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Camping Finale

Every woman who’s ever tent-camped with children knows this. Maybe even a few fellas. Which is why all you have to say in that kind of company is, “I just got back from camping.” And with a single empathetic nod or a hand to your shoulder, they get it.

They get why you’re still wearing a hat. Still reek like a campfire. Are still driving around with firewood in the back of the car. And still can’t shake the two nights on the gravel with a leaky air mattress that left no bone unbruised.

They also understand that despite the memories you made for your kids, you still took one for the team.

Because it’s work. This camping thing.

Work to be calm. Around fire. After a hotdog request for breakfast. When a toothbrush didn’t make it to the campsite. Work to keep eyes glued to the kid who can’t quite swim. Work to find a lost retainer. A pair of glasses. The car keys that were laying right there a second ago.

Work to let-go of all the stuff that doesn’t matter. If just for a minute or five.

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Because all that stuff isn’t what they’ll remember.

They’ll remember the fire. The time he stood on this side and she on that, and they bent, each with a lit match, and touched the paper with the match and scarcely breathed as the paper caught fire, and the kindling flamed and then the sticks around the kindling began to burn.

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He’ll remember the way he felt when I asked, “Will you be the one to keep the fire going…or should I find somebody else?”

His chest had puffed four inches. “I’m the one, mommy. I’m your man,” he said.  “I’ll keep it going.”

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And he’ll remember his buddy, Isaac. Remember how it felt to be two boys in the woods with sticks and dirt.

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She’ll remember the pool. With friends. Springing off the side in piles of four or three.

She’ll remember flash-light tag, fanning the campfire smoke with a tote lid, the elation of finding her retainer.

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And I’ll remember this. The squeak-from-behind cribbage win. The twenty-five minutes where I didn’t stop being Mommy, but certainly didn’t think about it as hard.

And so it is.

With these. These memories that I’m shoving the tent into the garage until another time.

Another summer.

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