In what sounds like a terrific blogger meet-up, two of my blogging friends recently went hiking in the National Park with Fantastic Waterfalls and at Least One Mouse, and they've been writing blog posts about their experiences. One of the funny stories that they both told reminded me of something that happened on a camping trip years ago.
I was camping with my husband at the Campsite in the Midwest With Big Sand Dunes. My daughter was four, and Boy in Black, who was in those days Boy in Diaper, was two, and I was pregnant with Shaggy Hair Boy. We'd chosen a site off by itself, a sandy area that backed up to the sand dunes, and at night after the fire burned down, we would sit by the red coals and watch raccoons come down the hills, their eyes glowing, to scamper through the campgrounds in search of food.
We slept on the floor of our small domed tent, sharing a couple of old quilts and using pillowcases stuffed with dirty clothes as pillows. As we settled down for the night, we could hear the raccoons outside the tent, walking on the picnic table, knocking over the dishes I had left to dry, clattering through all of our stuff.
"Those raccoons seem awfully brave," my husband said. "What if they get into the tent?" The tone of his voice indicated that he was not thrilled about the idea of sharing the tent with these furry creatures.
I laughed at him. "Don't be ridiculous."
My husband had never gone camping – ever – before he met me, so whenever we went camping, which was pretty often, I felt smug and superior. Not that I showed it, of course. I was never the least big condescending.
"I know what I'm doing," I said to him. "I locked all the food in the car. I'm not stupid enough to bring food into the tent."
"They sound awfully close."
"The tent is zipped up." That statement, I felt, settled the issue.
I couldn't believe he was bringing up such a silly idea. Maybe he hadn't camped as a kid, but we'd done lots of camping during the first six years of our marriage. And he was still afraid of wild creatures getting into the tent? Sigh.
I couldn't remember raccoons, actually, from any of the places I'd always camped in the northeast, but I could remember the black bears that sometimes came through the campgrounds in the mountains when I was a kid. They never hurt anyone; they just came through and dumped over trash cans and rummaged for scraps. I don't remember them ever going inside a tent, although come to think of it, one did go inside the women's restroom once, emerging from a stall to give the woman who was washing her hands the scare of her life. I told some of these stories to my husband as we snuggled the two kids to get them to go to sleep. Somehow I thought the bear stories would reassure him that I was the experienced camper who knew what the hell I was doing.
Once two-year-old Boy in Diaper was asleep, I stole the pillow from under his head. I needed it for myself because I had already used my own pillow to help shift my pregnant body into a more comfortable position on the tent floor. Little kids get clothes dirty quickly because they are always spilling food on themselves, and the pillow case was already stuffed with shirts that smelled like melted ice cream and juice and french fries, and all the unhealthy crap we used to let the kids eat on long car drives just to keep them quiet. I figured by the next night, we'd have another pillowcase full of dirty clothes and Boy in Diaper could have a pillow. As I drifted to sleep, I was conscious of the raccoons climbing about the picnic table just on the other side of the mesh window, my soundly sleeping son next to me, and my husband still lying awake, staring into the dark nervously.
I'm a sound sleeper, and it was getting light out when I woke up. I wasn't really awake, but in that drowsy, half-awake state. My two-year-old had shifted his position, and had pulled the pillow away from me.
I didn't want to wake up. I pulled the pillow back. My son pulled it again. I pulled it back. My eyes were still closed, and my sleepy brain was still following the kind of fuzzy logic that says a two-year-old doesn't need a pillow, especially if he always ends up sprawled on his mother instead. I was pregnant, and I deserved that comfy laundry bag pillow. I had given birth to this kid, breastfeed him for two years. The least he could do was let me have the pillow.
The tug-of-war continued. He gave the pillow a yank, stumbled against me, and I felt fur rub against my face. Fur? Since when did my two-year-old have fur?
I sat up, suddenly. The raccoon I 'd been fighting with, a big raccoon about the size of my two-year-old, turned and raced over the sleeping bodies of my family and out through the open tent door.