by Sherri Caldwell
You have to understand first off: Buckhead is an 'affluent,' upscale area of Atlanta (well, except for us). Buckhead is the home of doctors, lawyers, sports stars, corporate lions...and a few lucky refugees from the tech boom who managed to hold onto the house when the bubble burst. I don't think anyone in Buckhead 'camps' (said with a drawl of shock and scorn)--'roughing it' is considered renting a condo at the beach without a golf course, nail salon, and spa on the property...
The camping was Russ's idea for Spring Break. After, for various reasons, his parents dis-invited us to their new house in Pensacola. (In all fairness, they had good reasons--or maybe they just don't like us.)
Anyway, we were suddenly facing nine long days with three kids at home, all day, every day, without a net--no plan to keep them busy and entertained. Russ's plan became obvious Monday morning--he was off to work, bright and early. We got him back by staying in bed late, snuggling in deeper when he said good-bye and left us on our own for another long day. (That lasted about ten minutes, by the way, and then the kids were all in my face demanding: "What's for breakfast?" "What are we going to do today?" In other words, "How are you going to serve and entertain us today, Mom?")
This went on for four days, and we did okay between play dates and trips to the park. But on the fifth day, I was fresh out of ideas and tolerance, and I was in a major PMS zone. Thank goodness, Daddy took Friday off. He had been threatening a camping trip all week. I had ignored him. We live in Buckhead now, for godsake!
We hadn't been camping in SEVEN years--when Zach was about two-and-a-half and I was eight months pregnant with Haleigh. At the time, we were feeling guilty about ruining Zach's pampered only-child existence with the soon-to-arrive little sister. We didn't have any money back then, so we took him camping at Lake Lanier--45 minutes from home and the hospital if we needed to get back quickly. I don't remember much about that trip, but we do have a lovely picture of little Zach being attacked at the edge of the lake by bread-crazed ducks.
By the same time the next year, we had more money, and we bought a little cabin on a little lake in the N. Georgia "mountains" (little hills). And that was our camping experience for the next several years--until we lost all the money and sold the cabin; but by then we lived in a really big house (in Buckhead) and had no foolish desire to camp with three kids. Life was enough of an adventure. So the tent sat in our old basement for three years, and then moved to our new basement for another four years.
Back to Spring Break 2004:
1) We needed to get out of the house.
2) We still didn't have any money:
a. We just put down a reservation deposit for a condo rental on the beach in June (no spa or golf course, just sand and water)--that will be our big vacation this year.
b. We just finished our tax returns--and we owe. Big time.
So we got the old tent out. When we set it up in the backyard--remember, it had been seven years--it instantly disintegrated and collapsed in a clanking pile of mesh and metal poles.
Ah, that Target credit card is a wonderful thing. After we found out about the tax situation, in an hour of retail therapy--I know it makes no sense--I escaped to my favorite store and spent several hundred dollars on a new tent, air mattresses, sleeping bags--all the basics. (And a new pair of black sandals, two belts, and a really cute black purse with a pink "S" on it!) Russ went out later and spent more on a fancy little gas BBQ and a swanky lantern/flashlight/radio combo--with a fan. Re-chargeable! (Unfortunately, it needs 24 hours to fully charge, we only had an hour--and we ended up at a 'primitive' tent site without power or water.) (Mental note: pay for the upscale tent site with power next time...)
We were ready. We weren't even sure we'd make it overnight--I do seem to remember two-year-old Zach, "Ready to go home now!" as soon as it got dark and "scary." I had suggested day-camping as a possibility, but then we spent the money and loaded up the Tahoe. We were going to stay two nights, and we were going to have fun, damnit! And we did. Have fun. Although we only stayed one night--second night called early due to the heavy probability of rain in the night.
One night was enough for the first time--and it was fun. The kids rode their bikes, found other kids, and played on the 'beach' (lakefront) by our campsite. We collected wood, built a campfire, and roasted hot dogs for dinner and marshmallows for s'mores. The kids actually slept all night in their own sleeping bags--Zach stayed in his very own little tent (winning the $5 bet that he would be crawling in with us in the middle of the night). Haleigh spent a lot of time writing in her journal--she LOVED camping:
April 9, 2004
Dear Friends and Family,
I'm having a grate time. I love sandy beaches too. But this spring brake I went camping. It was grate! Because did you know what I was hoping that we would go in room [campsite]18 and we did. So that was that. Did you know what it was right next to a beach. It was so fun I didn't want to leave. Before that we went for a ride. But my mom and dad walked. It was very fun indeed.
Haleigh Caldwell (age 6 1/2)
© 2004 Sherri Caldwell
and The Rebel Housewife, LLC.
All Rights Reserved