Tuesday night, June 10, 2008
Writing late in the pop up somewhere in British Columbia
Yesterday when we arrived here at our Canadian Provincial Park, it was raining. It was raining as we drove the rather lengthy and, significantly for the biker, all uphill winding road to our campground. The park was immediately serene in its greenness. Mossy trees draping across the lonely road. Very lonely. We saw no one until we finally found the campground and ran into a park attendant who asked us if we were bringing the sunshine. She was dripping wet from cleaning up the weekend trash, I suppose. The reservation board was full with all the activity from the previous weekend. Clearly, this is a popular destination. Except on rainy Monday nights. We are one of about 4 campers in a park with over 400 sites. We chose our site because it is right across from the washrooms (as they call them in Canada) and a puddled playground. Four of us sat in the van until Taido and Cole had the camper up. Then we switched from sitting in the van to sitting in the camper. It was at this point that I realized that Ben was sick. He had been moaning about not feeling great all day, and had been a bit whiny, but I had convinced myself that he was just tired. Now it was time to dig out the thermometer and the advil and to tuck him into his sleeping bag, all of which I did before preparing dinner. Pre-made sushi and frozen gyozas from Trader Joe’s. Ben barely ate anything, while everyone else scarfed down the food and fell into beds. Or bags. The view from our camper really is amazingly lovely, I told myself as I was snuggling with Ben. If only the rain would stop. If only we weren’t soooo cold. Just enjoy the beautiful view from inside this great camper, I kept telling myself. You have to endure the cold and the rain to experience how enchanting it is. Part of its enchantment is its emptiness and it wouldn’t be so empty if the weather were perfect. There are thoughts I was chanting to myself as we were going to sleep. Simon took a long time to settle down after a long nap in the car, so Taido and I took turns patting him and wondering if the rain would ever stop. Taido took forever packing his things into a garbage bag before loading them into his backpack for the long morning ride that we felt would very likely be in the rain. He was to leave very early in order to make his train from here and meet his adviser on time.
When he got up and left this morning, it was eerily quiet. No trains or cars like last week. I let myself have a weensy moment of panic before I spent a long time thanking God that it wasn’t raining. Somehow, miraculously it seemed, the rain had stopped sometime early this morning. I had heard the drips on the camper all night long, and the puddles were everywhere, but now it had stopped. Just in time for Taido to ride away. And now that he had left, I pondered how the five of us were going to spend our day. I had already decided that if it was raining we were heading to town to find a Laundromat, but since it wasn’t raining and I wasn’t excited about a) driving into town to find said Laundromat or b) being in a Laundromat again with four children, I gave all my fears to God about being like the only people in this giant park and told myself that we would stay here as long as it wasn’t raining, and then I went back to sleep. When I am in my sleeping bag in the morning, just before I get up and after I have poked my head out to see if it is light, I think, right now, I am the warmest and driest I will be all day long. I just want to enjoy it a few more minutes. The good thing is that I think we all feel that way, so usually it is my bladder that finally drags me out and not another person. Then I have time to make coffee and sometimes even read a bit before everyone else rouses.
Cole and Mary Polly helped me make breakfast and then we all got back in our bags and listened to the rest of The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, because we were so very cold and so very near the end. We finished it and then we sat in our bags some more and talked about which characters we are most like. I decided that I used to be more like Jane, but being a mother has made me more like Rosalind, which isn’t necessarily bad, but I wondered if I haven’t suppressed a little Jane-ness in me in order to take care of the responsibilities of Rosalind. For example, as I think about going to town tomorrow, I think of it in these terms…it will be $10 in gas to get there and back, about the same or a little more to do the laundry, then at least $30 for lunch, because we will eat in town before coming back, plus a stop at the grocery store ($50 more) and then incidentals like parking or coffee ($10 again?), so the entire trip into town will be close to $100 before we are done and so maybe we should just stay at camp because besides the $24 per day campsite fee we have already paid, it is free to stay in camp. Now of course, if I didn’t think like this at all, we would have completely run out of money already on eating in places that are warm and dry or hotel rooms or some other such nonsense, but perhaps a little more of Jane’s carelessness would help to make the day more fun tomorrow, and maybe I could not be so insanely aware of how much every minute of our life is costing us. I’m sorry if you have no idea what I am talking about because you don’t know who Rosalind and Jane are, but really, that should just be incentive to go get the Penderwick books and read them yourself, even if you are not a child, because couldn’t we all use a little more childlike-ness?
So after my philosophy lesson, I decided that maybe the kids would be okay for a few minutes while I ran to the washroom and tried to take a shower. It had been exactly one week since we left the city RV park, and therefore, since I had showered, and so I was feeling pretty desperate. The grease was beginning to burn my eyes. Gross, I know. But the showers at campgrounds are really uninviting. For one, the bathrooms are not heated. And I am pretty sure that I have mentioned that I am rarely taking off my hat and coat, much less the rest of my clothes. And my socks! Goodness gracious, to take off my socks was really going to kill me. Nevertheless, I was desperate and I thought that it would not kill me. In fact a hot shower, which by the way, Taido had already checked the showers and promised me that they were hot, might just warm me up a bit. So I threatened the kids with their lives to get along, took all my things over to the washroom, took off my clothes until I was so cold that I was nearly in tears, and then turned on the water. I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I turn on the water before I took off all my clothes? Well, because first of all I was afraid that there might be a limited amount of hot water available and if so, I planned to use ALL of it to get warm, and secondly, it already feels like everything we own is wet and I couldn’t stand to accidentally get more of my clothes wet while checking the water. So of course, I turned on freezing cold water, and had to hit it back on like four times (the showers are like those water saving faucets that you have to keep turning on because they only run for a little while and then they slowly stop running and then you have to start them again.) After several hits of freezing cold water to the arm, I decided it wasn’t ever getting warm, so I wrapped myself up in my towel, which by the way is slightly damp and mildew-y, and then threw my clothes back on. And I was amazed at how the same clothes that were earlier not keeping me warm now felt like wonderful cozy electric blankets. I went back over to the camper, from which I could hear the kids being crazy loud like fighting and ordered everyone out to go for a walk. Oh, I haven’t even mentioned that somewhere in the morning both Cole and Mary Polly had gone over, at different points, to the playground to check the status of its play-ability, with the puddles and all, and BOTH had come back to camp with their backsides completely wet and covered in mud from falling in the exact same place and off the exact same piece of equipment, flat on their backs, sealing what we will be doing tomorrow to pass the time. Anyway, all of us took our dirty bodies, but with clean-ish clothes, to set out to find the trail that leads to the lake. I figured a walk and wearing Simon would have to eventually warm me up, and I was right. We found the trail and enjoyed getting muddy again throwing sticks and rocks into the lake. By the time we came back, we were all hungry for lunch and Simon and Ben were ready for naps, Ben because he was running fever again and Simon because it was just time. I settled them into their bags and started heating water for dishes.
Besides setting up and taking down the camper, doing the dishes is the main camp chore that we have taught the kids. They have an assembly line where one washes, one rinses and one dries. They usually gripe about doing it, yell at one another and manage to get soaking wet while they are doing it, but I figure maybe by the end of the summer they will have the kinks worked out. I told Ben I would do his part today since he was going to bed and by the time I got the water heated I was amazed to see that the playground had finally drained off enough of the puddles for Cole and Mary Polly to be playing on it, together, which is a small miracle. I was so delighted that I decided I would just do the dishes myself and besides, that way no one would get any wetter. To my TOTAL AMAZEMENT, I had only washed a few plates before Cole and Mary Polly came running over to help. Mary Polly said, Mama, you’re not supposed to be doing the dishes, that’s our job! I told them I didn’t mind. And then they offered to help anyway. They were just so glad I was washing, which is the dreaded position in the line up. As we washed the dishes and chatted away, I tried to scrape my jaw off the ground from my shock. Who were these children? It only lasted a little while. After Ben and Simon got up later, there was an altercation about drawing materials that threatened to erase from my memory the dish washing episode, but it was beautiful while it lasted.
And before I knew it, here came Taido riding back into camp in time for dinner. One of my strongest memories about living in the Pacific Northwest is that with the damp cloud cover, it feels like about 8 in the morning, all day long. I never know what time it is. I remember looking at the clock when we lived here and I had three toddlers and feeling as though the days were just crawling along, and though there are moments when it seems as though we are just sitting around waiting for something (the sun, perhaps), the days have been pleasantly passing by.