Ever been camping? I grew up camping and not because we were lovers of the outdoors, but it was the only way we could afford to stay at the beach. Enter Assateague Island. It’s a great place to camp, but it’s not for sissies. When a storm hits there, you know it. No trees to shield you, just wide open spaces, sand, and horses. The wild ponies that live on the island make out pretty well, us, not so much. I’ve got a few horror stories about storms at Assateague, but will spare you for now.
If you’ve ever been camping, you probably know that one of the most entertaining parts is getting up early and watching everyone else wake up. Where else can you go and see not-so-perfect-strangers climb out of bed with beach hair in their pajamas, watch them rub their eyes, and walk to the bathhouse?
Then the smell of bacon wafts through the campsites as we all cook breakfast either in our camper on on a Coleman stove on the picnic table. Kids ride their bikes until Mom calls that it’s time to eat.
We’d gather the dirty dishes (paper plates are your friend), and head back to the bathhouse to the pot washing sink. As I recall, that task was relegated to the teenager in the group as they have expendable time while Mom gets everything ready to head over the sand dune to the beach for the day.
I’d make my famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pack up bags of chips (vacation-only commodities like gold fish crackers , Slim Jims, and Cheetos), sodas (the one week of the year when my kids could have all they wanted), and beach toys for the little kids (that included my husband, Jeff). Then the sunscreen line. Everyone just loves the sunscreen routine. Kids squirm and moms fuss at them to stand still. Some things never change.
Then there’s the beach. Where else can you go and sit blanket to blanket with not-so-perfect strangers and have a great time? Eavesdropping is allowed as there’s no way to avoid it. The beach was the only place where my kids would spend the day together and I was guaranteed there would be no pinching, punching, or tattling . What is it about sand, salt water, and sunshine that puts everyone in a good mood? For me, it’s all of the above, as well as the sea gulls.
Yeah, I’m the annoying lady that likes to feed them, but I don’t do it on the beach any more since someone threatened to dunk me in the ocean. I do it when I get back to the campsite. You see, I’m a professional sea gull trainer. I’d take a loaf of bread and roll it up mini dough balls to throw them to the birds. By the end of the week, I’d have the gulls trained. I’d throw up a dough ball and they’d all come flying from near and far. Within a minute, they’d be lined up and come in one at a time in a flight pattern to catch their dough ball. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. Doesn’t take much to entertain this girl when she’s got her toes in the sand.
After a day at the beach, we’d trudge back to the camper, collect the bathroom bags and head for the showers praying there wouldn’t be a line, but there always was. The one time I remember when there was not a line, my oldest, Adam, was around two years old. Way back then, the water was shiver-me-timbers cold as there was never any hot water. I took Adam’s clothes off him and then mine. The little bugger made the great escape from the cold water shower and took off running for the door. There I was, naked (no visuals, please) hollering at him to come back. Luckily, as he pushed the door open to make his hasty exit, a lady was walking in and captured him for me. I often wonder how far he would’ve gotten had she not been there.
Memories of camping are among our fondest. Being too poor to afford an oceanfront condo facilitated a love of the outdoors, quality time with each other, and a fondness for burnt bacon on a Coleman stove. Oh yeah, did I mention the mosquitoes?