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Thursday, 21 September 2000


Written by  Sherri Mandell

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Once I camped for a week on a beach in Greece.

A sleeping bag on the sand. One dress, one skirt and three shirts...that was all of my gear.

My food: all served at the cafe. Turkish coffee. Fresh goat yogurt with a sprinkle of sugar for lunch. Grilled fish.

My company: Gents with accents.

My activity: Topless bathing. As much sun as I could stand.

I was single. Reading seemed taxing.

It was only natural that when I had kids, I thought my family would enjoy camping.

Neighbors came out and waved goodbye. They thought we were moving.

It took me years but finally I convinced my husband to go camping with our four children who were then all under the age of eight. I borrowed a tent and sleeping bags. And then I started packing:

Tent, water bottles, clothes, diapers, change of clothes, bathing suits, clothes for sun, clothes for cold, mats, pillows, underwear, toothbrushes, pails, shovels, mosquito repellent, suntan lotion, medical supplies, forks, knives, hamburgers, cereal.

I even packed a nutcracker in case we found walnuts in the woods.

You get the picture: I was prepared for EVERY eventuality.

Kids do that to you.

I packed for 5 hours and 23 minutes

I was exhausted and we hadn't even left.

One of my husband's outstanding talents is his mastery of spatial relations: He fit everything into the car.

Neighbors came out and waved goodbye. They thought we were moving.

The minute we started driving, the kids were hungry. Ever notice how they save their hunger for when the food's not readily available?

I fed them pretzels, chips, apples and bagels that I had tucked in my food bag. But they were still hungry. Then the real eating began. A contortionist, I reached from the front seat all the way over into the backy back and pulled out salami sandwiches, humus and olives.

We had gone through breakfast and lunch before we were 15 minutes down the highway.

Husband wanted his coffee, which spilled on my pants.

We drove for what seemed like ten hours. I was soggy for all of them.

Nobody took a nap.

It began to drizzle as we pulled into the campground.

We scouted the campground. It was nearly empty. Babes in the woods, we couldn't believe our good fortune.

We found the perfect site, full of tall trees with sweeping canopies.

We parked the car. We started unloading.

We spread out the tent. Then we realized there were no stakes or poles.

We had no idea of how to put it up.

Suddenly the sky cracked open and burst into torrential rains. The kids ran around getting soaked.

We got back in the car and listened to the radio between the bursts of thunder. The news said the rain would last for three days.

"Didn't you listen to the weather report?" I asked my husband.

"Didn't you?"

We grimaced at each other. We were ready to fight. Then secretly we realized we were both relieved. We wouldn't have to put up the tent.

We folded up the tent. We went back to the mall. We went to the movies. We ate pizza. We went home.

I am happy to report that unpacking was much quicker than packing.

Now when our family goes out for pizza and a movie, my three-year-old is thrilled because he thinks we're camping.

Sure saves on packing time!


Last modified on Monday, 30 January 2012 11:23
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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

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