“Pumpkin, I’ve got good news, we’re going camping.” My husband of only three months excitedly informed me. Dread quickly overwhelmed me. “But Ron,” I told him, “I’ve never camped before.”
“Don’t worry, sugar, I’ll take care of everything,” he promised. “Look,” I sweetly said, “in my family roughing it meant sleeping with a window open at the Hilton.” We both laughed. I was dead serious.
For weeks he shopped and packed. I had never seen him so enthusiastic about anything. On the appointed departure date, we drove off with our camping gear tied atop our white Ford Escort. He was smiling.
I was in charge of reading the map and only three hours into our journey we were lost. “Okay,” I said, “Don’t get frustrated. I’m doing the best I can. Which way is East again?” “Sugar pie,” He patiently explained pointing with one hand and driving with the other, “North, South, East, and West. Didn’t you take geography in school?” “Sure,” I said, “and I got an A.” He rolled his eyes as if that was impossible to believe, pulled the car over to the side of the road and took the map away from me. Instantly, he solved the problem. “It would have been easier to follow,” he scolded, “If you hadn’t had the map upside down.”
Already tired and weary, we reach our planned camping site. “When you get away from the city lights it sure is dark,” I told Ron as we looked up at the stars in the sky, “I keep hearing noises and I’m kind of afraid.”
“Don’t be silly, muffin, we’re in the middle of nowhere. Do you think a chain saw murderer would come all the way out here?” “Of course not,” I lied.
At sunrise, he walked to the lake to do some fishing and I headed to the showers. Upon returning to our campsite he found me in the tent crying. “Why aren’t you cleaned up, yet, honey bun?” He inquired. “There are bats hanging from the ceiling in the shower.” I sobbed. “They won’t bother you, muffin,” He said.
The second night it rained and our air mattress turned into a life raft. We decided to move to a new location.
Ron chose a scenic spot by a steam for our picnic. It was warm in the sun and I decided a dip in the water would refresh me. Slowly, I began wading into the stream. Snakes, snakes, and more snakes, gathered around me, their beady eyes watching my every move. I walked on water. Once on the bank, I yelled for Ron. Upon closer inspection, he assured me, “Nothing to worry about, cookie, those are just little water snakes.”
We stopped the car and pulled over, looking for a place to pitch our tent. Ron liked it, “Look, honey, we can camp here on the hill and in the morning I can catch you breakfast from that stream.” Either I was dizzy or the ground was moving. After my eyes adjusted, I realized the ground was blanketed with amphibians. “Don’t worry, cupcake, those newts are just migrating,” He said. I ran for the car and Ron followed. “I will not sleep with those things crawling all over me. Get me a hotel room, or take me home.”
After finding the only lodging within a hundred miles, Ron rented a little cabin for us. Well, I consoled myself, it may look slightly rustic, but at least I won’t be sleeping with the newts.
Ron went out to collect kindling for the fireplace, the shack’s only redeeming feature. I decided to crawl into bed to get warm, only to find it was already occupied by dozens of tiny arachnids. I took the pillow, brushed them away and crawled in.
The bear’s visit to our porch didn’t scare me too much. He made a lot of noise, but I knew he wanted the outdoor trash can and not me. At least the cabin had a locked door.
Around two in the morning, I heard scurrying. I tiptoed over to the light. When I turned it on, mice went running in every direction. I ran screaming and jumped onto the bed. Ron awoke with a start and reached for his hunting riffle, “What in the world in wrong?” “Mice.” I whimpered as I sat in the middle of the bed, my head covered with the blanket. “Don’t worry, cream puff, they won’t get on the bed,” he said, before he resumed his snoring. I shook him awake, “I thought you were Prince Charming, but I was wrong. You’re Grizzly Adams.” He pulled me under the covers and nuzzled me with his beard.
“I just don’t get it, dumpling,” He said over breakfast, “What more could you want. Fresh air, peace and quiet, and mountain streams full of trout?” He was invigorated by this adventure and I was deflated.
“We should have discussed this in pre-marital counseling,” I said, “I love you, but a lifetime is going to be a long time, if camping is involved. Oh, and by the way, STOP CALLING ME FOODS!”
Grizzly said, “Okay, kitten, I have a solution.” We drove into town and he bought me a lawn chair that he dubbed, “The queen chair.” He found a perfect spot next to a lake; put my chair in the sun and his manly camping chair next to it. “I am not putting that worm on the hook,” I complained as he taught me how to fish.
At dusk we headed back to town, “I won’t tell anyone that my trout were bigger than yours,” I promised. After a lovely dinner at a restaurant and hot showers at our hotel, I asked Ron, “If you still want to rough it I could open a window.” We both laughed.
Our twenty-eight-year marriage has been like that first camping trip. Learning to give and take, and working together to find solutions to our problems. There have been good years and bad years but we’ve survived.
Last year, we found a great compromise. A beautiful cabin near a lake and across the street from a day spa. Other than the moth invasion and the mouse incident, it was an almost perfect vacation.