A while ago, a good friend offered to lend our family her camping trailer. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I enthusiastically accepted the offer, and reserved a spot in Carpinteria.
As the date loomed closer, I realized that I had made a fairly significant mistake. Thinking of all the supplies I was going to need to bring, and the hours spent in a small trailer with four young kids, made my already horrible anxiety, well, more horrible.
I know that, at best, my kids can last two hours playing on the beach. The rest of the time was going to be spent in a trailer. What. Was. I. Thinking?
My husband rarely takes time off of work. I mean, it’s impossible to get him to commit to taking more than two days. So when I thought of what I had to do (ladies, do you hear me?) to get Brian to agree to THREE days, it seemed unfair that I was setting myself up for a hot, dirty non-vacation that would entail much whining and arguing and no mints on my pillow.
I don’t see camping as being one of those, “Try it, you’ll like it” things – more like, “To thine own self, be true.” And the truth is, I like electrical outlets. If we’re going to go somewhere for three whole days, I’m going to need some room service. I can enjoy the outdoors, but there is a reason God made me a 21st century human, and not a vole or something.
So, as was probably always in the cards, I canceled the trailer reservation, and booked a few nights at a beachfront hotel. I am not even going to apologize for how extravagant that is.
This is not my first aborted camping “adventure.” When I was 13 or 14, a friend invited me, and a third girlfriend, to her church’s beach campout. Protestants do that kind of thing. I had never been camping, it was just for one night, and the beach was local. I excitedly packed a suitcase, dug out my sleeping bag, and went. I think we drove there in the church van.
As soon as we got to the beach, anxiety set in. We didn’t know anyone, and a lot of the “youth group” was older than we were. Some of the “leaders” had brought guitars, and we knew what was coming – homemade, teenaged worship songs, sung dramatically and off-key. At some point, we realized we were actually going to have to sleep in tents on the beach. The sun was setting. Jesus was not going to save us.
Maybe we should have given it a chance, and stuck it out. Maybe we should have introduced ourselves and tried to make friends. But instead, we hatched a plan to slink away to the restroom area and make a hurried collect call to someone who could come get us. We thought, for a bit, about who we could call. Surely, my friend’s parents would have encouraged us to stay – so they were out. My other friend’s parents would have been irritated. My mom was busy with all my younger siblings, and had probably already told me, in an attempt to get me not to go, that if I insisted on attending, I was stuck there until morning. There was only one person that we knew, for sure, would be willing to drive the getaway car, no questions asked – and that person was my dad. We placed the collect call, and when I told my dad that there were boys in the group, he said he’d be there as fast as he could. He didn’t ask to speak to an adult. He didn’t demand an explanation. He just said, “Okay.”
We crept back to the camp, and quietly sat and waited for my dad’s cherry red Thunderbird to roll up. He must have sped the whole way, because it wasn’t too long before he arrived, honked, and we ran to the car. The group leaders were confused, and asked what was going on (our intent to flee was on a need-to-know basis, and, apparently, we did not believe that the adults in charge of us needed to know.) As we ran off, we yelled, “We’re going home! Gotta go! Bye!” We jumped in the car, and we were free. We felt so safe, even though we had never been in more danger than we were flying down Hueneme Road, windows down, Fine Young Canidbals blaring. We had been saved. I felt high.
When we got home, my friends’ parents had already called my mom. The camp leader had called, and informed them that all three of us had left with a strange older man in a fast car, and left most of our camping stuff behind. I’m sure they were all pissed, except for my dad, who was the savior of the evening, and relished the fact that he had delivered us from almost certain male predation AND bad worship music. Despite our shenanigans, my friends’ parents let them stay the night at my house. We ordered pizza. We hung out with my neighbors (boys.) We had fun. So much more fun than if we had stayed on the beach. To this day, I am sure of it.
And knowing that my dad would bail me out, no questions asked? I’ve never forgotten it.