Journal for Christa—
Just the slightest whiff from the pine trees reminds me of camping—not camping now, but camping when the kids all lived at home. The first Christmas in Denver, everyone received sleeping bags that Jay had found on clearance at a local sporting goods store. In those days we did “wild” camping on public land, which meant we hauled everything in and hauled it all back out. It also meant we were totally alone, and it was totally free.
It didn’t matter what a foul mood anyone happened to be in; it melted away once camp was set up. Everyone got along when we were camping. Joel liked to get up early and build the fire. That worked for me. And, it took a whole day of my reminding the kids that we weren’t in the city, so they didn’t have to shout.
Last summer at the cabin, I saw Chris and Mel talking out on the deck, staring up at the starlit skies. I threw on a jacket to join them. They were reminiscing about camping as kids. All the wond’rous stars had reminded them. We’d while away our camping days with Jay and the boys fishing, while the girls and I read and embroidered. No one ever complained about what I cooked. They were always hungry, and after all—we were camping. Besides, it was generally hot dogs.
Now, camping wasn’t always idyllic: it invariably rained. But, it was the thing we did together. (We also cleaned the church together each month; though good for us, it never had the same effect.)
We eventually moved from the van and a little tent, to a big tent, and finally the tent trailer; and the days of wild camping are long gone. I think I realized things had changed the year that Mel and I joined Jay and Chris on a long weekend hunting trip. I’m not sure if camping had changed or if we had changed. We were on private land at a hunting club the guys belonged to. That first morning before Jay and Chris set out from the trailer, Jay informed me where he’d put the pistol. He’d never left one before.
Change is, indeed, a part of life, but each family still must find the things that build their unique bond. For us it was camping, and the smell of the pines makes me glad it was.