A week ago today we were coming to the end of our camping weekend - our first family camping trip, with borrowed tent and sleeping bags. Cora has been asking for months to go camping. I'm not sure what sparked her interest - whether it was something we read, something she saw on a TV show (did Curious George go camping? Oh, that's right, Olivia went camping! Mystery solved.) - and finally it seemed like the right time. Nothing else planned, fall weather so the mosquitoes might be dead or at least too weak to do much damage, and because it is the school year again, Chris could meet us if we picked a point half way between us. So we did. We found a State Park, reserved a campsite, and I started my lists.
The lists paid off. We had good meals. We had everything we really needed. I got to sit by the campfire reading Dracula the Un-Dead by flashlight (oh, the book is not good at all, except as a further permutation of the story, but I am reading it anyway!). We roasted marshmallows every night and that is still Cora's favorite part. I put my Girl Scout training, my family camping training, and my matriarchal fire-building genetic advantage to work in building the fire, making hobo packets, washing dishes in a basin, and generally accepting the discomforts of camping with as much fortitude as possible.
It was beautiful, it was relatively quiet. We were surrounded by trees. It came at the end of a week when I'd had the luck to spend two different days with friends who are also writers. I got my chapbook manuscript close to finished. I did some reading. By Sunday afternoon I was feeling more like myself - my idea of myself - than I have in a year. When Sunday afternoon rolled around, we got everything packed up, headed to the nearest town to have lunch together, and then drove our separate directions. We all felt good. We'd had a great weekend. Cora was excited to watch Alice in Wonderland (Disney animated version) on her little player. No tears.
After ten minutes on the interstate, the temperature warning light flashed red. Then the oil light came on. The car beeped at me. And then the smoke (later identified as steam; the water pump had blown out) started pouring out from under the hood. We pulled off on an exit ramp, called for help, got towed nine miles back to a little town with no Sunday mechanics. We stayed at a roadside motel - the managers were nice and helpful, but it was still a setting straight out of 45% of the horror movies ever made! (No deadbolt, no peephole.) We survived the night. We walked 30 minutes to the Ding Dong Cafe for breakfast. Our car was fixed by 4pm and we made it back home. Much of the serenity and self-restorative power of the weekend stripped away.
As we drove into our neighborhood I was explaining to Cora how camping had been so nice, and then our unintended adventure kind of ruined the weekend. She was shocked. But Mom! Wasn't it fun to eat snacks in the motel? Wasn't it fun to watch a new TV show? Truthfully, it wasn't, for me. But I suppose the fact that she thought it was indeed fun, was simply another good adventure in the weekend, also says something about what the weekend did for my state of mind: I may have felt like the weekend was somewhat ruined by the misadventure, but I didn't ruin her weekend.
I'm almost as proud of that as I am of my fire-building skills.