Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Happy Story

(This is reprinted from a post I did last Friday on 'Daily Kos'. There is a tradition of a community blog post on Friday nights, and I got my chance to host last Friday.)

I love camping. I was taken camping by my parents when I was literally weeks old. Growing up in Colorado, I got used to being in the outdoors, going hiking, camping and sometimes just daytrips to the mountains to escape the oppressive heat of Denver in the summertime.

One of the types of camping or daytrips I remember well is when we would go to one of our favorite campgrounds, Cold Creek, a National Forest Campground, and eat breakfast. Cold Creek is outside Denver in the mountains, about 8,000 feet above sea level. All of us would get up really early and get in the car or truck, depending on which we had. We used to have a 1959 Ford station wagon that we would take everywhere. If it wasn’t for the fact that transmissions kept being eaten up by that car, it might still have been around today. When running, that car could go places no ordinary car could go. We also had a 1965 Chevy Suburban (in the days of 39-cent gas) that I wish I had to this day. I did end up with a later model of a Suburban, but that’s another story.

We would pile in, using the blankets and pillows that had been put in there by my Mom, and we mostly would sleep the 40 or so miles to the campground. Shortly after sunrise, we would pull into the campground and look for our favorite spot. ‘Our spot’ was the one that had a pull-through and a stairway that went up to a nice shady spot in the tall pines. Of course, at 7 AM the shady spot was still a little chilly, even in the summer. My brother, sister and I (before the late arrival of my younger brother) would play in the sun and go to our favorite lookout rock across the campground road. There was the usual teasing and one-upsmanship among us; as I remember, my older brother was teasing my younger and only sister pretty heavily in those days.

We would usually bring a camera, so we would take pictures of our outing, and these became the basis of a family collection that lasts to this day, including weeks-long vacations later on. I especially liked photography, and still do. (For instance, a few years ago my partner and I went to California to retrieve some of my belongings and take a vacation. We were amazed at how many digital pictures we took. Over 2700 in two weeks) The kids had a pair of binoculars, and we would take turns looking out over the forested vistas.

Our parents would call us when the breakfast was ready; in later years I would help in preparing it because I love to cook. If you have never smelled breakfast cooking over an open fire in the woods, you are missing a treat. I can remember it to this day. We would all sit at the table and eat, trading comments like most families do. I think our family was special; we all could get along and work things out because we were never talked down to. Our parents talked to us to stimulate our brains and to have rational discussion. Of course, growing up it helped that they were FDR Democrats. (My Dad used to pat my young daughters on the head and say, “Nice little Democrats.”)

After we all ate, it was time to play. We usually had brought a glove and a ball to throw around, as well as a Frisbee. We also would go on hikes that would take around an hour to complete. Being out in the forest, away from the hot city, was an energizing experience. It taught all of us the value of nature and that preserving it for everyone was the right thing to do.

I look back on those days, and other trips our family took, and I relish and treasure them. I would give anything to see my Mom again, if only for 5 minutes, out in the campground. She couldn’t stand high altitudes, so just going was a sacrifice for her, one among many she made for her family over the years. The camaraderie and togetherness we had as a family was mostly due to her hard work and stubbornness. We went on many trips together, and later in life they always had a genealogy component to them, something she worked on for forty years so we would know who we are and where we came from. February 23, 2006 would have been her 77th birthday.

There were many happy stories that came from our trips to all kinds of various places. Now, as an adult I have taken my infant daughters camping (20 years ago), and continued the traditions of a respect for nature and a respect for their family members. The stories are passed down, generation to generation, as well as the photographs, which my sister is now working on so they can be preserved indefinitely.

Remember the good times with your family. I know not everyone got along with his or her families the way ours got along and still do. As I know all too well from my personal experience with homelessness, in the end all you have left is your family.

Time to go camping with my (new) family again this year.

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