Do Jewish Girls Camp? Not This One! Part 2

BY ELLIE S. GROSSMAN

It was the longest night of our lives when my family tried to survive our first sleepover camping trip inside a tent and in the middle of the woods. Even my eyeballs were cold, if that’s possible, and we all were tired, dirty, grumpy, and miserable as we lay on top of a deflated air mattress that covered the rocky dirt like a cheap tablecloth. I guess it was about 5 a.m. because the birds started to chirp, and the sun was still half-asleep when I realized that my family was not cut out for camping after all.

My realization was confirmed when my daughter Sari told me that she felt sick and started to cough. Instinctively, I grabbed the nearest plastic grocery bag and held it in front of her. Only then did I realize how many s’mores she actually devoured the night before.

Sari’s sickness was my breaking point. I sermonized to anyone who would listen that the Jews had suffered long enough in history, and so had my family on this nightmare campout. No Boy Scout badge was worth this torture, and I was determined to escape from our nylon jail in the jungle as soon as possible.

We frantically unzipped our tent and raced to our parked van that awaited us at the top of the hill like a five-star hotel. The morning dew made the ground slippery, and I tripped over a hard-as-a-rock potato that refused to cook at last night’s dinner. I watched the leftover potato roll away like a forgotten casualty in a war zone.

When we finally reached the parking lot, my kids lunged into the van and clung to their comfortable upholstered spots. Immediately, my husband, Scott, cranked on the heater full blast. I was so embarrassed that someone would hear the motor run, but I didn’t care.

I stretched my stockinged feet on the dashboard and grabbed my journal. I wanted to document the details of our disastrous camping trip right away because I knew I had enough material to publish a story. I jotted notes about the gorgeous reddish-orange ball that I watched from the dirty windshield rise above the pine trees. I fantasized about the nearest Starbucks, while Scott clenched his teeth and gripped the steering wheel. Sari sat frozen in the backseat and stared straight ahead. Jack found his Game Boy in the glove compartment and was in another world.

If Scott had his way, we would have hit the road by now. Somehow I persuaded him to stick it out, at least until after the pancake and sausage breakfast. Our eyes were glued to the mounds of nylon cocoons scattered throughout the campground like a weird alien invasion. We waited for signs of life. Nothing. I was afraid that everyone was frozen dead.

Finally, a burly Eagle Scout with a serious five-o’clock shadow crawled out of his tent and stretched his arms into the overcast sky. We turned off the engine and scrunched in our seats as we watched the den leader rub his arms and try to shake off the cold.

I felt like a voyeur as we hid in our vehicle and observed in amazement how the brave man gathered logs and twigs to build a fire. He poked the wood around and somehow made smoke signals. We waited until the fire was nice and hot before we stepped out of the van with our heads hung low. I felt kind of guilty as we eventually warmed our bodies around his roaring fire without having done any of the work ourselves. Then again, my pride was long gone since I desperately borrowed Sari’s portable potty chair in the middle of the night.

Another campfire began to crackle, only this time someone brewed a bit of heaven in a blue-speckled coffeepot. I debated how morally permissible it was to hop from one campsite to the next.

Finally, the morning sun began to thaw our bones. We peeled off our hooded sweatshirts and relaxed a bit, while the kids played hide-and-seek in the forest. I actually began to enjoy myself for the first time, but Scott couldn’t wait to go home. He was the last parent to put up his tent and the first one to take it down. I thought about what I learned from my first camping experience — besides never put aerosol cheese in a cooler. I guess if I learned one thing, it would be to never pass up an opportunity to bond with my family in the great outdoors, as long as I have a comfortable bed to come home to.

The Mishegas of Motherhood ® is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to [email protected]

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