Memorial Day Weekend makrks not only the unofficial kickoff of summer, but also of camping season. And once upon a time, I was one of those outdoor enthusiasts who gladly packed up the car and headed for the wilderness, where I could wipe my ass with poison ivy and shower in subzero water.
Why? Because of one too many poison ivy rashes and subzero showers, of course.
I used to be made of hardier stuff. Growing up, most vacations found us calling a tent home, whether we were in the No Man’s Land that is the Upper Penninsula of Michigan or the sunny beaches of South Carolina.
I once washed my hair in Lake Superior (which is the same temperature as a frozen Hell, for those of you not in the know).
I once got a severe case of diarrhea when the only toilet I had access to was a stinking Port-a-Potty baking under a 90-degree sun.
I once stomped on a fire ant hill and ran screaming back to my mom with armies of stinging red hellions traveling up my thighs.
But at the time, I thought nothing of it. Those adventures were just part of the Camping Experience.
Experiences that also included swimming in ocean surf, collecting Hermit Crabs in buckets, roasting marshmallows on an open fire and giggling with my brother in our own “Grown-Up Tent” after lights out.
Then I grew up. Well, maybe not “up,” but older. Old enough to have my own set of car keys, friends and camping equipment. And camp we did.
My best friend and I once camped in weather that reached freezing temperatures at night, in the rain, then washed off in the aforementioned sub-zero showers.
Before we were married, my husband and I once went camping on Lake Michigan—in an area where the water, warmed by the nuclear power plant just at the other end of the beach, was decorated with used condoms and empty beer bottles.
Not to be deterred, the next summer we set out for a campground on Lake Huron, only to be awakened in the middle of the night by a tornado siren. After spending several hours praying to a nameless God as I sat shivering and drenched on a pitch black beach (we were told that the tornado would turn back before it hit the water), I vowed never to camp again.
But it wasn’t until a weekend of rustic camping (i.e. peeing in the woods), left me with a poison ivy rash up and down my legs and thighs so bad that they were swollen to the size of tree trunks that I made good on my promise.
While smearing myself with Calomine lotion and popping steroids, I swore never to camp again. And I haven’t.
Because of this, our vacations have become much less frequent (a clearing in the woods is way cheaper than a hotel, yo), but significantly more pleasurable.
When it rains? I can go inside.
When an unexpected cold patch hits? I can turn up the heat.
When a tornado threatens? Well, I still quake in my boots, but at least I’m dry while I do so.
So, all you hardy, I-don’t-need-no-cushy-mattress types, enjoy your mosquito-ridden, rain-soaked weekends. I’ll be toasting you from inside my air-conditioned living room, munching on s’mores roasted in my microwave.