Writing my last post about going to day camp and sleep-away camp also got me thinking more broadly about camping. When I was a kid that was the main thing we did on summer vacations, despite my desperate dislike of bugs, outdoor toilets, and getting my hands (much less my body) dirty. Though I complained at the time, I have a rosy glow of a stream of summers driving in gorgeous New England mountains, swims in lakes in New Hampshire and Maine, and picking blueberries at our campsites to go into my mom’s pancakes made on the propane stove. Meals camping also included Hickory Farms beefstick, a summer sausage which my mom would fry up instead of bacon with eggs for breakfast, instead of bologna for lunch, and, well, I’m sure we had it for dinner, too, in lieu of something!
Perhaps the most Norman Rockwell camping trip was in 1969, when my dad and mom and younger brother and I sat amidst dozens of other families one night at our campground watching on a small T.V. screen as men walked on the moon for the first time. It was fitting that we were not isolated, each family in our own home, but out there under the stars, from all over the country, in community.
One of my last family camping memories, dragged along at 14 or 15, was to Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada. There was a gorgeous park with a huge bowl of grassy lawn where I hung out with other similarly parentally-inconvenienced teenagers. I developed a huge crush on a long-haired, guitar-playing, soulful older boy (I’ve always been a sucker for musicians) and created an elaborate fantasy of how we could see each other after summer was gone, since he, too, lived in Massachusetts. Of course he was completely clueless and of course I never saw him again, but decades later I’m still unable to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young do “Love the One You’re With” without thinking of him.
When was the last time I went camping, anyway? Perhaps it was in Taiwan in my early 20s. I traveled with a friend Chen Chiung-ling from Taipei down to central Taiwan where she had friends in college. We hiked around some beautiful scenery but the most amazing thing about that trip was the amount of food they carried and the feasts they prepared just on campfires.
I didn’t take my son camping when he was growing up, though I gave him opportunities to do so with others. He wasn’t a fan, though he has become very outdoorsy as a young man. Good for him. But he accepts the fact that as far as his mother goes, the closest I get to camping is staying in a motel instead of a hotel. Because I’m just not a happy camper.