Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Better and Better

Nothing says wilderness like suit socks with flip flops.
Have I mentioned camping before?

What?! I have?!

Oh. You mean here? And here And here. And then here. And here. And here. Also here. Oh, and my favorite: here. And another one here

It might not be funny, but Michael pretending to kill us with a sledgehammer is kind of a hilarity-ensued staple around here.
Anyhoo. I have two new favorite things to do camping. 1) Admire other people's toddlers and babies as they scuttle past on the road, but from the campfire, where I am sitting with a beer in my hand and a pile of chips in my lap, because I never need to stand up ever again because the big children can build the fire and rig the tarp and start dinner and put on their own sunscreen and go to the bathroom by themselves and set up Chinese Checkers. Meanwhile I watch a pair of preschoolers argue about a package of Goldfish crackers and run into the road and soak themselves in the faucet and lie down in the muddy pine needles to cry about how wet they got in the faucet where they were soaking each other. "Keep at it!" I offer, unbidden, to harried parents around our loop. "It gets even better than this!"

It's not that I don't still worry about them drowning. But it does feel a little less imminent these days. Knock wood. Shit.

2) Reminisce with the children themselves. I have always been a profligate nostalgia-oozer, but now the kids have gotten roped into my woozy, sentimental shenanigans. Walking up to the bathroom with me (because I have to go! not because she needs me!), Birdy sighs happily and says, "How many times do you think we've done this walk together, Mama?" And I would answer "A million?" if my throat would open up for a second. Her hand in mine is firm and cool, her eyes steady and sparkling on my face, the whispery, fragrant pines and washed air blowing away all traces of whatever gunk can fog up the space between us. If I've ever been happier, and I don't say this lightly, I can't think when.

I hope you're enjoying the last gasp of summer. And if you've already breathed your last, and your kids are back at school, I hope you're enjoying that too.



  1. We had to forego our annual camping trip this summer. My husband's dear friend from highschool was in New York. It's the first time he's been back from Taiwan in 25 years, so we had to take the opportunity to visit with his family last week.

    My son started middle school yesterday, though, so the nostalgia monster visited me anyway. It was the first time he's had to climb on the schoolbus. Here's what I wrote on a friend's facebook status about it: I cried this morning when Jacob climbed on that bus to middle school. It seems like all of their lives consist of walking away from us. They take those first steps, and are usually coming to us. But, before long, they turn and toddle away. The first tentative footstep in the ocean, the first time going to play with other kids on the playground, the first time off to children's church, the first time off to school--always away from mom. But, for so long, you get the sweet backwards glance as they walk away. I didn't get that backwards glance this morning. I hate learning to let go.

  2. Oh, I went back and re-read each one. (And cried)
    What beautiful memories! If only I liked to camp. ;)

    Here's to a wonderful upcoming school year!

  3. Anonymous2:00 PM

    So happy, Catherine, for your happiness! And for the promise of good things ahead, too, and for the reminder to maybe just shrug a little, and hold tight gratefully a little, and be okay again, with the weeping-shrieking-clinging-whacking objects toddler thing we got going on here now.

    And my 5 year old started kinder last week! Sometimes I wonder whether my heart can manage the pain and the joy of all this.

    And another 'and': I hope someday my little family can manage to get the grooves of annual tradition going. Things like your camping trips and holiday festivities. We have moved almost every year of my 5 year old's life, like new-states-each-time moving. And we have mild marital sectarian conflict over the whole Christmas thing. And one parent whose entire familial/cultural/social tradition finds camping outdoors completely and utterly baffling at best, benighted at worst. So - we'll have to find something that works for us. At some point. Maybe as we move out of the shrieking-weeping stage.

    Thanks as always for writing...

  4. Nice post. And encouraging when battling a 3 year old. :)

  5. You write so well. Always a pleasure.

    I love your parental attitude... it smacks of "My instinct is spot on". Nice.


  6. Anonymous10:29 PM


    It has taken 15 years of hopeful suggestion, outright cajoling, and [honestly] even seductive promises to get my husband to try camping; but I'm proud to say that my family returned late last night from our first three night, tent-camping experience at gorgeous Ludington State Park (Michigan). It was wonderful! There were a few moments, though, when I found myself thinking of you and feeling, perhaps, a kindred benediction from afar: when my 11 year old daughter (my oldest) reached out and held my hand as we walked along the beach. When my 8 year old son gave me a long hug from behind as we were sitting by the campfire, and whispered in my ear "Let's do this every year." And when my youngest daughter, the 3 year old, relentlessly screamed herself to sleep each night waking the entire park, I'm sure. Thank you for sharing your family's experiences and inspiring us to create our own!

    Amy from Michigan

  7. Aww, lovely. When we were camping last weekend and I heard someone else's baby crying in someone else's tent, I said to my husband, "I'm kind of glad we're beyond the babies crying in the tent stage," and he said, "KIND of????"

    Here's to better and better camping (although now that mind leap over waterfalls, repeatedly, I'm not sure it's any less hair-raising than when they tried to toddle into fires or pull Coleman stoves off of the picnic table onto themselves).

  8. Better and Better is the song I sing to myself daily, bewilderedly. Like yesterday, when a friend invited us to pick the peaches on her tree and each kid was given a box to plunk fruit into and instead of worrying about them running into the street, or dying of hot boredom, they actually made everything go faster and easier.
    Thanks, as always, for your stories.

  9. Such wonderful memories! Unsolicited hand holding is the best. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Lovely and true! Yet every once in awhile I want to borrow someone else's muddy and fussy toddler for some hugs. Hugs are wonderful, but different, when the kids become taller than you.

  11. Tina G9:04 PM

    So sweet, that Birdy :) Your innumerable camping stories made me *almost* wish to go camping again, but I wisely talked myself out of it and I sold all our camping stuff on our local facebook swap and sell. I love the idea of camping- and even vignettes of the actual experience of camping, but not the packing, unpacking, using the camp showers and toilets and sleeping in the tent. I'll camp vicariously through you for the rest of time and be a happy woman. I watch the toddlers as a hobby, too. I get all verklempt.

  12. Oh, you, Catherine Newman!!! Did you have to make me CRY?! AGAIN?! ahhhh, the way you put it. So beautiful. So true. So clear. I felt like I was walking right there with you and Birdy. Like with my own 8 yr old daughter too. Such long history we have together, you and I..... doh! wait! that's me as a reader, and we are strangers! That's what I meant! hee hee. Such in love stalkers are we, the Catherine Newman fans. I will have to go back and re-read all those camping posts. And cry some more. Cuz your moving forward and time passing also means that my babies who were babies when your babies were babies, are now huge and starting middle school, gulp, and in grammar school, and taller than giraffes..... sigh. And hooray! also.... such mixed feelings..... Love you, as always, Catherine. Thank you AGAIN for sharing a camping story with us. We adore you, and hope you always continue to share your journey with us. Wishing you and Michael and Ben and Birdy a great adventure in the school year ahead! Hugs.

  13. Do you mean to say that my camping hopes and dreams can come true?! With an almost-8, 4, and almost-3-year-old, our camping trips are intermittent and less than relaxing. Our last trip was downright calamitous, but six months later is already something to laugh about. We pitched tent in a spider's den straight out of Harry Potter, forgot the tarp under the tent, resulting in us waking up soaked, couldn't get a fire going, and had to suffer through an hour of getting whacked in the head by my rolling 2-year-old before I could sleep, but in the morning we packed up everything in the downpour and drove 30 minutes to find a sweet, warm, dry coffee shop and ate freshly baked muffins. My kids always ask when we can go again though!
    Anyway, as always, you summed it up perfectly AND give me hope for our future camping adventures.

  14. Perfect. Just perfect.

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