The Third Day of Camping

On the third day of camping the adults all lounge in chairs talking while the teenage cousins play a card game and the younger cousins construct a branch fort nearby. The air is warm and cloud cover prevents anyone from feeling over heated. All the scheduled events of the family reunion are over and departure is not imminent. Relaxation is the name of the day. The third day of camping is why I enjoyed going to these extended family reunions.

Of course I can not start with the third day. If I could then it would all be the third day. Instead I must manage the first day when I arrive at an unfamiliar place full of unexpected risks. The kids make me anxious, not by doing anything wrong, but merely because they are inspired to do new things and go new places. I lose sight of them and have no idea where they’re likely to have gone. Did they heed the siren song of the creek despite the warnings to stay away from it? Did they “go for a hike” and lose themselves in the woods? Did they wander into the neighboring campground among people who are complete strangers rather than the familiar-to-me extended relatives who are still strangers to them? My mommy radar ratchets up to full-gain and I don’t sit still much. The first day also has the setting-up-of-camp, the sorting-of-responsibilities, and the joyful-greetings-of-relatives-long-unseen. The first day isn’t all bad, but it certainly isn’t restful even when it tries to be.

The second day of camp is scheduled. There are planned activities and events. This is when all those cousins of four different generations gather and try to create a common feeling based on biological relation and shared laughter. Challenges are issued and met. Games are played. The management of these things requires emotional energy and enormous quantities of tact while trying to cajole the sometimes-reluctant participants. I fall in the sometimes-reluctant category. I can see the value of building family identity, at the same time I prefer a more observational position. I glide through the reunion, touching lightly on the activities, appreciating the enjoyment around me, and keeping track of my younger two children whose activities in camp have just begun to develop predictable patterns. I can now trust that their definition of “stay in camp” is in near accord with mine.

Like the first and second days at camp, the first and second nights follow. I never sleep well on the first night, thus adding a haze of fatigue to the second day. The second night is always better, a fact which I chant to myself in the wee hours of the first night when I snap awake yet again. The bugs and dirt seem to peak about the middle of the second day, then I become accustomed and stop minding. This is good because collecting cups full of inchworms manifests as Gleek’s favorite camp activity. Inchworms are collected and set free constantly. It becomes a pattern and I know that when she’s gone from sight, she is likely at the inchworm hunting ground behind the restrooms. Link and Patch spend more time in camp, tethered there by the fact that Grandpa brought his iPad and DS3. Batteries only last so long before they must be charged, then the boys ping around the camp not sure what to do with themselves so far away from their usual pursuits. By the second day they begin to discover activities. Patch borrows a pocket knife and whittles at sticks. Link helps to build a fort, has a water fight, plays cards with cousins. The first day I hear constant complaints of boredom, by the third day no one is bored anymore.

Howard and Kiki join us on the third day. They come then because they are finally free of the obligations which kept them at home. Howard heads home soon after delivering Kiki, but Kiki falls right in with the third day of camp. Because the rest of us have achieved that over-tired relaxation she is able to skip lightly across boredom and join us in mellow. It is good. We luxuriate in a long slow afternoon and then climb in the car to go home. This trip will not teach us about the fourth day and beyond. Perhaps another time. For now I will imagine them as extensions of the third day, although I suspect that by the fifth day there would be a new phase wherein everyone is oh-so-ready-to-be-done-with-camping-now.

The afternoon of the third day of camping is lovely. I shall have to visit it again sometime.