpark. I thought I would be sharing this small space with El, but one of the other moms brought two 6-man tents. The four girls slept in one, the other two moms slept in the other, and I had this baby alllll to myself.
All set!
The first hour or so after lights out went like this:
Girls: *whisper whisper whisper* *giggle giggle giggle* *fart joke* *uncontrolled laughter*
Moms: Girls! Shhh! It’s time to go to sleep.
Girls: But we can hear other troops talking! They’re lucky! Why do we have to go to sleep?
Moms: We said shhhh!
Girls: *muffled laughter as the oversized shadows cast by the lantern in their tent reveal that they are having an arm wrestling tournament*
Moms: Girls! We said it’s time to sleep!
Girls: *barely stifled giggles* Oooookaaaaaayyyy!
Et cetera. The whispers and giggles died down little by little as each of the girls drifted off to sleep. Each of the girls, that is, except for El.
El: *Zzzzzzzzip* (stage whisper) Mom! Mom! I’m thirsty!
Me: You’ve had four cups of water tonight. That’s enough! Time to sleep.
El: *sigh* Okay. *zzzzzzzzzip!*
Ten minutes later….
El: *Zzzzzzzzip* (stage whisper) Mom! Mom! I have to pee!!!
Me: *sigh* Ok, let’s go.
Off we toddled across right field and up the stadium stairs to the ladies room. Then back down the stairs and across right field to our tents. Thanks to the four cups of water El had had earlier in the evening, we did this little walk two or three times before she finally fell asleep around 1:00 a.m. I was so tired I thought I’d drop right off too, but no such luck.
Did you know that when it’s 90 degrees outside with 75% humidity and there’s no breeze and you don't have a bed, that sleep is hard to come by? And that tents don’t come with air conditioning?? The hot, sticky discomfort was enough to make me check the clock, I swear to you, like every 30 minutes throughout the night until I finally fell asleep – just before dawn. I think I got in a solid hour of sleep before it was time to tear down the tents and go home.
It’s been a week since that fateful night. I’m still recovering. El, on the other hand, has told everyone who will stand still long enough how awesome camping is and that she can’t wait to do it again next year. And like an idiot in the interest of trying to get this Mommy gig down right, I’ve already started talking myself into chaperoning again. Camping might not be something I enjoy, but it's worth the occasional sleepless night to see this little girl so happy.  
Seriously, how can I say no to this face?

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