Parents in the Wild


Uk and Ukette, 2016

Uk and Ukette, 2016

Camping was invented when Uk the caveman said to his wife Ukette, “Honey, let’s go on vacation. We’ll sleep on the ground, roast unidentifiable meats over a campfire, drink questionable water and battle dangerous wildlife.”

“But we already do those things.”

“Yeah, but now we’re gonna pay to do it.”

This ancient tradition not only has survived, but thrived through the ages. When our children were young, my husband and I packed our tiny Plymouth Horizon to the roof. Driving while astride sleeping bags and camp stoves, drowning in water toys, and surrounded by disposable diapers and packages of hot dog buns, we escaped to state and national parks. Unfortunately, clans of mosquitoes, yellow jackets and spiders scheduled family reunions at the same time.

As did every lightning bolt in North America.

My husband and I raised metal poles to the roiling nighttime sky while the tent’s wings flapped like an angry pterodactyl’s. Finally succeeding, we religiously kept the following nightly ritual:

  • Midnight:  Raindrops plop through the tent roof — mass Chinese water torture.
  • 1 a.m.:  Children pop up in my damp sleeping bag like mushrooms.
  • 2 a.m.:  Family death marches commence to the nearest outdoor john.
  • 3 a.m.: Steve and I share tender marital moments bailing out with Happy Meal sand buckets.
  • 4 a.m.:  We retreat to the car, sleeping (sort of) in pretzeled layers, periodically whanging noses on the steering wheel.

Inexplicably, our children wimped out of camping togetherness as teens: “Please let us stay home and mow the grass!”

Fearful for their sanity, we complied.

SteveHikerAs new empty nesters, however, Steve and I reminisced about hiking through verdant, sun-dappled forests. Canoeing silvery green lakes. Snuggling near a campfire, shy stars peeking through a gossamer cloud ceiling above.

Why did we let bored kids keep us from doing what we loved? And why miss out now?

Two-adult camping would be so simple. No more potty-training sprints to mile-distant restrooms. No more explaining the behavior of amorous groundhogs to six-year-olds while wishing for more personal romance sans a tentful of little roommates. No more arranging schedules in and out of the wilderness to accommodate Little League tournaments, band camp, or a first date with Mr. Awesome.

Steve and I could camp together. Alone.

I pulled out a faithful old iron skillet and my most raggedy towels. I bought Sandies Pecan Shortbread cookies, my beloved calorie splurge from camping years past (the kids wouldn’t touch them).

Munching away, I said, “Hey, Uk, want to go camping with me?”

He dragged our ancient tent from the garage. “You got it, Ukette.”


4 thoughts on “Parents in the Wild

  1. Doris Kelly

    I used to love camping… before I stayed in a motel. I have so many tragi-comedic stories of camping with my parents and my 5 brothers and sisters that I would love to write them down. But I am afraid I’d be killed in my sleep by the other 7 people. And I’m sure they would tell plenty of stories on me in retaliation. I can tell one– we used to stay in Harrisville State Park in Michigan. The one site that my dad approved of only had one flat spot big enough for 2 tents and the plastic breezeway my mom erected between them. It was low and they were suspicious but there was no rain was forecast for the night so they thought they were okay. But we got a bangeroo with wind that almost blew us into Lake Huron and it lasted allllllllll night long. My dad always put plastic drop cloths under each tent and when the storm raged, a puddle filled each cloth and our tent floors became waterbeds before they were invented. Moms nicely pinned (with Clothes pins) breezeway flew up and down and all the pins disappeared into the air. It came down and covered the picnic table and our clean table and cardboard food boxes and then it blew into a distant campsite. By morning we were bedraggled rats. We moved to a different site, and Mom and Dad spent hours planning the purchase of a better way of camping with six kids. I never picked up so many clothes pins before from so many places. I even found some floating in Lake Huron. So that’s why I love Holiday Inn.

    1. rachael Post author

      LOL, Dori! Camping was exciting enough with five people, but eight?!! We’ve created our own waterbeds, too. Nothing like watching your kids float out the door 🙂 We never had to pick up clothespins, though. After that fun trip, I can see why you’re a Holiday Inn fan!

      Thanks for your comment, and may all your vacations go better than that one.


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