As a child. we had lots of backyard tent nights, but we actually only went "camping" once. For you see, my Mom had a colostomy due to her cancer surgery when I was four, and that required a clean, sanitary place for her to attend to that in privacy, which was NOT the typical campground of our childhood.
Yes, that's an ax, and we didn't have bicycle helmets either.
Yet we went once on a glorious trip for a few days on a lake up in the mountains an hour and a half from home. No other people, no running water, no bathroom but for a few outhouses a bit of a hike away, the tent a stone's throw from the lake, which was our bath and our shower. There was a stump of a mighty tree leaning out towards the water from which Big Bro and I would simultaneously jump and enter the glory of a high mountain lake with a single splash.
Where supper comes from.
Each and every day, at least once, sometimes twice, Dad and Mom would leave us there, with a couple they were friends with from church who joined us to camp nearby, to then drive ALL the way back to town so Mom could tend to her needs. They did that for days just so we could go camping that once.
Mom tries to make lutefisk on the camp stove
Big Bro's always happy to take an unflattering photo of his little Sis
But Mom and Dad understood the infinite need of young minds to explore the world, the express desires of youth and the compulsions of some moments.
We never forgot it.
It's perhaps why I always hated the modern version of camping. Huge motor homes, where roughing it means doing without ESPN and neighbor's closer than found in any subdivision. My camping was a fire built with magic and swear words, burned wienies and good beans, woodsmoke and bug spray, paper plates that fell apart. My camping was the sound of a hoot owl as the sunset, it's dying rays reflected in a cup of beer as the family dog snoozed happily by the fire. I did it as a kid, I did it as an adult, by myself up in the Sierras when I was based as an airman in California. I would be there, for those times when I didn't wish to sacrifice the wonder of the present moment to work, society or noise. A loner always, I wanted a broader margin to my life. I could sit in the fading sunlight of a doorway between two trees from dinner til dark fall, rapt in a revere in undisturbed stillness and solitude.
As dusk settles in, I'd wonder about the lapse of time, the evening seeming like a mere moment, time like a season in which I grew like flowers in the Philosophers talk about contemplation and the forsaking of work and out there I realized what they meant. The day advanced as the light comes into it, it's morning, and now it's evening, and nothing memorable is done. My days were not minced into deadlines of a ticking clock or the perusal of things that no longer held breath. Let mornings be lazy, afternoons passed by in long walks or a flip of a fishing pole and if the day becomes wasted in the warm rapture of a sunset as nature sang its song in my ear - what was the harm?
That to me is camping. So imagine my surprise when in looking at "camping supplies" to see if there was something I could get if my niece and nephew visit that they would have fun with.
The electric marshmallow cooking device. Fun for the campfire. Batteries not included.
I think Mom and Dad would understand.
And by the way, despite what the electric marshmallow cooker consumer may say, in the shadowy corners of civilization, there's always someone with no marshmallows wanting to take yours. Stay safe out there.
Angel Barkley when he grabbed the marshmallow camping stash