This weekend we are off to our favorite camping spot, at Dolly Copp Campground. It is a beautiful area in the White Mountain National forest; simple, lovely, unchanged. My husband has been camping there his whole life. My experiences as a camper began when I fell in love with him, some forty years ago.
This campground has been witness to so much in my life! It was there that Paul and I first held hands. It was there that he taught me how to make a fire, and there that we rested after he brought me hiking for the very first time.
We have camped there with my parents, my siblings, our High School friends. We have been at Dolly Copp in the rain, the heat, and even the first frost. We have gone skiing in the winter and fishing in the summer.
It was at Dolly Copp that we pitched our very first tent. We spent two nights of our honeymoon up there, in a secluded little spot by a stream.
Most meaningful, to me, is the fact that I was lying in a tent at Dolly Copp campground the night that I felt my first child move for the very first time. That makes the campground a place of miracles for me.
Our children have been there every single summer of their lives. They have camped in an old poplin tent, in Grampy Rick’s camper, in our own popup camper, and again in tents. They have fished in the brook, splashed in the river, hiked in the mountains around the campground. I remember the night when we were awakened by the Rangers, telling us that a dangerous thunderstorm was approaching. I grabbed my sleeping baby, who woke only long enough to tell me, “Katie need food” before dropping off to sleep once again.
I remember bathing baby Matt in a plastic tub at the campground. I remember taking Tim to the stream to fish, then cleaning his tiny, three inch trout, and cooking it for us all to share. I remember the bears, the flood, the times when we brought Tucker with us. The sidewalk chalk, the chicken fingers, the games of “Rack-O”.
I remember going up in the fall, and lying on the grass to watch the meteor showers.
I remember swinging Katie in a plastic swing, hung from the branch of a giant pine.
For the past dozen or so years, Paul’s family has joined us for a weekend in the mountains. Our huge family party has grown from ten people, to thirty, to fifty or more. It is a time to renew family ties, to laugh, to see some magic tricks, to watch as the next generation learns to walk, to ride a bike, to drive.
Last year, I hated every single minute of the family reunion weekend. I was still the Mom in charge of the camper; the adult female with the cooking supplies, the cleaning supplies, the place to get out of the rain. But my kids weren’t kids any more. They were adults with beers in their hands, guitars on their knees, separate tents off in the back of the campsites. I hated it, because everywhere I looked, I saw my little ones, smiling and holding out toasted marshmallows, dirty and happy and sticky and mine. I cried through the whole weekend, coming as it did just a month before both of my boys moved out of my house. I was in mourning. I was bereft. I vowed not to go back this year.
And now, please fast forward.
The camper is now safely in the hands of our young niece and her husband, who will take over the central location. We will be in a nice new tent, with our kids in separate tents around the campground.
This year I am used to the comings and goings of my troops. I am used to sharing the cooking duties with them. This year, I am happy to be on the periphery, happily holding the babies and cuddling the toddlers and talking about books with the school aged kids.
This year, I think, there will still be melancholy, and sweet reminiscence. I will still see the shadows of my kids running on the grass. But this year, I think that I will be able to smile, sigh, and turn to see what is happening around the fire.