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Sunday, August 13, 2006  

Happy Camper II: The Campening

In between preparing for M. Small's baptism last week, Trash and I were also preparing for something else. Namely, M. Small's second camping trip.

You may recall that M. Small's first camping trip was only eleven months ago, when he was eleven months old. It must seem to him like that was half a lifetime ago.

We went to not only the same campground, but the same camp site. We used to be much more adventurous than this in our travel arrangements, as in, "Oh, we'll just find a hotel when we get to the Gobi Desert." But when you have a toddler whose daily routine is going to be cataclysmically disrupted, you keep the other variables to a minimum.

We spent a lot of Saturday packing up the cars, which M. Small loved. He adores being outside. Specifically, he's recently picked up a new hobby, which is climbing out of my car and into Trash's car, and then out of Trash's car and into my car, while pushing every lever, button, and knob he could reach. We couldn't wait to get out of the city with him and into nature, where, we were fully aware, he would spend his time climbing out of my car and into Trash's car, out of Trash's car and into my car, while pushing every lever, button, and knob he could reach.

There were breaks in the car-manipulating, of course. M. Small appointed himself a sort of freelance Smoky the Bear the moment we entered the campground. "FIRE!" he hollered, pointing out the danger. The "danger" consisted of cold, empty fire pit without so much as a wisp of smoke rising from it, but it's important to be vigilant.

We were also glad we didn't have to keep chasing him away from our own campfire once Trash got it going. If anything, it was the other way around. One of us would stoke it or bank it or suspend some water or food over it, and M. Small would quickly warn us, "HOT!" He had to yell it, of course, because he was either steering clear of the pit himself, or some distance away in one of our cars.

Last time we went camping, he was just learning to walk. This time, he's big enough to walk all over the campground. Which he did. We didn't bother with the bambino gazebo this time around, because we knew he'd never go into it. What we had instead was a 4' X 5' tent that we basically used to store his toys. He was happy to go into it when we first set it up, but after that he was much more interested in the main tent, a 13' X 13' nylon mansion with three separate rooms that he took to calling "bigger one."

And he would do this several times a day. At first, I wondered if he thought, upon seeing Mom, Dad, and Grandma drive all this way and start busily unpacking and setting things up, that this is just where we lived now. If so, he seemed cool with it. But a little guy needs time to adjust, and when that happens, you're glad the "bigger one" is there.

M. Small would periodically press himself against the zipped-up door and ask, "Bigger one, bigger one." Once inside, he would ask for his pacifier. We've mostly got him off of that these days, except at bedtime and nap time. But when he started asking for it the second day and getting unusually upset when he didn't get it, we decided that maybe it would be a good idea to help him adjust to this major change in his life circumstances. I mean, yesterday he was living in his own room, sleeping in his own crib, in a nice, solid house in a friendly neighborhood in a busy city. Now he was in the middle of nowhere with FIRE! all around, with no shelter but an overgrown backpack. Is it so much to ask to let a guy suck on a piece of rubber for a few minutes with all of that going on?

Because that's really all he needed. He'd suck on his paci, lie on his sleeping bag with the air mattress built in for a few minutes, and snuggle with his blankie. And then he'd be done, and he'd hand over the paci to the nearest adult without being asked, and start trying to get out of the tent so he could go back to draining our car batteries.

I don't know how he would have reacted if we'd stayed a whole week. I do know that on the last morning, when we started packing up, he was ready to go home. "Home," he would say in a tone of voice that indicated that he knew that wasn't where he was. "Home."

A few hours later, we were back in our own driveway, here in Minneapolis. But M. Small didn't want to go into the house. He wanted to stay in the car and climb the steering wheel. I guess when it comes down to it, his home is where he hangs from the turn signal lever.

posted by M. Giant 8:15 PM 1 comments


Which, come to think of it, is entirely appropriate for a "gearhead" such as him!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 14, 2006 at 4:50 PM  

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