Not too long ago, we camped out for the weekend at the local bluegrass festival. Although we were only camping 7 miles from our house, and only for two nights, if someone had had to guess both our destination and the length of our absence by state of my living room and kitchen upon our return, they would have thought that instead of listening to songs about Sherman’s march through Georgia, we had actually been fleeing the march itself. The morning after our return, as the washing machine toiled over its fourth dusty load, the dishwasher plowed through its second batch of bacon grease encrusted cooking gear, and I worked on my fifth or sixth cup of coffee, I contemplated the scene of destruction surrounding me and tried to decide whether or not it had been worth it.
Sure, it had been fun–so much so that at the height of the festivities I found myself agreeing to “next year: Telluride!”–but at what cost to my tenuous sanity? As I gazed upon the piles of yet-to-be-sorted camping gear, the gulf between the fun we had and the mess we made stretched wider and wider, until, recalling my promise of next year’s trip to Colorado I found myself doing something I had sworn I would never do: surfing the “Telluride condo” web sites. Worse yet, I found myself thinking that $300 a night sounded pretty good. $300 a night. What was wrong with me? I’ve traveled in places where I didn’t spend $300 a month on lodging; I once spent 2 months in Thailand with only two changes of clothes; I spent another two months with all my camping gear crammed onto a bike, and now here I was seriously contemplating $300 a night to go to a bluegrass festival? What happened to me?
Shall we say it all together? Children.
I first realized that things were going to be different camping with children when we took Clementine to Locket Meadow the October she turned one. Like some mountain trapper of old, she refused to take off her one-piece union suit the whole time, despite “accidents,” tumbles into (cold) fire pits, and ill-considered encounters with hot, sticky, marshmallows. By the end of the first night she looked like a living troll doll; by the end of the second, as she danced around the campfire shouting and waving her “favorite” stick, she looked like something out of Lord of the Flies. I knew it was bad when a bunch of hippies started to set up camp next door to us, and then thought better of it–even their skinny dogs stayed away.
Since that time, even though we’ve gotten more and more camping gear, we’ve actually camped less and less. We bought a bigger tent, a better stove–even cushier chairs–all to no avail: at some point, camping became such a logistical nightmare–what with all the different food we needed to pack (you trying making a one-pot meal that will satisfy both a dedicated carnivore and a vegetarian who doesn’t eat vegetables); all the changes of clothes we’d need (including approximately 700 pairs of socks); and, of course, the obligatory fresh bag of marshmallows (always purchased at the last minute, lest it be discovered and eaten beforehand)–that it just became more trouble than it was worth. In other words; in this, too, we became our parents. Which, I suppose, is the whole point of becoming parents in the first place.
Not that our parents would have ever considered 300 bucks a night to go to a bluegrass festival to be reasonable. Which means that even when we think we are turning into our parents, what we are actually turning into is our parents with bigger credit limits and less good sense.