Monday, June 3, 2013

the memory we (almost) missed

Danny often takes the kids camping without me so that I can have an entire weekend of uninterrupted study time while they make memories together. He's a hero! But over Memorial Day weekend, we had planned to go as a whole family. We all love camping. We love the fresh air. We love the trees. We love hiking and biking, resting and reading, playing games and sitting around the campfire. And when we get to do it all together, we're delighted.

But three days before our trip, Danny hurt his shoulder playing basketball. He collided with another guy, heard a "pop", and groaned in pain. By morning the pain was still pretty intense, and Danny's right arm was basically useless. He got on the internet to see if we could cancel our reservation. Sigh. It's hard to find a long weekend that works for all 5 of us and even harder to find a decent camping spot on a holiday weekend. What should we do?

We decided to take the plunge. If we left the bikes at home, we could still camp without so much heavy lifting. So we went. And, boy, were we glad we did. The weather was ideal, the scenery beautiful, and the kids cheerful. We played round after round of our current favorite: Monopoly Deal. We spent hours around the campfire, watching the flames. We went for a short hike, during which Easton spontaneously launched a frisbee off the cliff into the river, prompting a daring rescue by yours truly.

On Sunday morning, Danny checked the forecast and then broke the news. "We're supposed to get a major thunderstorm tonight," he told me. "Starting at 3:00 there is a 30% chance of rain, and that goes up to 60% by 6:00. It's supposed to rain all morning tomorrow, too, right when we're packing up. Should we pack up early and go home?"

I was bummed. Nobody likes to pack up in the rain. Everything would have to be set back up to dry when we got home. But I wasn't done yet. I wanted more games. More campfire. More hiking. More downtime. We decided it made the most sense to go home.

But then, a couple of hours later, about the time we'd need to start packing up, I had a thought. All the best camping memories I have from childhood are when something dramatic happened. Like the time when Dad's truck slid off the highway, or when it got stuck in the middle of a river, or when it got hung up on a rock, or when it barely fit on the narrow
mountain road with a steep cliff on one side. Or the time when it was so windy that Dad was afraid the trailer would blow off the mountain so we packed up and drove home in the middle of the night. If we avoid the rain, will we be missing a memory?

And so we stayed. It rained a little, but then it stopped and the sun came out and the air was fresh and clear. We decided to take a hike while we had the chance. Partway through the hike the clouds moved in again and it started to sprinkle. We picked up the pace, but kept going farther down the trail because we hadn't seen the waterfall yet. Just after we got there, it started to pour. We trudged back through wet grass and muddy trails for about a mile in the pouring rain. By the time we got back to the van we were all soaked to the skin. Our shoes squished and squeaked. Our clothes clung to our bodies. And everyone was happy.

It rained again the next morning, precisely when we were packing up our pop-up camper. The kids stayed dry in the van, but Danny and I were soaked again. As we pulled away from our camping spot, I saw some other campers wearing rain ponchos. "Now there's a good idea!" I said out loud. We had forgotten our umbrellas, but ponchos seemed even more practical. And then it dawned on me. We have ponchos, too . . . safe and dry in our camper! So we laughed and made a mental note for next time.

When we asked the kids later what the highlight of the weekend was, it was unanimous: The "rain hike." We did the same hike a year ago and the kids complained the whole way. This year they giggled and splashed and spurred each other on. Memories are funny things. We can be so intent on trying to make them "just right" that we miss them altogether. In this case, I'm glad that a busy schedule, an injured shoulder, and a dismal forecast didn't stand in the way.

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