Love Me a Campfire

I can’t recall a vacation doing anything other than camping. My earliest memories include camping. Two weeks. Every summer. We’d load the car, hitch up the pop-up camper, and drive from the Dallas heat and humidity to a national forest campsite in Red River, NM or Southfork, CO with one amenity: hand-pumped water. There was no electricity, no showers, and no flushing toilets.

My dad worked full-time. My mom cleaned houses. Camping was their answer to relieve life’s stress and unplug. It’s funny to think that my parents felt the need to unplug back in the late 70’s and 80’s. I mean, really, what were we unplugging from? Three channels on the television? The record player? Lights? Mostly, I remember the trauma of not being able to plug-in and blow dry or curl my hair. In the 80’s, those devices were high-tech.

Upon arriving at the campground, we set about the tasks necessary to set up camp: my dad would level the camper, mom and I would roll the sleeping bags over the beds, we’d set up the camp stove on one end of the wooden picnic table, haul drinking water from the communal spout, and settle into our lawn chairs. My family didn’t hike. We didn’t fish. We didn’t ride bikes. My dad would read or photograph hummingbirds. My mom would walk to each campsite and introduce herself. My younger brother and I hung 2 liter plastic bottles just inches off the ground, cut an opening on one side, filled the bottom with bird seed and peanuts, and lured chipmunks into the spinning contraption for hours of priceless fun. We would also skip rocks across the river or throw driftwood into the flowing water and follow it downstream. Oh, we unplugged.

It’s no secret within our family that camping doesn’t hold the dearest of memories for me. I was cold crawling out of bed each morning. Continue reading