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.
To be continued…