Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Narnia And The North

Thoughts on camping and returning home:

Brian (formerly known as the Smile-y Child) was upset that we dragged him on vacation with us.  He's 14 - I really don't know what else he expected us to do.  He took a page from Anna's book by becoming immune to any sense of awe that might have been engendered by the natural wonders we visited. I attribute his misery to acute Lego withdrawal.

Brian was unimpressed by views such as these.

David (17) did not seem thrilled to be with us either, but he kept it under wraps fairly well. We'll just not speak about the evening he stole the batteries from Brian's lantern because the boys were fighting like toddlers over when to turn out the light in the tent.  I spent the rest of that night wondering where I had gone wrong.  Seriously.

Having had to spend our life savings on bike racks to affix 3 of our bicycles to the top of the van, Larry and I were DETERMINED to get our money's worth by biking on our vacation.  But the first time we biked, on Maine's Eastern Trail, Susie cried because we made her pedal for 5 miles and there was no place to buy ice cream at the end. The second time, now in Acadia, she was upset because the trail was packed gravel instead of paved.  The third time? There was a long ascent at the beginning which totally psyched her out. The rest of us ended up going on ahead while Larry walked with her until she decided it was "downhill-y" enough to get on her bike again.  She cried again.  A lot.  People stared.

I'm sharing this so you will understand that, when you see all those pictures on Facebook of people biking with their kids or see those minivans tooling along the highway with bikes on them and you think, "Oh, hey, that family is having more fun than we are"?  They're NOT.

Our van didn't quite look like this, but it FELT like it.

There is a septic tank servicing company on Mount Desert Island that goes by the name Royal Flush. I needed to share that fact with you. I don't know why.

When we last visited Acadia, the children ranged in age from 4-17, and Larry and I were exhausted with the effort required to get 8 people into a minivan and all the way up to Maine. That vacation is a blur, our memories only aided by the pictures we took.  5 years have gone by, and those children - that family, really - are gone.  2 literally, grown and on their own, and the others grown older, less of a unit, less ours. These past 2 weeks, The Horse and His Boy kept coming to mind, that part where Aravis is hurrying through the Tisroc's gardens during her escape from the palace and C. S. Lewis comments, "One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places, you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them...."  The most beautiful times as a family are when all the children are young, but you are too tired and stressed at that point to appreciate it sufficiently.  I feel very weepy as I type this.

I didn't look at my email for over a week.  This attempt to relax ended up backfiring, because - by the last night of vacation - I was having nightmares about what might be awaiting me in my inbox.

Camping tip: when you find yourself arguing with your spouse (in loud whispers, so as not to wake the children) about where to pack the plastic food storage containers and, in a supreme hissy fit, he douses the campfire you were enjoying?  It's time to head home.

Camping outdoors for 2 weeks makes you forget that there is such a thing as living INSIDE.  Home seems dim and far away. When you do get home, you wonder why you have all that extra stuff. You wonder if maybe you can live up north, away from the horrible humidity that is sucking the life out of you as you empty the camper and bark orders at the kids.  You look up house prices in New England.  You swear at the mosquitoes.

And then you run into your neighbors, out for a walk, happy to talk to you, and you remember it's the people, not the place.  I love my neighbors.   All of them.

Still, we could Skype...

[Acadia image: AllTrips]
[Bikes on van image: Allee Willis blog]


  1. Welcome back, o brave and courageous camper, you!

  2. Ah, yes, I remember those days! Five years from now they'll all be, "Oh, remember the time we ..." Time has a way of brushing the bad stuff away. Well, most of it anyway.

  3. Welcome back, Brave One.

    I know what you mean about the change in the family, and therefore the change in how the family vacation goes.

    Just remember that during some portion of the year, New England gets biting black flies.

  4. At least you kept your sense of humor. :)
    A person has to be really determined to be gloomy in order to not be awed in a place like Acadia. Or Maine in general. I especially enjoyed the bike riding bit. I have thought, "I wish we could buy a bike rack big enough for our family." Glad we never did. I have biked in Acadia, but they were rented bikes and we were on our 10th anniversary trip without kids. I suggest you try it that way next time.
    Glad you're back!

  5. Welcome back to the great INdoors! And this time of year in general makes me beginnings always remind me that something just ended...

  6. I am hiding this post from my husband who comes down firmly on the side of NO CAMPING and NO BIKE TRIPS. I am delusional enough to think we could hack it and have a blast still ...

  7. Cool! And now I want to go back to Acadia- I went to college not far from there, and it's one of my favorite national parks.

  8. Wow, that looks beautiful. You camped for 2 weeks?? That's a looong time to be confined with the kids. That's so true about how we miss the best ages of our kids because we are so busy taking care of them. But then they get past the teens and actually help with the camp chores and you enjoy them again. It gets better. And believe or not, you are giving them good memories.

  9. I once saw a septic tank service truck with “In our book, a flush beats a full house”, written on the side of it. I needed to share that fact with you. I don't know why.

  10. arg I think it just ate my comment.

    Anyhow, been there with the teenagers. So unappreciative. Honestly the time when they were little is already a blur and my youngest is only 11.

  11. I'm speaking as someone who just turned 51, with a 13 year old daughter. I totally remember hating doing things with my parents and siblings when I was a teen. We all resented being there, and no one had a very good time. I say farm those teens off to friends houses and just vacation with family members (or friends!) who want to be there!

  12. You are a hardy woman and that's a gorgeous view. My tent camping limit is 2 nights. They will all look back on this with rose-colored glasses and thankfully, so will you!