We made a list last winter of things we wanted to do this summer. Last summer was very busy; in between moving to a new home and my job responsibilities we ended up without a lot of time for summer fun. Since I am an organized person, I instigated the creation of a list of fun activities for this summer so we could be sure to do them all. We added baseball games, a trip to the beach, blueberry picking, time at the pool, canoeing and other fun, classically summer activities. Since this is a family list, everyone's ideas made the cut. One of the items our daughter added was camping.
My husband and I are not exactly what you would call outdoorsy kind of people. We like hiking if it's done on trails and we can get back to our starting point in a few hours. We have done a little kayaking here and there, mostly on flat water. He camped a few times as a child with cub scouts and later with his school. My childhood camping experience was limited to a rather miserable camp week when I was ten, after which my mother wisely switched me to the indoor music and drama camp. As a couple we've been camping exactly once in our marriage; about ten years ago when we spent a weekend in West Virginia to learn some whitewater kayaking basics. I remember liking the kayaking and being ok with the camping, but we never made an opportunity to go back. After my deployment sleeping in a tent seemed much less enchanting anyway.
Our daughter has been wanting to camp for months though. She has a Curious George book in which the mischievous monkey goes camping and through his antics extinguishes a forest fire. Since reading this story she's been making periodic requests to go camping and we told her we would. After all, we've done it before and it seems like such good, wholesome family fun. Our first thought was to camp in one of our local county parks, but after giving it some more thought I decided our backyard was a better place for our first try. I had visions of a hyper almost four-year-old bouncing up and down all night in the tent, or becoming frightened, or otherwise causing us to need to beat a retreat.
So Friday afternoon we set up the tent in our backyard. We don't have much backyard since we live in a townhouse, and about two-thirds of what we have is taken up by a wooden deck. Fortunately we had just enough space for our small two-person tent in the tiny grassy area between the edge of the deck and our fence. We unrolled our sleeping mats and set out our sleeping bags and once the sun finally around 9pm set we all crawled into the tent. As expected, our daughter was hyper and silly at first, excited by the novelty and wanting us to tell her what the shadows moving over the tent were (moths, I think). She settled down after about forty-five minutes and fell sound asleep, somehow managing to sleep on a diagonal between my husband and I and commandeer half of the 50 inch width, leaving the two of us huddled up against the sides of the tent with about foot each to sleep on. My husband managed to fall asleep fairly quickly while I tossed and turned on ground that seemed like rock, not the thin mat over grass and sod that I knew I was sleeping on. I finally managed to doze off when my husband woke up and got out of the tent, waking me in the process. When he didn't come back after about 30 minutes I went inside and he told me it was too hot and he couldn't sleep. July in Virginia is like that, I suppose. Even at midnight the air is close and damp. I couldn't face going out there alone and trying once again to get comfortable. So we went back outside, picked up our sleeping daughter, zipped up the tent to keep bugs out, and tucked everyone into bed inside the house. Our camping adventure lasted just about three hours.
Reflecting, I think that if we had dared the campgrounds we would have been okay, and we would have stuck out the night. Having the house so close was just too much temptation. So I think I want to try again. There is something enchanting about sleeping in a tent. I liked watching the tree shadows move against the sky through the mesh top of the tent. I liked the drowsy croak and call of the frogs. I liked snuggling in next to my daughter and husband, all together for one night. Next time we'll try a campground. Although, perhaps with a slightly larger tent, a slightly thicker sleeping mat, and during a cooler time of year.