My two intrepid daughters, along with their four daughters, have gone camping. It’s not their first venture into the wilds of Ontario—safely within the boundaries of one of our beautiful provincial parks, of course—but every time they do it, I’m taken back to my own long-ago camping adventures with my girls.
The first long weekend of the year would arrive at the end of May, and with it our annual rites of spring, traditions that heralded the soon-to-be-arriving summer holiday season.
On my way home from the city on Friday evening, I would notice the heavy volume of traffic on the highway, as several thousand commuters made their way north to cottage-country. When I’d drive into town on Saturday morning, I’d see throngs of customers at the local nurseries and hardware stores, stocking up on garden tools and materials to aid in the spring planting.
I’d see friends and neighbours on my street—washing windows, trimming hedges, cleaning cars, and emptying garages of all manner of paraphernalia and junk. In fact, I’d even manage to do a few of those chores myself!
But my major task of that first long weekend every year was to open up our camper-trailer—a pop-up hardtop with canvas-covered wings that slid out from each end. We had picked it up from its previous owner on the weekend before Labour Day one year (right after our final camping-trip-in-a-tent ended in a downpour that washed us away).
We had spent the next week cleaning it out and learning how to pack it most efficiently for its first outing on the final long weekend of the year. As luck would have it, however, the weather was extremely cold and wet for Labour Day that year, and we never did get away. So, in early October, I backed the trailer up between the garage and the fence, and locked it for the winter. And there it sat until the blooming of May.
Mind you, I wasn’t all that keen to open it up again, so early in the spring. I’d have been quite content to wait for some pleasantly-warm day in July. I was outvoted, though, by my two daughters, who desperately wanted to get inside it, to explore all the gadgets, perhaps even to have a sleep-out.
“A sleep-out at this time of year?” I exclaimed. “No way! It gets too cool at night. Camping is for the summer holidays when it’s warmer.”
“You and Mummy used to go camping on the twenty-fourth of May,” my eldest responded.
“Yeah, you told us about it,” piped in the youngest. “You said it was a lot of fun. And all you had was a tent!”
“Yeah, and one sleeping bag!” the eldest added for good measure.
I had to admit, they were right. It had been fun in that one sleeping bag.
Anyway, despite some futile, token resistance on my part, they got their way. All that remained was for me to ready the trailer for its first occupancy. Alas, that proved to be no mean task.
I had parked it tight to the fence so no intruder could jimmy the lock on the door to get inside over the winter. I had also jacked it up on four lifts. When I lowered it to the ground again, I discovered both tires had gone soft. Consequently, I spent about twenty minutes with a hand-pump, inflating the tires to their proper pressure.
Ten minutes later, just after I moved it into the driveway, I found one of the tires had gone soft again. So, I spent another half-hour removing it and installing the spare. Of course, it was soft, too, and had to be inflated by what was now an extremely-exasperated father.
When, finally, we were ready to open the door, I couldn’t find the key. After I wasted a good few minutes rushing to and fro, fussing and fretting—a period punctuated by vile imprecations—my wife remembered I had left it in the glove compartment of the car. Upon retrieving it, I happily inserted it into the lock (which seemed to have grown somewhat stiff since the fall), and broke it off when I tried to turn it.
At that point, as I recall, the girls diplomatically withdrew into the house while I tried to rearrange the fundamental structure of the trailer by kicking it!
Eventually, of course, I did get it opened up. And the girls gleefully set up their beds inside, despite my feeble claims that they’d be cold.
“I guess it was worth all the fuss,” I muttered sleepily to my wife, as we lay in bed that night, my bruised toes throbbing. “At least the girls are happy. They were determined to have that sleep-out.”
But, as you might have guessed, somewhere around three o’clock in the morning, two very cold little urchins crept into our bed and snuggled up real close.
I expect they’ll be doing that very thing with their own daughters this week, snug in their tents under a starry, summer night.
I, needless to say, shall be at home in my bed!