The Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Famping

camp·ing

/ˈKAMPing/nnoun: camping

  1. the activity of spending a vacation living in a camp, tent, or camper.”visitors can go camping in the vast wilderness surrounding the mountains”

famp·ing

/ˈFAMPing/noun: famping

  1. The activity of fake camping, in a lodge, hotel, motel, hostile, or other shanty with subpar mattresses and pillows, electricity, and indoor plumbing. “Friends can go famping in the woods of Brooksville, FL at Lakewood Retreat.

Last night I slept on a mattress purchased in the 60s. With one pillow. ONE PILLOW. At home, I sleep with 3 pillows every night, each one serving a different purpose and part of my body. Last night I attempted to mold pillows out of bath towels and body fat and still came up feeling like I had lost a game of Twister. The pillow I did have was so flat that it did nothing to span the gap between my shoulder and the bed. It could not meet me halfway. And to cap off the whole luxurious story, my daughter’s phone alarm went off at 7:15 this morning, telling me to feed her fish. Back home.

Every November for many years, we camped with a large group of our friends at Fort DeSoto State Park. Some of us in tents, some in RVs. From year to year it varied. In ways, it was glorious. The campfire talk at night, listening to the kids laugh on the playground, walking to the ice cream parlor with friends. But let’s be honest, I spent most of that time scrubbing the previous meal from the bottom of the cast iron pot we brought with us. I’d look over my shoulder to follow the trail of laughter to the playground and see them tossing their hair as they zipped down the slide. So carefree. Then I’d turn back to the inch-thick layer of dried grits and watch as my sweat dripped into the hose water I was using to scrub the pot.

Where’s the fun in that?
For the adults?

We got smarter as the years went by and figured out that real camping was for the birds. And the cowboys. And the campers. Not for us. We could still have all the glories of camping with none of the hassles. So we found a campground that was established in 1965 and hasn’t changed in the 54 years it’s been operating. We rented a ranch-style lodge with all original mattresses and very flat pillows and a long back porch that stretches the length of the building. Most of our time is spent playing games on the porch and chatting while rocking in our Amish rockers. At 8:30, 12:30, and 6, you can find us in the dining hall, eating food prepared for us by hardworking employees of the campground. And when our grits are mostly eaten, the last of the grit balls clinging to the bowl from which we supped, we place the bowl on the counter, where another nice person washes them for us. And then we walk outside to play shuffleboard, or four square, or human foosball. Or we sit in hammocks that are slung from a group of towering pines and we swing in the gentle breeze. From the porch, I can hear the voices of my children talking as they walk toward the game room or off to the next activity that is not coordinated by me.

I hear people disparaging the F in Famping. I can assure you there’s nothing fake in the fun I had playing four square with people from 3 separate generations. There’s nothing fake about the frolicking between the lodge and the dining hall. And there’s nothing fake in the festivity of these lifelong friendships.

I hear people talking about the glories of camping. Go ahead. I hear ya. Pitch your tent. Fight the racoons for the Doritos bag in your plastic bin at midnight. Thaw your bacon in the community bathroom sink before you fry it over your open fire. Talk it up. Wipe the sweat from your brow as you talk it up.

It’s all fun and games until someone has to wash a pot.

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