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The Gift of Camping

You know.

It isn’t about the camping– the deflated air mattress beneath my sleeping bag and my son’s foot jammed across my neck and then his arm. And it isn’t about the mosquitoes. Dear God…the mosquitoes.

And it isn’t about wading to my ankles in “Lake Ice Cube.” Or bailing to the van in a thunderstorm at 3 a.m with children who never even heard the thunder in the first place and wouldn’t have awakened to the lightening if it had zapped our tent.

It isn’t about contemplating another hot dog, hobbling 200 yards to the potty at midnight, a kid confessing he never brought a toothbrush, smearing skin in a sixth layer of insect repellent and sunscreen–neither of which seem to be working, or dining from a cooler whose ice has disappeared like a sad magic trick.

It isn’t about this. Because if it is, leave me at home.

But there’s more. More of the stuff that really matters.

More learning. More love. More connection. And this…this is camping.

So what we’ve done is met up with friends at Lake Wenatchee. Moms and kids. No men. At least none of our men. Our men have graduated from tent camping (like…long before we met them) and all but smirk as we drive away with the kids and coolers to sleep on the ground for three nights.

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But it works. This moms and kids thing. Because it grows us.

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 It takes mere seconds for us to remember our buddies from last year.

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Seconds to become inseparable.

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And it is like that. For days.

Where one is, the other isn’t far.

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Always close.

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But there is down time too.

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And fire time.

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A time to make smoke.

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And a time to get smoked out.

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Sometimes the food is pat-yourself-on-the-back worthy.

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And sometimes it’s, well, another hot dog.

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Sometimes connection happens around the fire pit.

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And sometimes it’s in the 34th game of UNO.

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But always, there is something to smile about.

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And always something to do.

Even if it means kids putting together their own play.

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Or being the ones to watch said play.

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Or simply sitting side by side. For this moment. Right here.

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There’s hiking, too.

The trail to Hidden Lake isn’t far, and so we climb…

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Until we’ve made it to the water…

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And stood on the rocks we can see below the surface.

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We claw our way up a fallen tree.

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Allow the fish to gnaw on our toes.

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And balance on trees half in, half out of the water.

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Some of the greats have fallen.

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And some are on their way.

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But the joy is in the company…whether on tree.

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Or rock.

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Or back at camp with a match.

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Because when one succeeds…

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We all succeed.

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And glory in the trophy.

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Then there’s this.

The thing no one sees coming. But it does. Come.

And we blink back tears when our small boys find a big boy. Or vice versa. Only it’s more than finding each other. It’s accepting each other. As is. Him and me. Me and him.

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And then…as with anything, an end always comes.

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And so we gather for a picture of our unshowered selves.

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We share one more private conversation.

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And we say ‘goodbye’ to the ones we already miss.

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Until next year.

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