Despite my best efforts to change the subject or feign deafness whenever he brings it up, my son still insists we go camping in our back yard. He thinks it will be fun. He thinks it will be exciting. I think he’s crazy. And I’m seriously questioning whether we are actually related.
My son had guilted me into backyard camping once before and he enjoyed it so much he’d been begging me to do it again ever since. Seriously, what is wrong with him? The last time we camped out, I’d set the tent up no problem in a spot in our yard that looked nice and flat. Turned out it was neither nice nor flat. I’d unknowingly oriented the tent so it was parallel with our backyard’s gradual downhill slope. Realizing too late I was in the uphill half of our tent, I spent the whole night trying not to roll over on him. Now that I think of it, I should have just let go and crushed him – he probably wouldn’t have thought camping was so great after that.
And I was naïve enough to think those nice puffy sleeping bags are enough to guarantee a comfortable night’s sleep. Apparently you also need some type of pad to sleep on so every blade of grass doesn’t become magnified to the size of a tree branch as your weight bears down on it all night long. Gravity can be a bitch. After that night I finally understood what that princess in The Princess and the Pea was complaining about. My son, on the other hand, despite having a lot less natural padding than I do, slept like a log. (Did I mention I think there’s something wrong with that kid?)
His heart was set on doing it again. But it was already fall and the nights were getting shorter. And colder. Winter would soon be here and that left me with three options: 1) Try to convince him that camping was now prohibited thanks to the federal government shutdown; 2) Invest in a seven-month supply of earplugs so I wouldn’t have to listen to him whine all winter long about not getting to go camping again this year; or 3) tell his father he owes my big on this one and just do it.
So we set the date on a Friday of a three-day weekend, giving me an extra day to recover and giving my husband a chance to take advantage of Columbus Day sales to try to make it up to me. I knew the key to any successful outdoor adventure is preparation, so we immediately set out to Target for supplies. But we decided to get what was only absolutely necessary – popcorn, beef jerky (my son felt this was essential for camping authenticity) and a DVD to watch on my laptop. And the most important supply of all:
I think the people pictured on the box are smiling because they know, come nightfall, they’ll be heading inside to sleep on an actual bed.
Yes, the queen-size air mattress was crucial to camping success. I didn’t care that the box indicated the mattress dimensions were too big for our tent. I was determined to cram it into the tent then blow that sucker up until I was sure no part of me would ever touch the ground during the night.
We also made sure we had warm sleeping bags and warm clothes to wear because the temperature would be going down to 40 degrees that night. On the plus side, that would keep my chardonnay nicely chilled. Don’t judge, we all have our own survival techniques.
My son and I then settled in to watch the DVD. We’d chosen Epic because neither of us had seen it before. It’s a story about a woodland area very much like the one bordering our backyard and it’s filled with all these little creatures, some of whom are evil. A human gets pulled into their world and then has to battle these now-giant bugs and critters to survive.
Looking back, that probably wasn’t the best movie choice considering we were about to spend the night at the edge of woods that looked an awful lot like the woods in the movie. Sure enough, there were plenty of nightmares all night long. My son, on the other hand, slept just fine.
When the bad dreams weren’t making me toss and turn in my sleep, I tossed and turned while awake, listening to the night sounds around our little tent. Sounds like screeching tires, car alarms and sirens. It sounded more like urban jungle than tranquil forest. Or at least like one of the few remaining patches of suburbia that hadn’t been bulldozed for development.
Unfortunately, those sounds were eventually broken by the sound of coyotes howling. I was shocked to realize we have coyotes in the suburbs and had no idea why they were making all that noise. Maybe they were upset by American Eagle Outfitters’ “no returns without a receipt” policy over at the mall.
Morning took its sweet time in getting there. After several false starts trying to roll my body off the air mattress and onto the ground outside the tent (okay, so modeling grace and dignity for my children is not my strong suit), I hobbled inside to get warm.
I figured our little backyard adventure would satisfy the camping bug for a while, but my son wants to know when we can do it again. Would it be wrong to request a DNA test?
No, that’s not a scene from the movie Gravity. It’s a picture of our tent in our backyard at night. But our house might as well be as far away from our tent as Earth is to Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (who would be excellent casting choices if my life were made into a movie. I’ve been told if you squint from a distance of 50 yards, my smile is a little Clooney-esque). They say in space, no one can hear you scream. You can hear plenty of screaming in our backyard. Just ask the neighbors.