Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Camping Lesson

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First of all, I must say that anyone who knows me will know that this camping lesson has nothing to do with me. I turned in my camping shoes years ago and pledge to NEVER camp again voluntarily.

So, who is telling you about a camping lesson?

It's my featured guest, Linda C. Wisniewski. Linda wrote Off Kilter: A Woman's Journey to Peace with Scoliosis.

My Camping Lesson

We had an old tent in the basement, one I'd bought it when my son Aaron was seven. Over the next few years, we went on camping trips with other single parent families from our church.

Then I met Steve, and life took a new direction. We got married and, a year later, Matt was born.

We took family vacations but, until one night in July, the tent stayed on a dusty shelf. On that night, Matt was ten, and we had gone to feed the neighbor's dog while they were on vacation. We followed her up a hill, and saw a small tent pitched in the woods. I told Matt then about the camping trips I'd taken with his half-brother in the years before he was born.

"Could we get a tent, Mom?"

"We still have the one I used when Aaron was your age. Let's get it out of the basement."

Back home, we pulled the musty-smelling tent outside and set it up in the backyard. As the sun set, Matt hurried up to his room to get his pillow and blanket. We got out the flashlights, books and crackers for a bedtime snack in the tent. As we got ready, I became annoyed with Steve. He took no part in our preparations or excitement.

"You guys have fun. I'll just hold the fort in here and answer the phone if it rings."

Right. Why do I have to do this alone? Arenʼt we supposed to be a family? I shot him my disapproval with a look. By eight, Matt and I were ready. It was Saturday night on our country road. Crickets, frogs and owls made the only sounds. We closed our books, turned off our flashlights, and kissed goodnight.

"WE ARE FAM-IL-EEEE!" What was that? I lifted the tent flap. Somewhere to the east, dance music split the night. There was a party going on, and they were playing our song. We tried to sleep but it was just too noisy.

"I give up!" I sighed. "Let's go back in the house. We can try again tomorrow."

"Okay, let's see what Dad is doing." Matt helped me gather up pillows, books, flashlights and blankets. "Too bad it got so noisy out there," said Steve, munching on chips and watching the Yankees play a night game on TV.

"Can I stay up with Dad?" Matt was already snuggling next to Steve on the couch. "I want to watch the game."

It was late, and I was about to say no, but the sight of them together opened a window into my past, where my memory of camping with Aaron is stored. I saw that it was not the tent, but being together, late at night, that made the memory special. I thought of Aaron, now twenty-five and living his own life in another town.

"Sure, Matt." I smiled and raised my eyebrows at Steve. We are a family, even if we don't enjoy all of the same things. Baseball is not my sport, but Steve and Matt were about to create a summer nighttime memory of their own. I took my book to bed and left them to it.

----Linda C. Wisniewski is the author of Off Kilter: A Woman's Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother, and Her Polish Heritage (Pearlsong Press, 2008).

She writes for the Bucks County Herald and teaches memoir classes for Bucks County Community College. Visit Linda's website:

Thanks to the editors of WOW for introducing me to Linda.

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Anonymous said...

creating memories is what life is all about. thanks for reminding us to take the time to make as many as possible!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Linda, I was pleased to see you on Allyn's blog. We meet again. And loved this anecdote. It is family memories that are the root of my creative nonfiction and of my novel as well (fictionalized truth, as it were). And, obviously, they're great for memoirs, too. Thank you for sharing with us.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Beth Blair said...

Thank you, Linda. What a nice story. It's true, sometimes I find the best memories are made by the events we don't plan.

off kilter said...

Nice to "see" you again, Carolyn! Creative nonfiction is my why am I working on a novel? LOL

Prill Boyle said...

Linda-- Unlike Allyn, I love camping. Just last year I spent five nights sleeping in a tent in the Australian Outback. I don't even mind the birds waking me up at 4 a.m. So it's not surprising that I have a similar story to tell about my youngest--setting up the musty tent in the backyard, etc. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

Prill Boyle said...

P.S. And, yes, you're right of course that the important thing isn't/wasn't the tent but being together.

Jewel Sample said...

Hi Linda ~
I love camping stories. Your story reminded me of when I camped out with one of our Cub Scout sons. It seems the unexpected most likely happens with children. Getting the tent pitched was a task in itself and then we had a water balloon rely that surprisingly turned into getting all the moms wet.
Thank you for sharing your family story.
Jewel Sample

Allyn Evans said...

At the risk of making a few friends and family members snicker...

You folks have made me rethink this camping rule I have, especially Prill.

Linda, thanks for giving us a wonderful message.

off kilter said...

I'm glad I've stirred up some warm memories for you all! Don't forget to check out my memoir, Off Kilter - equally heartwarming, no camping involved!

Frankie & Frankie's Mom said...

Ahhh, the memories of camping. My hubby and I did this earlier in our marriage. We went with good friends most times. I remember one night in particular, around the campfire singing Sonny and Cher songs at the top of our lungs. As we finished a song an echo of clapping could be heard throughout the campground. We laughed so hard!!