We just returned home from a two day camping trip. It was…an adventure. Wednesday morning, we went to Mass and then took off for Vermont. I had promised myself, no phone, no email. So I turned the phone off.
First stop, a random stream in Vermont.
I remember stopping at these little roadside river/streams when traveling with my parents as a child. I loved it. I though, hey! Let’s recreate a childhood memory for me, and introduce my children to some fun spontaneity. Nice idea, poorly received. Mini-me was completely annoyed with me for stopping–she just wanted to get to our destination (Ben & Jerry’s Factory). Stepford son was “not properly dressed.” My little Franciscan had retreated back in to her timid self. The only one who shared my enthusiasm was the youngest, the little soldier. He climbed the rocks, waded in too deep in the water and stuck his feet in every bit of mud he could find while the rest of the troop sighed, “Mom, can we please go now?”
The camping itself proved a challenge. The park was beautiful (Elmore State Park) but it was raining. Pouring. The floodgates of heaven had opened. My oldest shifted into Man of the House mode and helped me to set up our tents in The Deluge. Once we had them set up and dried out, it stopped raining. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles. We explored the park, picked up some wood from the camp store and proceeded to attempt a campfire. After hatcheting and bandaging my finger (Mr. Man of the House, “Mom, be careful. That’s not a smart idea….seriously? You cut yourself??”), making homemade matches, and using about half of the flame starter, we had success!
Mmm, nothing quite like sausages on an open campfire. And s’mores! Once it was nearly dark, we sang Ave Maris Stella and chanted the Magnificat because no one knew where the Little Offices were. Mr. Man of the House, “They’re probably in your book bag, Mom.” “No, definitely not. I did NOT put them in my bag.” Where were they? Um, in my bag…After the children went to bed, I enjoyed lectio and some letter writing by the campfire. Balm to my weary soul.
The next day was bright and sunny. Hooray! Camping will be fun! (cue maniacal laugh)
We traveled to Montréal, to the Oratoire Saint-Joseph. As we were driving, Mr. Man of the House stated, “I thought Canada would be so much different, but it looks exactly like Kansas.”
Yes, yes it does.
The Oratoire is beautiful. We were able to attend daily Mass in the Crypt Church. In English, sadly. We were hoping for French. We said prayers for all of our friends and loved ones and lit candles in the giant…candle lighting room.
We stayed for about 4 hours, walking back and forth, talking to people, exploring. Finally I was done. It was oppressively hot in Montreal and I was ready for a nice iced coffee. We stopped at a Tim Horton’s on the way home and I so politely requested, “Je voudrais un grande cafe glacé s’il vous plait.” And then the problems started. Because that’s about the extent of my French. I was finally able to get my iced coffee, pay for it and get back in the car. To find out that it had sugar in it. Arg! So we went to Walmart (I know, I know. I’m in another country and I got to American stores? It happens.) which happily had a McDonald’s in it. (Right, again. I know. Cut me some slack.) This time I was prepared. “Bonjour! Je voudrais un moyen café glacé sans sucre s’il vous plait.” Mmm sweet iced coffee goodness. And then Mr. Man of the House ordered some frites. He was so proud of himself for that. And I was, too! It’s terrifying speaking to natives in their own language when your ability is so low.
It began raining near the Canadian border. It didn’t stop. In fact, the intensity increased. And increased. And increased! We sat in the car at our campsite and ate trail food instead of the dinner we had planned. No fire = no meal. It rained all night long and was pouring still when I woke up at who knows when in the morning. At some point, the girl tent developed a leak in the rain fly. So Mini Me woke up with a soaking sleeping bag. And there was about 2 inches of water sloshing around the outside of our tent. Time to go home. Mr. Man of the House and I packed up in the pouring rain, the fastest camp breakdown on record, I think.
Lessons learned: 1) Make sure your rain fly is leak proof. 2) It’s possible to go 48 hours without a phone, email, GPS, texting. It’s refreshing even. Do you know how invigorating it is to travel to a foreign country (even another state) with just a map? A map on paper at that! 3) Make sure you have a map. 4) Throw all ideas of how camping is going to play out into the wind. Because it won’t happen that way. 5) Thank God for everything. Even the rain.