Monday, September 17, 2007

Sleeping with the Earth Beneath

A certain "cheeky little Brit" as my blogger pal, Linda the dispatcher referred to this young lady (I loved that description of Claire, makes me giggle every time I see that) posted something Sunday night that brought back some memories to me. She was talking about her recent camping expedition and the "dark of night" when one is out in the wild or boondocks camping.

I'm not a big camper type person. Ok, I enjoyed it. Back around 1978 I think it may have been, I purchased a tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, cooking equipment for camping, a special "camper's light," folding table and some camp chairs through a special sale J.C. Penney's had that summer. This was prior to my ex and I splitting up and I though perhaps camping might possibly be a fun thing for the kids -and also for he and I - to enjoy, heck, maybe even reconnect. That camping gear, sad to say, got used exactly one time for a weekend when the kids and I camped out at a state park all of about 8-10 miles from where we live. The kids liked it well enough. So did I. The ex - well he decided he wasn't about to interrupt his weekend schedule of carousing the local pubs, hustling the femme fatales (there's a joke for ya) that haunted those places by sleeping on hard, lumpy (rocky) ground. Over the next couple of years, the kids did use the tent a few times by pitching it in the back yard and have a sleepover/camp out there.

The tent got destroyed somehow or other a few years later too while set up in the back yard. Someone (or perhaps something) came through and just virtually sliced it. Either a bear, possible but not really probable in my book could have clawed it but as my next door neighbor said after she and her husband looked at it, it really looked more like someone had come through with a knife and just made slashes in the tent.

So for many years then, that put an end to any possibility of the kids and I doing any serious camping cause I couldn't afford to purchase a new tent.

In the summer of 2002 though, several of my cousins were expressing a desire to camp out at the little local park where we always held our family reunion. I talked about this to my daughter Mandy and her husband if they thought it might be interesting, fun for us to camp out there too perhaps with several of our cousins. They thought it would be ok so I went shopping for another tent. I lucked out and found a decent sized one that all of us would fit into and the weekend of our reunion that year, we camped out at the park with several other cousins along with my older daughter, her then husband and the older grandson. We really did enjoy that experience too. Enough so that we planned to camp out at future reunions then.

In 2003, my son-in-law pitched the tent but that summer, I didn't partake of the camping experience as I'd just had surgery a month earlier (colon resection) and somehow or other, about 2-3 weeks after the surgery, my back went south on me. Tests revealed I had two herniated discs and was having a terrible time with that issue, recuperating from the surgery and well, overall, I was just a royal mess that year.

In 2004, the step-granddaughter and I camped out at the park. My daughter and son-in-law were going to try it but Maya was just a baby then - about 10 months old - and she refused to settle down in her playpen in the tent to sleep that night, so Mandy packed their stuff up and returned home that night. Surprisingly enough, for all the back problems I'd endured in the previous year, sleeping in a sleeping bag - no air mattress under it - on the hard ground actually didn't bother me any more than sleeping on the mattress on my bed at home. So, when the reunion of 2005 rolled around, I decided I was going to camp out again.

Mandy said she wasn't even going to think about trying to sleep in the tent that year with Maya, so she and Bill planned to come back to the house after the activities of the day wore down. I don't remember where the step-granddaughter was that year - maybe it was her weekend at her Mom's or something because she wasn't there. But the son-in-law pitched the tent for me and I was going to spend the night alone in it. There were two tents there - one, a cousin from New York state and her husband and the other was my cousin from Maryland's son, his nephew and his son. So I wasn't "alone" at the park, just alone in the tent.

Cousin Brett, after having managed to calm the two younger boys down, got them settled in for the night, and I sat around a campfire he'd built, talking about lots of things we both remembered about family and such. Remembering his grandfather who was the last of my Mom's siblings to pass and who my kids had loved dearly. That uncle had a roller skating rink in Maryland and every year, I always managed somehow to scrounge up a little extra money so we could go down there and spend usually two days visiting with him and his wife. The kids would spend the time skating in the rink and my uncle and I would sit up till 4 or 5 a.m. drinking coffee, smoking, talking about his past. It was a wonderful time for me as my uncle would share stories about the way things were when my grandparents were young, raising their kids, the hardships they all endured and just generally sharing lots and lots of memories.

So, Brett and I kind of did a re-enactment of sorts of the conversations I'd shared over the years with his "Pops" and in doing that, we also indulged in some liquid refreshments but not the caffeine stuff his grandfather and I had always had. No, Brett and I did this while sharing a couple beers. No, I didn't get tanked or anything like that. I drank two beers, knowing that more than that and my stomach wouldn't handle it very well, so I was quite well-behaved and sober.

About 1 a.m. or shortly thereafter, I decided to retire to my tent. Found my way in there, no problem. Got all situated in the nice little sleeping bag and off to sleep I went.

However, I forgot something that was often giving me issues back that summer. But I remembered it all too well when about 4 a.m. I awoke with a need to get moving, quickly too, down to the shelter building where the bathroom facility was located.

The problem though -and this was something I had not given a whit of thought to when I went to bed that night - when I am down whether it be on the floor, on the ground, whatever, for me to manage to get myself back upright, I have to have something to grab hold of to pull myself upright. The joints stiffen up, resist doing that task easily like they used to do ya know.

And in that tent, there wasn't a single thing I could find in the dark no less to grasp on to that would give me even the slightest amount of support to pull myself up!

I rolled around, trying to get on my hands and knees and thinking there had to be some tiny bit of a flap there someplace that would give me just a teensy bit of support to get up but it took me almost - or it seemed like - forever before I did find something above one of the tent "windows" that allowed me just enough to use to pull myself up.

Then, with no flashlight handy (being the total idiot I can be at times, I'd forgotten to bring that piece of equipment), trying to root around in the tent to find my shoes was yet another time-consuming task too. Finally, I managed to slide the old sandels on and made my escape from the tent, heading down to the building shelter.

There was a big spotlight on down at the shelter, so once I got outside the tent and moving towards the building, I did have some light then - kind of like the "north star" ya know - to guide my way over the rocky path. But it was not a fast walk because my gait has slowed considerably over the past couple of years. It wasn't an easy walk either because the path as mentioned above is somewhat rocky, also has a lot of tree roots and stuff there that one can easily stumble over.

I finally did make it down to my destination in time - well sort of. Try walking as quickly as you can, when you can't walk fast to begin with and try doing it all with a full bladder too. Not a really good combination.

To make matters worse, once I got to the bathroom and got situated, all that activity along with the myriad of foods I'd ingested the day before set my intestines into a bunch of turmoil too. So all of that made me decide once I'd finished up in the bathroom that I'd had it for the night with camping. I made my way back to the tent, found my purse, closed the flap tight and got in the car and came home. I figured if I had another bathroom call it would be much easier for me to roll over and off the bed, to get my feet on the floor than to try to get myself up and moving again.

The upshot of that whole episode though was that two days later, I awoke with virtually every muscle and joint in my legs stiff, sore, barely able to move at all! Apparently all that rolling around on the ground, twisting and turning trying to get myself up on my feet, had used many muscles not normally put into action and I spent several weeks going to the chiropractor after that to get my legs to functioning semi-decently again.

Needless to say, that was my last camping experience! At least, the last time I will camp out alone anyway or without some type of chair or some such item to have positioned in the tent to be able to grab in the event I need to get up and moving quickly.

Oh - and I'll also remember to bring a flashlight too if ever I do get brave enough to try camping out again!


Smalltown RN said...

oh the camping stories...I love them.....and yes the sometimes uncomfortable nights...the little ones awakening getting rained on...the trying to cook on a camp stove in the middle of a wind and rain storm....oh yes I love camping.....

lattégirl said...

I was fully expecting you to say you finally got to the bathroom and there was no toilet paper!

Shelby said...

oh my goodness - such an adventure!!

Dave said...

Jeni, you've made me semi-famous. I wrote a post about it. Thanks, I think.

Linda said...

Ah ... camping ... not my cup of tea and never has been! I'm afraid that my idea of roughing it is a hotel without an indoor pool!

Actually, I used to go camping a lot with my cousins when I was younger. They had a camp trailer, one of the pop-up canvass types, and spent almost every weekend in it somewhere. My aunt and uncle were gracious enough to let me tag along on many an occasion. It wasn't sleeping on the ground, thank God, but there was just something about waking up with everything damp every morning that never appealed to me.

One of my very last camping adventures with the cousins I ended up with poison ivy between all my fingers AND my toes from some misadventures in the woods. That was when I was in 8th grade, a very long time ago indeed, but I still remember the itching and pain to this day!

The cheeky little Brit can keep the camping!

Anonymous said...

Camping?? Without a hotel room and cable and the Internet and Wi-Fi? Who would live like that?

Smiles, Debo Blue

Theresa said...

you have quite a tent history and you tell it so fondly :)

My husband and I tented a lot when we first met when even the raunchy hotels were to pricey for us- although I still camp I will take luxury hotel with a spa anyday!

Patois said...

While I will admit to being slightly younger than you, I hear you loud and clear about the aches and pains and "wee" morning wee. Up until two years ago, I spent four or five nights a week during the summer camping in a tent pitched in the backyard with my kids. Two years ago, we bought a pop-up camper. Now I spend four or five nights a week during the summer camping in the pop-up popped up in the driveway. (Boy, what I've done to the values of our neighbors' homes.) I love, love, love camping. Can't get enough of it. But definitely only in a camper for the remainder of my days.

Your post cracked me up. (Sorry to laugh at your expense, but not entirely unexpected on your part, right?)

Jeni said...

It was one of those things that at the time it was happening -my last camping venture -it wasn't funny at all then to me. However, the next morning, when I reappeared at the building for breakfast with the cousins and they were asking where I'd gone, in telling what happened, it became funny. I do make fun of my aches, pains, issues getting up from the floor once I get down there and have to make sure I have something to grab hold of in order to get my old bones upright again. So no, I don't mind at all that you got a chuckle or two perhaps out of the story. That was the intent to poke fun at the whole event.

Posolxstvo said...

Camping is a great way to punish someone over the age of 30 and a great way to reward someone under the age of 25.

A couple of years ago we pitched a tent in the backyard and the kids and I slept out there, but it was hot and stuffy and no one could settle down and there were roots in our backs etc etc. By about midnight, we were all running for our beds. All except the youngest, who was POed that we weren't staying outside.

The last time I camped that I remember enjoying it, I must have been about 12 and we had a TV on a long extension cord and watched Benny Hill all night.

TomCat said...

Cheeky Brits are all well and good, but watch out for the redheads. ;-)

Dave said...

A quick camping story. Decades ago I went canoing with my cousin who was, and still is, a bit older than I am. He should have been more responsible, but alas.

We rented a canoe on the Betsy River in Northwestern Lower Michigan and they took us "up river" to a point that was to take us two days to get back to the livery.

We stocked up on all of the important stuff.

One, a case of iced down, cheap beer.

Two, chips and some ham, cheese, bread and other picnic stuff.

Three, eggs, bacon and Sterno.

The first day went well. We drank cheap beer, munched chips and sandwiches.

We scoped the river for camping sites. We found the perfect place on a bluff above a bend in the river.

By this time the beer was not well iced, though its alchohol content was not diminished. We spread our sleeping bags and started a fire.

The moment the sun went down, the mosquitoes arrived. Have you ever spent the night in a sleeping bag with your own personal warm six pack of beer zipped against the hordes? Don't.

We tried throwing more wood on the fire, it attracted the bastards. Lighting the sterno didn't help.

At daybreak, without any sleep we through our provisions in the canoe and shoved off for civilization.

Oh, I'd forgotten to say that we didn't know who canoes and paddles worked. We learned that morning. We were a paddling machine.

We arrived at the livery at about nine, six or seven hours ahead of schedule.

I'd have never made a pioneer. We threw out the eggs and bacon when my mother told me not to bring it into the house.