Not only did M. Peevie and I survive in the woods, with the ticks and poison ivy and bears, we thrived. We dipped deep into our personal wells of fortitude and pulled out full buckets of Hey! This Nature Thing Isn't So Bad After All!
Except for sleeping on a plastic mattress supported by (and I use that term "supported" so lightly that it is practically floating off the page like a magician's assistant in a levitation act) an ancient metal cot with tired springs that hammocked to the wooden floor when I laid my substantial rear end down.
And except for the bathroom being 50 yards away, up a steep, be-rooted path, in a wooden structure that housed four sinks (three in working order, one encrusted with bits of nature), four toilets in plywood stalls with no doors, some outhouse-esque odors, and a variety of peeping tom insects that clung to the wall directly in front of my face as I sat on the pot.
I felt like a regular outdoorswoman as I crawled, shivering, into my rated-for-20-degrees-Fahrenheit sleeping bag and waited for sleep to take me to a warmer climate. The mercury dipped to 48, and I wore long pants and several layers of shirts, plus a polartec vest--but still I shivered. Not enough body fat, probably.
My little city girl did way better than I did. She felt no cold as she slumbered in a pair of thin PJs in the platform tent, and she even swam in the lake, not seeming to feel the icyness of the water. I think maybe 8-year-olds don't have nerve endings.
The first night I stayed up until almost 4 a.m. talking to one of our camp husbands. The girls had gone to bed hours earlier, and one by one the moms gave up and went to bed also. But NatureDad had some interesting stories to tell, so he poked the fire and talked while I asked questions and listened.
I was almost ready to call it a night when NatureDad asked me where I grew up. "Northeast of Philadelphia," I told him.
"Really? Where?" he asked. "Where were you born?"
I was born in a hospital in Abington, I told him, but my family lived in another suburb.
"Abington Memorial Hospital?!" NatureDad asked, amazed. "You're kidding me! I was born in that hospital, too! My mom worked there for years!" All of his stories had been about growing up in Florida, so I was not expecting this small town connection. (As of the 2000 Census, our little suburb had a population of just over 31,000.)
Then he asked me what town I lived in, and when I told him Warminster, he almost fell right into the fire. "Shut UP!" K-Daddy said. "That's where I lived until I was nine!" I am about ten years older than my camp husband, but we had similar memories of running wild in the woods, catching crawfish in the creek, and going to the same Dairy Queen for Buster Bars.
"I have never met anyone from Warminster before," he said; and neither had I in the 32 years since I moved away. I finally crawled into bed at around 4 a.m.--and then my tentmate woke up and talked for another half an hour.
When reveille sounded less than three hours later, I thought I might actually die. And yes, they really did have a VERY LOUD recording of reveille that sounded like the bugler was standing right next to my pillow. I almost said a bad word.
But being the good Girl Scout mom that I am, I hoisted my tired self up out of the Cot of No Support, got dressed, grabbed a cold Diet Coke, and went to breakfast. After French toast and sausage, M. Peevie and I went boating on the lake. She chose a rowboat, and we zigged and zagged our way across the tiny lake to a small island, where we explored, peed in a crouching position, and discovered dozens of snail shells, some empty, some occupied, on the beach.
I opted out of the free-time hike in the woods, and instead took a free-time nap. I slept right through lunch, but got up in plenty of time to watch M. Peevie enjoy archery, horseback riding, and tie-dying. Later, the girls gathered at the lodge for dancing, games, and make-your-own-sundaes, while the moms and dads wall-flowered and sipped adult juice boxes.
Again with the late night fireside chats on Saturday, this time until 2 a.m. with another mom from our troop. Most of the moms are way younger than I am, but I can put the youngsters to shame when it comes to burning the midnight oil. Just don't ask me to look like a supermodel the next morning. I look more like Maxine.
I was having a conversation with Nature Dad, who built and tended our campfire that first night. He loves everything nature-y, and hopes to escape the city and return to the mountains where he can get Colorado Rocky Mountain High. "Don't you hate the city," he asked me, "Don't you get tired of all the concrete, pollution, noise, and everybody being so close together?"
"No," I told him. "I love concrete."
He thought I was kidding, but I was glad to get home to my neighborhood, my sidewalks, my city, and especially my own bed. It builds character to make nice-nice with nature now and then; but I'm a city girl in my heart of hearts.
How about you?