At first, in the wild, they clung together for safety, unsure what lay ahead.
It was our first time camping, just me and the urchins. Mom stayed home to enjoy the peace and quiet.
I knew we didn’t have a chance to convince her to join us, because of that night in our Florida apartment maybe 10 years ago. She’d woken up to use the bathroom, and was doing her business when she looked up, bleary-eyed, and saw a palmetto bug the size of a chihuahua glaring at her from the ceiling. Her screams woke me up, and though it wasn’t the main reason we left Florida, it’s fair to call it the multi-legged cherry on the sundae.
She’s been a little twitchy around anything with an exoskeleton ever since.
So it was just us out there, and what a swell time we had. It cost us all of $7 a night to camp there, with bathrooms and hot and cold running water within sight.
We collected shells on the Lake Erie beach, skipped stones over the waves, chased seagulls. Discovered the feverish grip of claustrophobia that can only be found in a tent equipped with three arguing children and a rainstorm.
Fortunately, I had things to set on fire, which as it turns out is even more distracting than television. Before it started raining, I made French toast and cooked up some Giordano bacon, then did some sunny-side-up eggs and toast for myself.
Maybe it was the Giordano bacon, or maybe it was the crash of the surf on the beach behind us, but these eggs were magnificent.
The state park had equipped each fire ring with an adjustable-height grill setup that made cooking over the coals a snap. You wait for some logs to burn down, and push the coals under the grate. Set a cast iron skillet on it to heat up, and off you go.
Lydia, Zoe and Jake agreed that it was the BEST EVER. Maybe it was the fresh air. Maybe it was the wood smoke. Maybe it was the tingling anticipation, as they ate, that at any moment a daddy longlegs could drop into their plate.
After a couple days of roughing it with the old man, they had turned into conquerors of all they surveyed.
It’s fair to say that I have been pondering ever since what low-hassle fare might be best suited for the fire ring. Next year, perhaps we can even convince Mom to be brave, and join us in the wild. Or maybe Watkins Glen.