Boggy Bottoms – Part Tres

Chapter 3

I haven’t locked my keys in my car in such a long time. A very, very long time. I’ve never locked my keys in my car in the middle of nowhere.

I’d like to tell you that I really handled this like a Champion of Calm Thinking.

But I can’t tell you that.

I panicked. I called Todd asking why he’d locked the car before he drove away. I had no answer to his question of why the keys were on the seat. I called my dad panicking even further. I spouted things like why me and stink in a bucket (I could have just said port-o-let…same thing). My middle children were watching this unfold. Of greater concern to them was the fact that their mom was about to check into Crazy Town. Keys? Eh. Mom going nuts? Um, that’s a problem.

After ranting on the phone to my dad for a few moments, he talked me away from the ledge and talked me into going down to the campfire to locate a wire hanger. I was pretty sure we could unlock it if there was a wire hanger in the camp.

There wasn’t.

There was, however, a smores skewer and a couple of dudes who know how to break into a vehicle in nothing flat.

Ten minutes after locating the dudes, a hammer, and the skewer, I was clutching my keys to my heart and handing my oldest boy his prized marshmallow shooter. Peace of mind was slow to return, but it began to creep back in. Gradually. [Sidebar: The Marshmallow Shooter was not the reason I needed to get into my car. There were a lot of essential items locked up for the night. We were going to need those. I may have mental lapses, but I’m not so attached to the PVC marshmallow gun.]

By this point, it was after 10 p.m. AG was not having anything to do with campfire ghost stories. Everyone needed a last stop at the port-o-potty. It was time to just accept our losses and hit the tent to decompress. I did head down to the fire briefly to say a heartfelt and humble thank you for the people who had pulled together to save me. And then we all walked back to the tent. Home sweet tent. It was a lengthy process trying to get everyone clean underwear and clean teeth. But we managed the backwoods version of both and climbed into our sleeping bags. AG was on the outskirts of the tent, watching Alvin and the Chipmunks on his iPod. Beloved was next to him, hunkered down in a brand new, orange sleeping  bag. I had had to talk her out of the Jr. sized Tinkerbell bag and I am so glad I fought that battle. Disney. Don’t even get me started. For half the price I got a larger, plusher, warmer sleeping bag. Tinkerbell, schminkerbell. Then there was me and mamasboy. 4 happy campers lined up in a euphoric row. We were all so happy to just be flat-out finally. I don’t think AG stopped a single time all day, for anything. He was going at 100% all day long. His neck was sunburned. The rest of us were tired, too. We said a prayer together, told a quick story, and in less than 15 minutes, we left the train whistles, cobwebs, non-flushing toilets, and key crises behind us and slipped into the slumber of our lives. I didn’t move all night. I slept like a well-trained baby. And because I DO learn from my foibles, I had reset my alarm for 7:20 and we slept until it went off.

At 7:20 Sunday morning, that alarm did indeed go off. And at that precise moment, there were no less than 3 of us dying to use the bathroom. But it was still too chilly and damp to want to march down the hill to the you-know-what. When ALL other conditions are perfect, one can perhaps talk themselves into such atrocities. But when it is dark and damp outside, one begins to create other solutions. And that again opened me up to an opportunity for significant regret. There was a water bottle at the door of the tent. It was empty. It was also small. Normally, we tote the typical 16.9 oz bottles. This trip we toted a smaller 12 ounces. Don’t ask me why. I guess I wasn’t thinking of them as a multi-purpose bottle at the purchase point. Go ahead and think what you will. You can even say it out loud. This is a public blog and this is horrific information. But it is what it is and I had been through a lot with those stand-up sewage tanks. So I helped with bottle facilitation and Mamasboy did what he needed to do…about 13.5 ounces worth. It was so dark in the tent that we didn’t know we had exceeded the maximum 12 ounces until it was upon us. And both of us reacted the exact same way in the exact same moment. “Ohhhhhh…” But after that, he proceeded to cry and lament his station in life. I did not, though, at this point, I could have, I assure you. I tried to comfort him. We have clean underwear to change into. The weekend is over. We made it. All is well. None of that really worked. But a new voice piped in to take our minds off of it.

“I need to go, too, Mama,” AG said. Hmm. Well, as I’ve previously stated, I try not to make the same heinous mistake twice. I certainly don’t make the same one in the span of 5 minutes. So I unzipped the tent, used the keys that were not locked in the car, and retrieved an empty Gatorade bottle from the back seat. That’s 24 ounces of awesome. There were no issues with this bathroom stall.

By 8:30, our car was packed and we were dressed for church. Todd had been asked to say a few words from the Bible, so we walked down to the campfire and read from Psalm 73. Todd talked about integrity…about doing the right thing even if it doesn’t benefit you. Why does it seem that good people suffer? Why do evil people seem to have a gravy train to ride on? I don’t know. David didn’t know either. But He had God. And so do I. Always. All the mistakes in the world won’t erase that truth from my mind.

And that was the end of the weekend. I know I’ve painted a picture of utter fiasco and a mom who hates camping. Nothing could be further from the truth. There were a lot of things that went completely backwards. And there were things that made me cringe and bristle. But there were also sweet moments of a child reaching up to squeeze my hand on the 3 minute walk. And there were glances and smiles exchanged in a tent by the glow of a flashlight. And there were strange little conversations while sitting cross legged in a camp chair. And there was Merry Christmas dish soap that had all of us smelling like a freshly washed platter in December.  And there was no television. And there were Orion and the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. And 45 horrific little s’more cookers trying to pass off their charred marshmallow remains on unsuspecting adults so they could start over and do it right. And there were piggy back rides that were much more fun for the rider than the piggy. And there were games of Cops and Robbers after dark by flashlight.

Aristotle once said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The sum of the parts had some problems. The whole was altogether good.

I wonder if Aristotle ever used a port-o-potty. Maybe that’s all he used…

Boggy Bottoms Continued

Chapter 2

It was now about lunchtime at the Boggy Bottom Ranch. The clear April sunshine was filtering through the sycamore trees like a personal message from heaven. It was beautiful. It was also beginning to get hot. About this time, we were told to head over to the Pavilion to do a couple of the boys’ activities. There was a wide path that we had seen, but hadn’t taken. This, we were told, was a 3 minute walk. This had to be where those famous “hot showers” could be found.

Let’s address the 3 minute walk comment. Since the weekend, I have tried to tally up the things that would have to be in place for that walk to be 3 minutes. I could sprint, full-speed, which I did once. That almost caused a heart-attack and couldn’t be repeated more than once. I could be 9 feet tall, with the stride of a gazelle, and wear Shape-Ups. But as a regular, semi-fit person, this was NOT a 3-minute walk. And if you put a monkey on your back (Sister Squishypants), you can pretty much double your time from long to super crazy long.

Once we made that long walk over, there were ammo bags to make, marshmallow shooters to assemble, and fishing to do. By this time, Todd had arrived with the girls. They came running for me like something out of a 1950s romance movie. It was sweet. For one precise second. Then the whining started. It became clear from this point that this campout was not designed for 3 and 4 year old primadonnas. We only had 2 fishing poles, but there were four kids. The boys needed to be fishing. The girls apparently had that same need. So they cried about it. A lot. When all was said and done, there were five fish and 1 very big, very mean snapping turtle caught by our family. We managed to free the turtle without touching him. Good thing. He was out for blood. The fish were all thrown back that day. I don’t even think they were real. They were all about 6 inches long, very Pottery-Barn-Kids-looking. I think they were mechanical. But either way, they felt real to the touch and we threw them all back. What will Pottery Barn come up with next? That crazy Pottery Barn…

The next section on the Camping SAT was that Mamasboy opted out of the Marshmallow PVC Gun Project. He “didn’t want one.” I don’t know if that decision was prompted by laziness or momentary lack of desire, but he opted out. That was okay with me. But it should be noted here that being Mamasboy is a hard job. It’s not easy to be him. And sometimes it’s not easy being me, either. We are both a little whacked. When the War of the Baby Marshmallows started on the playground 2 hours later, he had a sudden reversal of that opt-out decision. But it was much too late for that. The war had begun. He didn’t have a shooter. He buried his head in my lap and lamented being him. I was back and forth between compassion and tough love when a sweet boy named Henry walked up.

“What’s wrong?” Henry asked. “He doesn’t have any ammo?”

“Actually, he doesn’t have a gun,” I answered. Or ammo, really. But without the gun, the ammo is just a taste squish of sugar in your teeth. Mmm.

“Oh,” Henry said, and dug down into his pocket. “I have a little one. My own personal secret shooter.” And he held out his hand to us. In his hand was a 4-inch piece of PVC pipe. One straight, small piece, unconnected. Simple. He held his pipe up close to his mouth and said, “You just load the ammo at the end and shoot. Want it?” To my very great surprise, Mamasboy accepted the gift and smiled through stale tears. “Here. Take some ammo.” He dug into his bag and handed us 4 marshmallows and then ran off. I have a fond place in my heart for that kid, I can tell you. It’s not typical for a 9-year-old boy to notice a hurting child, temporarily step out of a marshmallow war to ask why the child is crying, and then to meet the need at hand. That’s not normal. Thanks, Henry. You did a good thing that day.

The afternoon waned on. In the large pavilion there was a soda machine with Coke Zero, Sprite, Powerade of some blue variety, Orange Soda, Coke, and Diet Coke. I helped myself to at least 8 free Coke Zero cups. It was a tiny blast of cold carbonation that took the edge off the 3 minute walk. At one point, Mamasboy wanted to make his own mixture. So he hit each of those flavors one time, then said he needed some ice. Annnddd then he dropped that drink down into the ice and colored all those beautiful cubes like a snow cone from the circus. I felt sorry for the next 12 people to want ice. Really sorry about that. Really.  Sorry.

There was a segment of the day called “Movie Making.” In that activity, each den had to work together to come up with a premise for a movie. Once they had a thin plot/idea (please land heavily on the word ‘thin’), the leader in charge of the camera helped them build and film a 5-minute movie. When it came AG’s time to do this activity, his den of Bear Scouts was seated on the deck chatting about ideas.  How about attack of the giant zombie squid? Or attack of the alien baby? Oh, wait. Let’s do attack of the lego people bad guys! Then one kid, a very sweet, polite child said, “Let’s do a rescue of a cub scout who gets kidnapped at a campout!” All the others said, “Naaah.” That didn’t have attack in the title. They ended up making a movie about zombies killing everyone on the planet. I would link to the film, but it’s not uploaded to Youtube yet and I am not in possession of it. Use your imagination. That’s all you really need. The acting was as superb as the script.

By the time 6 o’clock rolled around, I was starting to think about Lupton’s barbecue an awful lot. But dinner was not until 7. So we rode it out in camp chairs as the sun beat down on us mercilessly. And then Beloved spoke up.

“I have to go poo poo,” she said. Really? Now? The long walk to other bathrooms was not an option here. Yes, really. So I bravely took her hand and we began the short walk to a disgusting demise. Squishypants needed to go too, so we all went together.

“Now,” I said to them both in a firm tone. “Don’t look down. Do not look down. Let’s just do our business and get out.” They had fear in their eyes. I must have had some too. Beloved’s eyes widened when she did what everyone has to do. She looked down. Oh, the unspeakable horrors. Did I say that already? Oh my. It wasn’t 1 minute before Beloved decided that she, in fact, did NOT need to go. It wasn’t worth it to her. I didn’t blame her. But there was still the baby to contend with and she needed to go. So I sat her up on the seat and waited for her to finish. The sweat poured down my face. The heat in that tiny cube of waste and disease was intense. There was no ventilation at all. Whose idea was that, I ask you? Who gathered up a board room of people and said, “I’ve got the greatest invention ever! A portable, non-flushing toilet! This is going to take the construction site world by storm! Let’s make sure there is NO AIR SOURCE to it, so the smell will be extra potent and the customers will want to die extra soon.” Who.thought.of.THAT? If I ever find them, I will kill them with baby marshmallows.

Either way, one girl used that toilet, the other girl refused. And it was dinner time. Finally. So as a family, we made that 3 minute walk down the path to the pavilion. This was at least my 8th time doing it that day. But at the end of this time, there was catered food waiting. In my right hand, I had a plastic bag containing what I’d need to shower myself and the boys after dinner. I had already told them to just expect it and not give me any choice words about it. If we were going to share a church pew with clean people the next morning, we were going to do that with our hair washed…with dish soap. Because that’s all I brought. But dish hair is better than port-o-potty hair. You know it’s true.

The meal was delicious. Delicious. It was even hot and not all catered meals are. I’m sure some of my appreciation came from having prepared none of it. But as far as food quality goes, it was HIGH.

Now it was time for the shower. Todd graciously offered to do the boys’ shower before heading back to town with Squishypants. Shortly thereafter, I did my own shower. Hot showers. Technically, yes. There were hot showers. But there were a few problems with them. (1) No one had used these showers in the last 18 months, which meant that there was a 3-inch layer of red clay on the bottom of the concrete shower. (2) There were a LOT of cob webs in there. No place to even rest a towel without taking an 8-legged friend back to your tent with you. (3) No water pressure adjustment. There was on…full blast. And there was off. That was it. (4) No drainage action from the drain. So in 3 minutes, you were standing in ankle-deep clay water.

At the end of it all, we were clean. But the process was a little like being flogged by the Gestapo.

Todd and Squishypants headed back to their car right after the showering fun. Sister Squishy wailed all the way down that path. She thought she was spending the night. She had picked out a sleeping bag and helped me pack up. What in the world? I felt terrible about that. It was a shock to her. But it had to happen this way, for about 15 different reasons. I now had the boys and Beloved for the night. Todd and SP would be back in the morning for break down.

Dark had descended upon Boggy Bottom. The mosquitoes were out in large clans. We were clean. We had washed any trace of repellent from our bodies with the dish soap we used. So we burned a few calories swatting.We won a few and lost more. When it was time to head back down the 3-minute path, the night was as black as the center of the earth. And because we had initially walked when it was still daylight, many of us had no flashlight. I know it will surprise you that I had dish soap, but no flashlight. I know.

It was dark. Very, very dark. Beloved was riding on my back. AG had linked his arm through mine and was trembling with fear. He is not a ghost stories, dark night kind of kid. Mamasboy was twirling like a boy in tights, having the time of his life and not the least bit concerned about my proximity to him. We walked back with a group. However many minutes later (not 3…), we emerged from the woods. My van was about 10 feet away. AG asked for his marshmallow gun. No problem, boy. Let me just get it for you.

The car was locked.
I went to the tent for my keys.
They weren’t in the tent.
I pointed a beam of light into my van, with panic mounting in my chest, and there they were.
There were my keys sitting on the driver’s seat.
No idea how they got there.

I just knew three things: (1) The keys were in the car. (2) The car was locked. (3) The only other set of keys was now back in town, 45 minutes away.

Great.
Stink.

To be continued…