I cannot exactly figure out why we go camping. We compose lists of items not to be forgotten, (only to forget the flashlight), we listen to the relentless question from our 4 year old "Today? is today when we go camping?" This is the replacement question for "can we go camping at the beach?" It has been a quest-song for nearly 2 months. Writing that, now I remember why we are going camping. We were honed down as logical thinkers from months of rhetorical questions. I have let a 4 year old convince me it would be fun.
Yesterday we loaded up the Durango with tent, 2 blow up mattresses, 2 camp chairs, toys, clothes, bedding and bath items, small coffee pot, cookware, food for a week and no flashlight. We are going camping for 2 days. Never think an item is too obvious to put on the list.
My husband takes on the driving as it gives him radio control privileges. I cannot hear anything whatsoever because I have a new book and have been transported on page 11 into the story. Our son is settled in to the back seat with various items designed to keep "Are we there yet?" to a minimum for our 4.5 hour trip. All is well and the book is pretty good. I look up at the first "are we there yet"? so I can give a truthful answer. what I see is a big blue sign that says "Welcome to Georgia". Since we are camping in Murrells Inlet in Myrtle Beach this sign is not so welcome. We are almost 2 hours the wrong direction on I-20. There is no shortcut back. I will spare the details but Thank God Almighty for nap times for 4 year olds. When he awoke we were exactly back to the point we got off track, two and a half hours prior. There is no one in the car I do not feel sorry for. No, we are not there yet.
It is dusk going dark when we pull up to Huntington Island state park. Again we are greeted by a welcome sign that is nearly covered over by the no vacancy sign. This is not so welcome either. Seriously I begin to doubt my husbands salvation as I hear non christian verbage (and nounage) coming from his mouth. Twenty more minutes in the car is torture now but we break up the monotony with a victory cry when the illumination of the Dollar General sign looms ahead on Hwy 17 Garden City Beach. 3 flashlights and some tylenol and a pack of gum and socks later we are excited to be in the final 10 minutes of our prison on wheels. It starts to sprinkle small drops of rain.
we check in to a nearly packed ginormica camp ground and are given a sight near the bathroom. This sounds both great and logical as I sign the paperwork. As we find the sight, having circled the dark ginormica campground three times in search of "our" sight I realize the bathroom is lit up as a lighthouse beacon simulating daylight for all. It begins a steady rain. I walk back to the camp store to renegotiate our space. She kindly gives us the darkest on in the entire campground. At that point all the rangers have gathered around the glow of the weather radar screen. One pinpoint green dot of precipitation. Over the campground. I feel conspicuous now. I know it is over me. Rolling my eyes and blowing rain out of my dripping hair I mutter "Go figure" and nonchalantly head back out to traipse through the green dot effect. I get BACK in the car. We circle the campground entirely 2 more times to the irritation of those already asleep. We locate our pitch black hole and i am temporarily afraid that we will be sucked in to the dark never to return. I forget about this possible out to this impossible day as it begins to torrentially downpour. My laughter, not driven by joy, borders on maniacal. Having borrowed the tent, there is no familiar feel to the wet metal bars that fall into the mud. Luckily there is a picture of what it is supposed to look like and that has to suffice for instructions. I cannot wait for the rain to stop because I cannot stand sitting in the car for one more second. Our son deliriously cries that we are here! we are here!. It is too dark to know exactly where here is but yes, here we are none the less. In 30 minutes the tent is up thanks to the help of the head lights gracing 1/3 of the entire section of the campground we have been allotted between two large winnebagos. At 9:15 pm there is no way to start a campfire out of green wet wood. We eat cold hot dogs and tortilla chips, bananas and gogurts. Our 4 year old bounces in joy and says it is the best supper ever. I love him to pieces for carrying his positive outlook for this long. I now vow to stay with him on this. Tomorrow is indeed in sight.
The air mattress is also new as I bought it off craigslist just yesterday for fifteen dollars. It is awesome and actually the height of a regular bed with box springs. As I join my son in the tent for our dry cold dinner by flashlight I sit on the edge of the bed. Never do this unless you are in the circus. I realize too late that I have sat on air with a full plate of food. Seconds later I recover to squeals of delight from my son. My plate is semi-intact. My dignity far from it. "Do it again mom, that was funny!". Lucky for me my husband is still out muttering in the dark amidst the soft rain, trying to make a ham salad sandwich from memory, since he cannot see his hands.
Finally we are physically ready to release the day. Mentally it was gone hours ago. At 5 am I realize that the entire campground IS the flight pattern for the Myrtle Beach airport, now supporting jumbo jets bright and early...bright may be too optimistic there.
I lay in the soft darkness, remembering my prayer list and lifting up those I love and some I am not sure about but feel their burden, to the high court of powerful appeals. The soft breathing of both my husband and my son are the only sounds that filter through the air. Seamlessly the sun rises up the most beautiful morning. Coffee is brewed. Hot chocolate next. Fire brings about eggs and bacon, blueberry bagels, juice and yogurt. Our RV neighbors do not hate us as much as I had imagined the night before. The light of the day reveals that we are only 3 camp sight blocks to the beach...which we drive. We are not lazy but a 50 pound tired 4 year old will be heavy later on. The sky is a true Caribbean turquoise and it is 80*. We pile out of the car and our son hits 50 miles per hour on legs, failing to stop even due to the 65* water and the waves are screaming riptide. Actually I am screaming stop, riptide. He does and now I remember why we go camping. This beautiful day is why. The ocean is bigger than us and reminds us of God --wild and unpredictably predictable, and always there. "Look mom, magic shells!!" I agree, then back up and ask why they are magic...the answer is simply because they are so beautiful he says. I look at the beaten broken shells in his sandy wet hand. They are beautiful. I think they might be a lot like us. They became magic when they were noticed and appreciated.
With that thought wafting through my mind, my husband lays a perfect albeit lifeless monarch butterfly on these little pages of this now documented journey. The day may be fleeting but it is ours. Yesterday must have been the caterpillar. Today the beauty of a Monarch is laid in my lap.
I wrote this a couple weeks ago on our camping trip. I am sharing it here to remind me that sometimes even the worst part of a journey has its purpose. We are currently under review in the highest offices of DSS investigations. They do not make exception to their rule very often. I imagine very few people ask them to consider this request. I have a little more paperwork to gather tomorrow. Maybe that will be it. In the meantime we pray for Marina to remain healthy and patient and well out of harms way. I would hate for her to ever get to miss this family idea of a vacation:)