Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
I recently had the opportunity to rediscover my non-love of camping. It seems like every couple years stories I hear from friends and clients alike paint a bucolic picture of camping which entails roaring fires, invigorating hikes, peaceful water and affordable vacationing. I forget all I know of my hatred of commuting to flush toilets and sad little water pressure and lukewarm showers. I enter a fugue-like, dissociative state in which I forget that I am the kind of vacationer who wants high thread count and spa services and a gourmet restaurant and I start perusing the Washington state park website like a..well like a camper.
A few weeks back I was stricken with this sudden-onset camp amnesia and took my kids to the KOA in Lynden for a wholesome family camping experience. I was so proud I remembered even to bring a bucket of firewood for the aforementioned roaring fire. I took air mattresses and an air mattress pumper thingy with brand new batteries in it. We arrived, and I set up the tent which involved setting it up wrong in three different directions (rain fly=one way) before finally hitting upon the last possible, finally correct way. This might call a harbinger. But sadly I am stubborn and slow to learn.
Hours later, after taking us out for dinner, (cheating I know!) we returned to the camp site and began what may possibly be the highest number of kitchen safety matches ever struck in the history of mankind to an unsuccessful fire. I used tightly rolled paper. I set up the wood in the appropriate tee-pee pattern. It just didn’t catch and burn. Not the first time and not the fifty thousandth time. We sat in the quickly cooling temperature, coveting our neighbor’s roaring fires. I considered asking for lighter fluid but was suddenly overcome by—aack!—a rare attack of shyness.
Instead we retired to our roomy, appropriately erected tent and laid upon once-inflated mattresses which over the course of the night deflated just enough to remind our backsides of the hardness of the earth, the existence of small rocks and the mystical proportions time seems to achieve, magically stretching into endlessness during nighttime hours spent in physical discomfort. But not right away. First we had the special treat of hearing the screams of every overly tired child up past their bedtime, as well as the blare of the television in the RV across the way. Not to mention the roaring laughter of the drunken group of people far too old to still get drunk without needing some serious twelve step action.
The next morning I realized I had not even planned for coffee, believing that somehow the café would be open at the crack of dawn, when I was, but alas it was not. We left a day early, went go karting and water sliding and air bazooka bazooka-ing and I taught the kids how to play pool horribly. It all turned out to be fun once the camping element was removed.
I made amends to myself the following week with a real vacation, at a luxury resort with the aforementioned amenities, plus pool and hot tub. I once heard a great bit of wisdom on Oprah. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” To this I now add my own addendum: “When you know who you are, believe you.”