A Series of Unfortunate Laments

My friend, Ross Murray, over at Drinking Tips for Teens posted about some camping funny the other day – which made remember some of MY own camping funny plus other stories.  So, I guess I’ll write about them.  Shall we get to it? Damn straight.

Growing up, my family went on many a camping trip. I actually love camping (but would say I’ve morphed into more of a Bed & Breakfast type vacationer in my later years).  As a dedicated morning person, waking up really early in the out-of-doors is fabulous.  Except for the bugs, DANGEROUS wild animals and lack of bathroom facilities – those kind of suck.   And speaking of bathroom facilities…

If You Don’t Go…

One of my least favorite memories of camping was the dreaded ‘having to go’ sequence. Here’s how it set up. In our ginormous family tent, my mom would set up a little porta-potty seat with a plastic bag ‘bowl’…then she’d clear the tent for the first victim.  Even at age 5, I was mortified about having to ‘go’ in that kind of setting. So there I’d be sitting in the middle of this huge tent trying to ‘go’ whilst my mom was outside asking me (LOUDLY) if I was ‘going’ and reminding me of the dangers of constipation.   HORRIFYING.   Have you ever stood completely naked with just your shoes on? It feels weird, right? Well, that’s exactly how weird I felt.

Here’s a Kitchen Towel

Eventually, my father ditched the tent and bought a pop-up camper.  That was fun – I loved the way it smelled – like a musty version of home.  I also got to sleep with my mom (bonus for any kid at age 6) and didn’t have to suffer next to my brother all night long like when we camped in a tent.   My brother was a pain in my butt – he was constantly teasing me; basically acting just like an older brother. He was also prone to bloody noses because of his allergies.

So one day we’re all doing our camping stuff – mom was probably keeping the bears away, dad doing some fishing, me running around (possibly getting lost – I did that a lot) and my brother was playing with a basketball.  It bounced near the back of the camper, where the trailer hitch was located – he runs back there; then we hear a yell and he comes back towards my mom, crying with a face full of blood. My mom was probably tired of camping by that point (as a Mom on Vacation, I feel her pain – moms never actually get to relax on ‘vacation’ – it’s basically just more work than non-vacation). So she dismissively throws a kitchen towel at my brother and tells him to wipe his bloody nose and stop crying. Turns out, he didn’t have a bloody nose, he had split his forehead open on the trailer hitch – and no one noticed right away – OOPS!  Hee hee…  Hello first aid tent – we’ve come a callin’!  I’m pretty sure over the years, we visited a lot first aid tents with my brother.  He’s also prone to ruining a good camping trip.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

After we moved from Long Island to Arizona, we camped a lot less. One time my father took us all on a fishing trip to the White Mountains (we stayed in a hotel – which was FABBO –TV and BATHROOM!). It rained most of the time, but my father could fish in a tsunami – fishing makes him happier than any other activity I’ve ever seen him do. Anyway, we knew it was going to rain but my father wanted to get in some fishing before it happened. My brother was 14, and complained a lot about this trip. My mom was probably worried about her hair.  I remember standing by the lake’s edge with my fishing pole – trying to cast and getting my line caught in the bushes to my left. I was trying to unsnag it (I was probably about 10 yrs old) and got myself all tangled up and fell in the lake.  Which FREAKED ME RIGHT OUT – and then it started to pour rain – and that FREAKED ME OUT MORE – I remember thrashing in the water and bushes and finally my father was able to pull me out of the water.  I’m pretty sure by this point, my father wished he had left the three of us home and fished by himself.  We called it a day and my parents let me decide what we would have for dinner because I was traumatized by my ‘ordeal’.   I had been waiting my whole life to try Kentucky Fried Chicken – we never ate there and I saw one in the town. So my parents relented and we got a big tub o’chicken.  It tasted like crap.  I was so disappointed.  TV LIES! IT’S ALL LIES I TELL YA!

Getting Lost

Much to my mom’s exasperation delight, I walked at 9 months, and I was running up & down the stairs by 10 moths.  I liked being mobile. I liked being independent.  I liked RUNNING.

I spent a good portion of my young years ‘getting lost’ – in the supermarket, camping, at the department stores… I didn’t run away or intentionally get lost. I just found that I had lost track of my parents in my wanderings.  I spent many a time waiting for my parents to retrieve me after the PA announced “Could Mr. & Mrs. B— please come to the front of the store we have a lost child”.  I’m still surprised they showed up EVERY TIME.

The worst ‘getting lost’ episode happened when I was very young (age 3 maybe?) – I don’t even remember this story but my mom told it a lot when I was growing up.  I think it sort of sums me up perfectly.  My mom and grandmother took me to the open air markets in the city (NYC). It eventually transpired that my mom realized I wasn’t next to her talking incessantly (my 2nd favorite pastime). She searched for me in vain – all over the store and out into the streets. I’m sure she was panicked – as a mom now, I understand how she felt. My Grandmother was beside herself with worry – they called and called my name.  I think they were near hysteria and about to call the police to report a missing child, when I was found sitting behind the counter of the pet department holding two little kittens. My mom asked if I’d not heard everyone calling my name. I said Yes, but that I was afraid someone would take away my kittens’  – Oi.  As children, we are so innocent of the absolute stomach-dropping-gut-wrenching fear we can cause our parents.

I had my own comeuppance when my son was 3.  I took him to a neighborhood school’s fall festival one day.  I could have sworn he was next to me the whole time and then I realized that I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t find him…I panicked in a new way I’d never panicked before.  Distraught and half hysterical, I called his name and asked people if they saw a 3 year old boy in a Thomas tee-shirt and shorts. One woman said “there’s a little boy about 3 years old on a tricycle in a tunnel that hasn’t stopped talking – could that be your son?”  – Of course it was…


I have more stories – I’ll save them for another day.

About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
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40 Responses to A Series of Unfortunate Laments

  1. Pingback: The Bear in the Parking Lot! | rohan7things

  2. djmatticus says:

    I was crawled into/under a hanging rack of clothes at a department store… and promptly fell asleep. My mom and brother spent the next half hour searching the store, calling out my name, enlisting the help of everyone in the store, calling out for me over the PA… until, rested from my nap I emerged on my own to see what was going on… 🙂

  3. Marsha says:

    Entertaining as always! 🙂

  4. La La says:

    I liked your stories. I’ve never been camping, but going soon for the first time…as an adult woman. I always wanted to go with my dad when I was a kid though. I imagined it would be like that, minus falling in the lake!

  5. The Hook says:

    The great outdoors produce great laughs – and memories, right?

  6. "HE WHO" says:

    We were holidaying in Phoenix with our two children, about seven and three years old. We went out one morning and left them at the motel with babysitters, two teenage daughters of a friend who surprisingly was a rocket scientist. That fact kind of gave his daughters credence in our books. We came back, no one there, and the teenagers were at home. They let our babies on their own and we found them hours later, wandering on the shoulder of the highway. I have never been so freaked in my life! They too were terrified. It took a long time to get over that and never really trusted a babysitter again. I’ve told you this story because I didn’t want to relate my camping story which involved going to the bathroom in the bushes with no toilet paper, a horrible case of poison ivy and oatmeal baths. I hate camping.

    • I like poison ivy and potty stories that combine…

      That’s the biggest draw back for camping – no toilets. I like toilets.

      Yikes – what a terrifying story – I would definitely have been on the edge of hysteria… Did those teens ever realize what COULD have happened? I guess being related to a rocket scientist doesn’t preclude you from cluelessness. I can’t imagine how scared I’d be to find my child wondering around I-10.

      • "HE WHO" says:

        Their father gave them supreme shit but I don’t think the thought of what they done (or not done) sunk in. Teenagers. And yes, I like porcelain conveniences. Private bathrooms. Running water and towels. And the outdoors as long as the aforementioned are ALL available.

  7. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Love your stories, Denise! Camping does have its good and bad sides. I remember one time waking up in the middle of the night with sounds outside the tent of some kind of growly, snuffling thing. To this day, I think it was a badger, but it was terrifying! My husband and I decided to make a run for it, screaming and hollering through the campground to the car where we tried to sleep for the rest of the night. I know the rest of the campers thought we were crazy!

  8. Rohan 7 Things says:

    Oh man, now I want to go camping, and fishing! I’ve been fishing 4 times, never caught a fish, I don’t think they like me, or I just suck. But I enjoy just sitting there 🙂

    Love the potty story lol, that’s horrible haha!!

    And yeah, losing a kid is the worst feeling ever, my little brother did a couple of short disappearing acts and even though I was only 11 or so at the time it was pretty darn horrible! Always managed to find him though, he was never gone for long 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!


  9. El Guapo says:

    Sadly, I’ve never been camping.
    Cabin in the woods from time to time, but never full-on tent camping.

  10. I went camping once. ONCE. I hated it. To me, roughing it is staying at a hotel that has a crappy selection of cable channels. As for getting lost, I got lost in Macy’s several times. You’d think my mother would have learned that I was inclined to wander off.

  11. I had my fair share of PA announcements for my mother too! ^.^

  12. twindaddy says:

    I loathe camping…

  13. We might try camping this summer. I thought I’d bring the potty chair for the kids. I think they’re young enough to not be warped by it. I like the idea of camping more than the reality so we’ll see.

  14. MissFourEyes says:

    I have one rule when it comes to camping: hold everything in. I’ll risk the dangers of constipation.

  15. rossmurray1 says:

    Shouldn’t “survivalist” and “child” be synonyms? The lost child fear is primal. We briefly lost Abby (easily our most distracted child…) in a department store once. But the worst was last summer when we lost site of our eldest daughter in the Pacific waves while rookie-surfing. It was a long couple of minutes… destiny just teetering there with two possible outcomes. Thankfully she was fine, just drifted downshore. Ugh.
    Loved these, and thanks for the link-to.

  16. Haha, the little boy who can’t stop talking, hmmm. That describes Thing Two perfectly. My big brother picks her up from school. She talks all the way to the car. She talks in the car all the way home. She keeps talking until he leaves (and she’s still talking he just doesn’t hear it.) Talk about patience! I know I have a much better relationship with my brother now than I did when we were fighting for the backseat. Did you have the invisible line you didn’t cross else you lose an arm? Oh, and thank GOD my parents never took us camping. Our vacations were always disastrous as it was. Oy vey!

  17. Rules for Peeing When Camping: 1) Find a “Boy’s Tree” 2) Find a “Girl’s Tree”. 🙂

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