Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Old Green Tent

Ken was getting ready for his annual fall fishing trip to Bishop so I thought I’d set up the old green tent, get it cleaned and spiffed up, and see if there were any holes that needed to be sewn up. While I was working on the tent, and seeing it sitting empty outside most of the day, I had some time to think about the history of the tent and the memories we’d made over the many years we’ve had it. Sweet, cherished memories.

While it might sit with nothing inside, I walked inside the tent smelling years of campfire smoke, treasuring the stains of the Sierra Nevada, hearing years of family laughter, remembering the dreams, fishing stories, a love story and whole lot more. When Ken came home and said not to bother myself with hauling the tent upstairs to sew the torn pole pockets, I told him he was crazy. I can’t bear to part with stuff with sentimental attachments; a place where I fell in love, where one of our children first lived in the “garden” of my belly, and where our little family of 4 slept under the heavenly stars of the Sierra Nevada so many times. Just toss it in the trash? No, no and no!

I think I first met the old green tent when Ken and I were dating. He asked me if I’d like to go fishing for a long weekend and I quickly said yes. I had grown up camping; but then camping to me was in a camper and a campground, so I figured why not? Ken was a serious backpacker and fisherman so he didn’t think much about the need for a campground. It wasn’t until I had already said I was all fired up to go that he told me we’d be wilderness camping. Ok. So you mean no potties? No showers? Nope, sorry Jodes. Ok, breathe. In and out. Always the adventurer, always excited for anything new, this sounded like fun. I just had one problem.

For the next week before we left I sat wondering how long I could go without peeing or pooping. Then I decided I’d have to pee but wondered how long a person could hold their poo. I’m a person who can’t even poo in a public restroom so I was obsessed and worried. All Ken had was a shovel. Oh. My. Gosh. And he had packed a lot of good food!

We left in the evening after working all day at Hughes Aircraft and drove the 5 hours to the Eastern Sierras. The first night we were just going to sleep in the back of the truck since it was so late but we’d have to pull our things out of the back. When I came around the back of the truck there was a big present on the tail of the truck bed Ken was excited to give me. “Here, Jodes. Open it. It’s for you.” It was a huge awkward box, but inside was a flushing port-a-potty. It was love. I fell simply, madly and totally in love. In love over a flushing poo parlor under the stars in the Eastern Sierra.

Now when I walk inside the old green tent I still remember the night under the stars and falling in love over the flushing port-a-potty. The next night, and the rest of that trip we used the green tent and it saved our lives from what I remember about almost being killed from a herd of killer jackasses. Ken doesn’t think they would have killed us but when I was going to run screaming in the pitch dark for the truck, he’s the one who held me down and kept his hands very tightly clamped over my mouth so I couldn’t make a sound (or breathe). Wilderness camping! It’s a good thing he brought a lot of good wine. Whew. Killer jackasses. He hadn’t warned me about that.

When I’m standing inside that old tent it’s hard to imagine how all 4 of us and our gear all fit as our little family grew. Those are irreplaceable memories; darling, sweet, tender nights falling asleep under the stars with Daddy, Mommie, Sissy and Sam all snuggled so close. If you haven’t ever camped in a cramped tent with your family, you need to do it now; there is nothing more divine. Singing silly songs, Daddy dropping fish candies into everyone’s mouths, stargazing, reading by flashlight and being lulled to sleep by the beautiful sounds of the water and the wind in the trees.

There is a romantic element to the cramped tent too. To this day, Ken and I still zip our sleeping bags together. What could be dreamier than snuggling all night, warm under the crisp, cool Sierra skies with the man you love? There is no comparison to the feelings of being loved, safe and secure and then looking over and seeing your children sleeping peacefully next to you. Just a second…elevated sniffy goo moment.

Life is always hectic and full of work, school, sports and a variety of activities. Vacation has always been an occasion for us to reconnect. So, we zip ourselves up together and snuggle. It’s always been a time for our little family of four to be cocooned as one in a simple manner of togetherness. Tent camping has always fulfilled that need for us. It removes all the things in life that cause stress and takes us to where there is raw beauty, joy and peace.

Inside the empty green tent I thought about friends asking for advice about marriage and parenting. We didn’t give our children a lot of useless stuff; we gave them a lot of our time. Good parenting is exhausting; thus the need for vacations and the well used tent. Children are always watching and soaking up behavior. Close tent quarters were a perfect time to teach by example how to be a loving and tender couple.

We’ve spent a good deal of quality family time which has enriched our children, our family and our marriage. We’ve shown our children what a family is intended to be so they have a proper model as they go forth as young adults into families of their own one day. Sadly, a lot of children aren’t getting that education. Parents are forgetting this simple task. They are teachers and role models of what a wife and husband are, in addition to what a mother and father are. Are you mindful of the way you are living your marriage in the presence of your children (young or adult) every single day? If you have overlooked this in your quest pay the bills, remodel, carpool, cook, clean, and work, it’s not too late. A role models job is never over. You might need a tent after all. You are going to be exhausted, I promise.

Happy Camping.