I learnt this summer that when I say I’m keen to go camping, I need to a) check if it’s me talking and/or b) factor in at least 3 weeks to pack the car. I am new to the notion of Family Holidays and therefore a little vulnerable. Camping, as a version of Family Holiday, seems to be to be the worst kind of baptism of fire. I used to travel the world, with a backpack small enough to fit in a glove compartment. I was absolutely horrified this August by the amount of things I needed to put in the car before I left. I even considered buying a minivan.
The crux of the problem was that I had chosen to leave on a weekday morning, robbing myself of Frank’s military precision when it comes to any kind of family outing. Floundering alone, it took me literally 5 hours to get ready. In the old days, I would have been in Greenland by then. It didn’t help that for every item of beachlife that I removed from the car, Olive and Bill would pass me on the way back to the house carrying exactly what I’d just taken out a minute before. We were like a line of dwarves, whistling as we worked, carrying the same spades back and forth to the backdoor. When I finally managed to thwart the production line, the kids took it inside and emptied all the sandy buckets into the cracks of our wood flooring. It was then that I started to get that wide-eyed look.
At around lunchtime, I drew a line underneath preparation, and just started driving. I was lucky I remembered the children, I was that harried. Now for a 5 hour drive with no DVD player because I’d punted it into the road tripping over the boogieboard that I’d already removed 5 times. We made it to Castlegar Airport, 20 minutes down the road, where both children needed an immediate bathroom break. I misread the entrance roadmarking and therefore did 5 loops around the Airport trying to find the way in. The kids thought I was being a fun mum; clearly they couldn’t see the reds of my eyes. I unpacked the kids, fake-calmly, and sprinted to the bathroom. When we sprinted back out again 3 minutes later, I had a parking ticket. That 96 year old man in the airport who issues the tickets? He’s faster than you might think.
I have hazy memories of our fun family holiday journey. Somewhere in there were 7 hours’ driving that should have been 4, I think mainly due to the 38 bathroom breaks an hour that are necessary to the under 5s. On bathroom break #9, I lost concentration for a second, and helped Olive pee straight into the undies around her ankles. The spare shorts that I’d packed for her were an early item into the car, and had 4 hours’ of camping equipment lying on top of them. When we finally arrived at the campsite in Penticton, an entire day’s drive from our home, apparently, I got out of the car and my flip flop snapped.
I don’t really like camping. I know in Canada that’s equivalent to stating, out loud, that you think Wayne Gretzy is over-rated. I realise I’m sticking my neck out. But the truth is, I hate bugs, I hate lying in a too-tight sleeping bag wondering if a bear is about to rip through the centimetre of canvas separating us, I don’t like s’mores (there, I said it), I don’t enjoy using glacial arctic lake water as a bath substitute, and I especially, above all other things, hate packing the car. I do like Wayne Gretzky though.