Winter Camping

Early February. Nine inches of snow on the ground. Freezing temps. Slate gray skies with little or no sunlight breaking through.

Yet, our four-year-old granddaughter wanted to go camping.

Being a good Papa, I agreed.

Having gone camping for real with her mom, great aunt, and great grandparents last summer, Riley Jean has been on a “camping kick” the last few months. Which means, on our weekend visits, she drags every pillow and blanket and her toy grocery cart full of food into our downstairs powder room.

Our dog, Daize, follows us in, we close the door, turn off the lights, and sleep (one or both of us snoring very dramatically) until “morning” comes a few minutes later. We turn on the lights, throw open the door, and have “breakfast,” or ask the “coffee lady” (Nana Kellie, who tends to keep a safe distance from our shenanigans) to serve us.

That is, unless Riley hears a “monster” outside the tent. Then we must chase the monster away, naturally, to protect all the other campers.

Keep in mind, the “tent” is about three feet by three feet. I am a short adult male – 5 feet 6 inches tall on my best days. But I am also very claustrophobic, so camping in such a tiny, cramped space isn’t the most comfortable thing either physically or psychologically.

Then, on this particular Saturday, Riley switched it up.

We camped in the upstairs bathroom. “Yay! More room,” thought I, until she ordered me into our tent – more commonly known as the bathtub.

Later, she picked a new “tent” – the floor of Nana’s closet. Under all her clothes, squeezed in between the small dresser, dozens of shoes, a spare fan, and other closet accoutrement. But at least there we also had a small toy lantern to keep the monsters away.

We were still on monster patrol – who knew there were so many monsters in the woods? Yet now we also had to invite her “best friends,” Claire and Hannah, to camp with us.

Claire and Hannah are real people in real life, but only pretend for our winter camping purposes. Thank goodness!

After more than an hour of this, I struggled to de-pretzelize myself, every bone and muscle and sinew feeling every millisecond of my 56 years on earth. I rose from the closet floor, accompanied by my own crickling, crackling concert, and exited back to Reality.

Not for the first time since Riley has learned to walk and talk (which is to say, boss me around) – I thought, “this kid is going to be the death of me!”

But later, my tight back and bum knee having recovered, aided by a glass or two of Chianti, another thought occurred:

“This kid is the Life of me!”

You want the truth? With apologies to Jack Nicholson, you can’t handle the truth! But it’s my truth, and I don’t mind sharing.

Truth is, my spirit and brain and body have all felt extremely heavy lately.

The unbelievable, incalculable weight of two years of politicizing a pandemic and the resulting anger and ignorance, fear and frustration, disrespect and discord, have laid thick on my heart.

This, on top of the fact that I loathe winter anyway.

I struggled to keep above the fray. I relied on the lift of grace and wings of love from family and friends to convey me over the moats filled with crocodiles of stress and anxiety.

I mostly succeeded until recently when it all got to be too much. Like the proverbial albatross around my neck or, more appropriately, stones around my ankles, pulling me down into the muck.

Then, Saturday rolls around.

And my very favorite wacky-doodle visits.

And her four-year-old brain fires like a jet engine, creating and leading us through adventures real and imaginary.

Her growing vocabulary tumbles out of her mouth so fast that I sometimes need an interpreter to capture all the words and ideas.

Her energy and enthusiasm ignite the room with more fireworks than a KISS concert (and faithful readers know I know of which I speak!)

And suddenly, the weight on my chest lightens to a level I can handle and sometimes even ignore. Because I know, having been reminded yet again by a child, that there’s more goodness than we think or understand. We just must choose to see it.

So, go ahead World, give me your worst. Unleash every monster you’ve got. I don’t sweat you. No matter what you do, I am shielded by a four-year-old’s magic.

And I can always go camping.

In the powder room, or bathtub, or Nana’s closet.

One thought on “Winter Camping

  1. I love this! We were blessed to have our adult kids and grands tent camp outside in our wooded back yard with us 6 times in 2020. Last weekend we had 2 grands for 4 days, this weekend we have our almost 2 year old grand here. My husband had a very tenuous 2021 with medical issues (non covid related) and has really struggled with it and the politics mentally. Having our grands here really helps ease his anxiety. Enjoy your little one- it goes fast as our oldest is 8! Thanks again!
    Terri Talarico Tatroe
    JT East HS Class of 1978


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s