M. Giant's
Velcrometer
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Thursday, September 15, 2005  

Happy Camper

Six years ago this month, Trash and I were sleeping in a tent in Custer National Park, somewhere in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Also with us were another couple, Kraftmatik and the Krank. This was our two-week, multi-state road trip, and it was among the first of many nights that we would all be sleeping under the same nylon dome.

Late this particular night, the peaceful atmosphere was abruptly rent asunder by a sound that transfixed us like a bolt of solidified nitrogen through our collective spleens. To call it a cry or a scream is to elevate cries and screams to unheard-of levels. It was the long, keening wail of some unholy beast of the mountains either meeting some horrid end, or causing some other creature to meet its, freeing it up to come after us next.

I don't remember which of us slept through it and which of us lay awake, staring wide-eyed at the tent ceiling until dawn broke. I do remember that this was the summer that The Blair Witch Project came out, and jokes about being ill-fated campers weren't yet completely funny. All I remember is that that sound defied description. It was the sound of the curtain of the world being drawn back, so that the legion demons who teem behind it could call out a howdy.

We never did find out what that sound was, or what made it. Until this past weekend, when Trash and I took M. Small camping in Wisconsin.

It was the sound of an eleven-month-old boy on his first camping trip. Several miles down the road, going by the volume.

It's probably just as well that we didn't go camping on Labor Day weekend proper. That's one of the busiest camping weekends of the summer. And it's even more just as well that we didn't go to the spot in Custer National Park where we normally camp, which is a little grouping of four or five sites at an intimate little spot where the mountain pass is a little wider than the road. Because with M. Small making those noises at 9:00 p.m., and at 10:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m., in a crowded campground, with the next tent only a few dozen yards away, we wouldn't have been very popular.

This is not to say that he didn't enjoy himself, because he did. He loved being outside for hours at a time. He loved pointing at the trees that towered around our campsite. He loved riding in the stroller through the campground, and in the baby backpack I strapped on for the first time (an experience that constituted reason number 843 why I will never be on The Amazing Race). He loved the Bambino Gazebo we stuck him in, and not just because it was hip-deep in toys. He also loved being put in the portable crib inside the tent at bedtime. We could tell because he screamed his joy at passing airplanes. Even though there weren't any.

Trash and I took turns going into the tent to try to calm him down. Lately, he hasn't been sleeping through the night, and one thing that we've tried is just sitting in view of him so he knows we're there, but not picking him up. We tried something along these lines while camping, but for some reason the sight of one of us sitting on the tent floor next to him was just about the funniest damn thing ever. Until we tried the other thing we've been doing to try to get him to sleep, which is to lie down and snuggle. Which, in the tent, was even funnier.

Fortunately, this was the first night, and by the second night, a great deal of the novelty had worn off. The second night, most of his wakefulness occurred after we'd already gone to bed. The first night was preferable.

I've heard that decades ago, some parents used an expedient to get their kids to sleep that we in the modern era might find a bit extreme: They stuck their kids' heads in the gas oven for a few minutes. I, of course, would never, ever do that. But it's hard, late at night, to listen to a screaming kid while looking at the column of smoke rising from the campfire and not harbor a fleeting, evil thought or two.

Today's best search phrase: "Velcro is faster 50 lbs." With fifty pounds of Velcro on you, I don't see how you could be faster than anything. Especially if you're on carpet.

posted by M. Giant 10:03 PM 3 comments

3 Comments:

Putting the tot's head in the oven is a little extreme. But, the occasional dose of children's Nyquil never hurt anyone ;)
Nighty-night, rabbit.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 16, 2005 at 3:24 PM  

A little kid benedryl doesn't hurt either...and think of all the night time allergic reactions you're warding off.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 17, 2005 at 10:39 AM  

:)

By Blogger fin, at September 18, 2005 at 12:26 PM  

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