When the kids were little, we used to go on vacations in our popup camper. We had always camped, Paul and I, pitching small tents and sleeping on the barest of foam pads. We had been to the Adirondacks, the Shenendoah Mountains, and to many places in the White Mountains. We loved to camp, and as we had our children, we found ways to make the experience easier and more comfortable. When Tim was a baby, we gave up on tent camping with three kids, and bought Uncle Rick’s popup camper. At last, we had achieved true “campers’ comfort.”
As the years went by, we used the camper to travel to Acadia in Maine, to Cooperstown NY, to Washington DC, to Toronto and down to the beaches of Assateague Island. We had so many wonderful adventures in our little home! Many of my favorite memories of motherhood come from the days and nights of our camping adventures.
I remember the night when Matt was about 3. We were in the camper for the first or second time, sleeping in the White Mountains. At about 3 AM, we woke up to hear little Matty, asking “What are we IN?” As if it was a little tuna can!! I stifled my laughter and made my way down the little aisle of the camper kitchen, put my hand on his head, and said, “Honey, we’re in Grampy Rick’s camper, remember?” He rolled over, sighed, and said, “Well, OK.”
I remember the night when the black bear ran through Dolly Copp campground in NH. He ran right through a clothes line, running off to the woods with a little girl’s bathing suit wrapped around his ears.
I remember sitting around the fire at Shenendoah, knowing that the Appalachian Trail ran right past us. I remember seeing the sun set, and listening to Paul explain the Trail to our children. I remember the indrawn breath, the silent wonder, and the realization that one day they would set foot on that trail themselves.
There was the year that we celebrated Matt’s birthday at Assateague Island. The hot wind blew, the ponies clip-clopped past our site, and we sang to our boy as we placed candles into home made pancakes.
One year, when Tim was only 8, we pulled the camper up to Canada, and went to Niagra Falls, and up to the Hockey Hall of Fame. We camped in a sunny, grassy campground outside of Toronto, where ruddy chickens roosted on the playground equipment.
I will never forget the year on Assateague, when we set up the camper in a raging thunderstorm. I have always asked the kids to help with dinner, and table setting and clearing. On this night, a hot July night on the Atlantic coast of Maryland, I was a tyrant as I cooked our chicken cutlets and rice on my tiny camper stove. Each time that one of my children, or my “almost daughter” Molli, stood up to help, I barked, “SIT DOWN!” The tiny space in the super efficient galley kitchen simply did not allow for good manners or well trained kids. I had to be the one in control, and they had to stay absolutely still!
I remember laughter, and raindrops, and moonlight on the beach. I remember lullabyes and headcolds, and fishing trips and hikes. Hands held in mine, songs sung by the fire, dinners cooked over red hot coals. S’mores and hot cocoa, and ice cold oatmeal, and moose hunts and meteor showers. I remember midnight trips to the chilly bathrooms, swims in the river, trips to the laundromat. Baseball games, word games, “Racko” and “madlibs”. I remember a hundred sweet moments, with my children calling “Mom, watch!”
Tonight it is cold, and snowy, and the wind is blowing hard. I stand in my bedroom window, in my quiet, clean and empty house. I look out at the camper, buried nearly to its top in snow. I raise one hand, and wave slowly. Goodbye, camper! Goodbye, good friend! Goodbye, guardian of my sleeping children.
Next summer, the camper is going to our beloved niece and her young family. I wish them a million dreams and as many happy moments as we had inside that narrow home.