(Shhh … it’s misspelled on purpose—you’ll see later.)
So this past weekend was family time—we got together with my wife’s siblings, their spouses and children at a campground up in Massachusetts.
As much as I love hanging out with my brothers- and sisters-in-law (and my four nephews—can’t anyone in this family pop out a chick?), when I saw the hot, humid and stormy weather forecast, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the weekend. If there’s any activity that is made remarkably “not fun,” by rain, it’s camping.
We got a reprieve Friday night when, after seeing stormy weather in the forecast, we decided to stay at my sister-in-law’s house rather than go directly to the campground (only about an hour away). My sister- and brother-in-law decided to stay at the campground because they have one of the pop-up campers that also has a stove, a fridge, a shower, a toilet, running water and air conditioning. (Apparently, it’s called “glamping,” although with the humidity, my wife said it was more like “damping.”) We just have a tent and sleeping bags—old school, baby! Still, not ideal when facing potential downpours, so we chose a more comfort-friendly option, a.k.a. “wussed out.”
Anyway, we got to the campground on Saturday, and it was a little different than I expected. [*hikes up pants, goes out on front lawn, shakes fists at clouds*] When I was a kid and my parents took us camping, most people used tents and there was usually a good deal of woods involved; you might even see a woodland creature or two. This “campground” was more like, as one of my sister-in-law’s described it, a “shanty town.” The sites were not clearly marked and on top of each other, and in almost every single one, there was some sort of oversized RV—with TVs, full stoves, running water, etc. As for woodsy creatures, there were a few mosquitoes, and that’s about it. It was closer to trailer park than state park.
Still, there were certainly a lot of things to like. The bathrooms, rather than the festering spider-infested holes of my youth, were sparkling affairs that I’m pretty sure were cleaned three times a day. There was a video arcade, a mini golf course, a pool with a splashpad and even WiFi. I guess maybe it’s fairer to classify it as more of a resort than a true campground.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter all that much—we were there to be with our family, and there was plenty of that despite the humid and occasionally rainy conditions. We eventually pitched our tents and got to the business of “camping,” which is pretty much loitering in the woods as I see it. The kids played and went swimming, the adults hung out and ate, and everyone was pretty well entertained.
Of course, I was put in charge of making fire, which even though it was 85 degrees and humid, was something WE ABSOLUTELY NEEDED TO HAVE … uh, you know, for the kids … uh … so that they could make s’mores. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Not because I need to burn stuff. No.
For the record, I did restrain myself—it was pretty hot, and we truly didn’t *need* a conflagration (although I could’ve whipped one up in about 37 seconds, if anyone had asked!), so I focused on making a quality fire. It turned out well—for me, the best part of any trip is sitting around the fire after dark, watching the glowing embers, talking and just enjoying each other’s company. A campfire (when properly contained) is still a communal experience.
So despite my misgivings—and an humid night in a tent (ugh!) followed by a Sunday morning of torrential downpours as we were trying to pack up—I wound up having a good (if damp) time overall, which I now appreciate after sleeping in my own bed, which didn’t slosh when I rolled over.
I have to say that one of my favorite parts was on Saturday, watching my younger son fish. He’s been asking to go for a while—I’ve never been much a fisherman, so I’ve never really taken him, and certainly at no point in the last few years. I think my father-in-law has taken him maybe once, and once he was at a camp where they did it one afternoon.
As a kid, my dad took me a handful of times, and once I got older, there were three or four occasions that I went with Senior Smoke, who is a three-time Connecticut bass-fishing champion. Most times, I was occupied untangling lines and staring at bobbers and lures that no fish would touch.
So as my son has asked, I’ve always sort of thrown the “Oh yeah, some day” response at him. But since my brother-in-law is an excellent fisherman (who knows what he’s doing and can actually bait hooks and the like), this was the perfect opportunity, and we took advantage.
Being the supportive dad that I am, as we ambled over to the lake, I set the bar low. “Now, I don’t know how many fish are going to be around, but at least you’re getting a chance to finally fish,” I say. He simply nods because, as it turns out, he’s a freaking fishing natural!
I always say that I believe that everyone has one special talent that they may or may not ever know about. For example, I may be the greatest bobsledder of all time, but I’ve never been on a bobsled, so who knows? To me, the lucky ones in life are those who somehow discover that special skill and get to enjoy it. Evidently, for my son, it’s angling.
It was remarkable—as I said, I’ve never really shown him how to, but he just knew how to do it—on his first cast, he reeled in a fish! “Okay, begginer’s luck,” I thought. Except he kept reeling in fish after fish after fish!
I don’t know how, but he was just flicking out casts and *really* into it. At one point, he threw his line about three feet from the shore and almost into some bushes. “What happened there?” I laughed. “Miss cast?”
“I saw some movement,” he said quietly, and then bang! A second later was reeling in another! He was like the fish whisperer or Fish Fishburne or Orlando Wilson. (Okay, here’s the scary part—I didn’t need to google either of those guys, I already know who they are. Why would I know that?! How?! I’ve never fished more than six times in my life! Why would I—or anyone—know that off the top of their heads? But yet I can’t help out with the cure for cancer?! Help me … please.) He kept just tossing his line to the spots that he thought fish might be, and he kept catching them. It was uncanny, really.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised—fishing matches up well with his skill set as he’s patient and enjoys activities that involve figuring out strategies.
Anyway, in about an hour, he reeled in about a dozen fish, and would’ve landed more if I hadn’t wasted so much time in unhooking them because I don’t like touching them. (*See aforementioned wussy admission*) It was crazy. His cousins were also catching fish—maybe the pond was stocked?—but just the way he went about it was what really made such an impression on me. For a kid who has struggled with his confidence, it was awesome to see him so calmly competent at something.
As we finished, he smiled big and said, “Wow, they were really biting today.”
And despite how comfortable I would’ve been if we hadn’t gone “damping” this weekend, we were there to make memories like this.
Of course, the one good image is of the smallest fish he caught. Really. I’m not just telling fish tails!