Tonight we headed off on another extended camping trip. We’ll be spending the next four nights camped out. This year, it’s a little different with the drunken-orangutan-like movements of Buster, our Princess, and our brand new puppy, Emma. But still, I’m ready. If you didn’t read my very first post- “Roughin’ It,” you should know that I’m pretty tough when it comes to camping. I could survive for days and days with nothing but two fully stocked refrigerators, my crock pot, my cupcake maker, a smoker, air-conditioning, a flush-toilet of my own, several cases of beer, a handle of Woodford Reserve, 100+ of my closest friends and family, and of course, my mommy and daddy camped right next door. Because it’s only the basics like that that matter.
Really, I have all that stuff. If you don’t know how I camp, I went into great detail about how I don’t camp in this post: How I Don’t Camp.
This camping trip is particularly special, though, as it is a family reunion. Grammy, a very special 95-year-old lady, will get to see all ten of her children. They’re traveling in from California, Kentucky, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, and probably more states I’m forgetting, to Connecticut to get together as they do every 5 years or so.
The usual crew we camp with will be there, too. Most of them are the local part of this giant family. I’m not actually related to most of them. My mother’s sister married one of the ten siblings. Out of kindness, or maybe because there were so many of them already that they didn’t notice, they’ve always treated me like family. Which is really nice and made for some difficult explanations when putting together already-complicated family-tree projects my cousins had to do. In fact, some didn’t realize I’m not actually related for a while. One cousin’s husband was more than a little disappointed to find out he’d been putting up with my crap since I was 15 and there was no real blood to back it up.
But I’m not the only non-blood-related member of this giant family. It seems they’ve picked up many stragglers along the way who are now considered family. They’re all wonderful people. In fact, my husband is one of those stragglers. I actually met him on my first “family” camping trip after I returned home from Oklahoma. You don’t get to become family if you’re not tough enough to take some ribbing but kind enough to contribute something- whether it’s fruit pizza, a bottle of some liquor, or just good conversation. Really the best thing you can contribute is a willingness to be the butt of our jokes for a while, I think.
I think the group needs to be studied. You know it if you’re a part of it, but there’s no membership cards. This reunion was well-organized by a few members of the group because it is larger and it has a few scheduled activities, but most camping trips come together with just a liaison to a campground. The rest just happens without any official leaders. I think everyone sees Grammy as the matriarch, but like Queen Elizabeth, at this point she’s not real interested in being in charge of everything. She does enough of that at her nursing home (that’s another story.) We all show up at a campground and there may be some scuffling about who camps where and how certain people behave, but we always seem to work it out. We take care of our children and each others’. We share food sometimes. Sometimes we don’t. It would be impressive if I were talking about 20 or so people. But it’s usually over 100 and includes something like 20 dogs.
Finding campgrounds has become tough, too- we’ve been thrown out of a few. Weird how they don’t like noise all night long, giant campfires. One campground seemed particularly sensitive about stuffing some clothing including a shirt that matched the campgrounds “STAFF” shirts and then burning it in effigy after they’d told us to go to bed too many times. But we’re a big group, and we like to have fun. We’re always up front before we visit a place. If we’re on a trip and things are getting less than fun, Grammy will even mention “We’ve been thrown out of nicer places than this one.”
As rowdy as we are during the camping, we always clean up our campfire and all other messes we create. When a campground we frequent was hit hard by a tornado a couple of years ago, a big group of us (not me, I had two small children, so not looking for credit) went up to the campground to help clean up. Treat us right, let us do our thing, and we’ll not only pay you thousands in camping fees, we’ll help you when you need it.
The members of the group include several races and religions. Members of the group have a wide span as far as employment- everything from retired and current business owners, nurses, engineers, firefighters (so the large campfires are usually somewhat contained, or at least someone understands the risks being taken), military, school-bus drivers, teachers, DCF workers, realtor/railroad workers, several IT folks, craftsmen, etc. And we all get along as neighbors for a few days. Even more of us do when we have a reunion. It’s an awesome temporary community and it will be even larger this weekend. I’m so glad that my kids get to be a part of it.
Anyway, this reunion is going to be fun. There will be even more kids for our children to play with this trip. And we’ve managed to book an entire campground. So I’m looking forward to catching up and telling some old stories and making some new ones. But I better get to packing. I’ll leave you with a nursery rhyme I wrote a couple of years ago (I didn’t use the proper name):
Lovely Mrs. Grammy never lived in a shoe,
But she has a large family and
Camping is what they do.
No broth in sight so they drink beer instead,
They burn things all night
And then go to bed.