August 12, 2007
Return to Ocean State
When my kids were little, summertime parenting meant pitching a tent and then sitting in the woods with my journal while the kids climbed up rocks, threw pine cones at each other, and played tag through the trees. My daughter was a week old the first time I took her camping. Now that my kids are older, with responsibilities and social lives, we don't camp as much as we used to, but more than ever, I appreciate it when we can get away from home and spend the week outdoors.
One of the places we used to go every August was Huge Campground With a Pine Forest near the beaches of Ocean State, a place I first came to as a teenager. We haven't been there in more than a decade, but we returned last week to find the campsite just the same. We set up our tents under tall white pines that covered the sandy soil with orange-brown pine needles.
Trying to please six different people means all kinds of negotiations, but over the week, we tried to figure out activities that would make everyone happy. We went to the beach, of course, to swim and skimboard, to fly kites and dig holes in the sand, to play frisbee and gather seashells. We took a long walk along a cliff above the ocean. We played minature golf, visited an old seaport, and stopped at scenic overlooks.
One morning we found a place that rented two-person kayaks, and we went paddling through the ponds and tidal flats near the breachway. We saw birds of all kinds, and seaweed that looked like snakes curled on the sandy bottom. When we hit sandbars, we'd climb out into the shallow, warm water and pull the boats, a situation that led inevitably to races and water fights and all kinds of antics. I saw Boy in Black running and leaping onto the back of his kayak, the way you would with a toboggan, and With-a-Why spent more time swimming than paddling. By the time we returned to the rental hut, we were all soaking wet and the boats were filled with brackish water.
At night we built campfires. We didn't have any chairs, of course, since trying to wedge six people, two tents, and three guitars into one vehicle leaves room for almost nothing else, but we pulled the picnic table over to the firepit. Boy in Black sat on top of the picnic table with his guitar, his long legs dangling down. My daughter and With-a-Why spread a beach towel over the sticky sap on the bench and settled there with flashlights and books. My husband and I shared the ice chest, which made a small but sturdy bench, while Shaggy Hair Boy balanced his self and his guitar on a pile of logs.
We'd picked a secluded site, with the pine woods behind us and no other tents nearby. If any other campers objected to the soft guitar music drifting through the pines, they didn't say so. I told my boys I can remember my father and his friend Trumpet Guy having a jam session in this very spot one time when we were camping here with Picnic Family, and no one objected to that either. So each day ended quietly, with guitar music or the sound of falling rain, before the kids retired to their tent to play cards and read books by flashlight, and my husband and I retreated into our own tent to talk over the day and make plans for the morning.
Shaggy Hair Boy, listening to the waves.
Posted by jo(e)