One of Those Moments
"One of those moments when everything is so perfect and so wonderful that... you almost feel sad because nothing could ever be this good again." -Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
Before you ignore everything else I say because of the Gilmore Girls reference, hear me out.
I had one of those moments. And truthfully, it did make me sad.
Vinyl tablecloths were spread over wood tables, crockpots were lined up, the grill was lit, bags of chips were opened. Extended relatives gathered together to share a meal - and a few pranks - at the campground. The scene could not have been more of a classic Hollywood picture of a family gathering if we had tried. I played a board game with my husband and brother-in-law, my toddler nephew was running around begging adults for a bite of their food, my sister was soothing her crying baby, my grandparents were telling stories of days gone by, my dad was drinking a can of pop in a koozi, and my great uncle was telling jokes. It was everything a family gathering should be. Sitting on a hard wooden bench, inhaling the smell of burning wood and roasting marshmallows, I was five years old again.
I am curled up in a lawn chair, wearing my blue sweatshirt for warmth and my sunglasses for eye protection from the smoke. My stomach is full of camp food and my fingers are sticky from s'mores. Above the campground a blanket of twinkling stars spans as far as I can see. I head off to bed, bored of the adult conversations of cars and jobs. Inside my parent's camper, I slip into the flowered sheets that are stretched over the couch-converted-to-bed, snug under the pink cotton blanket, my favorite Shih-Tzu, Pepper, curled up at my feet, I drift to sleep with periodic hum of the air conditioner kicking in and the quiet lull of familiar voices, punctuated by muted laughter. I stir slightly with the subtle sway of the camper as my parents tip-toe to bed, but quickly fall back asleep with the peace that all is right in the world.
I wake up the next morning, the smell of smoke and bacon filling my nostrils. Dressed in jeans and a Winnie the Pooh t-shirt I emerge from the camper to find my dad by the fire ring. He is squatted, fork in hand, turning over bacon in the cast-iron frying pan that is perched on the tripod over the flames. Once the bacon is done, he will pour in the scrambled egg mixture my mom prepared in the kitchen and hands to him in a Tupperware dish. After breakfast, dishes are washed in blue plastic tubs, one of soapy water and one of rinsing water, atop the picnic table. The day holds any number of adventures. A bike ride through the woods, looking for frogs in the creek, or playing cards in the sunshine.Driving home that night, telling my husband about my childhood camping memories, tears pricked my eyes. He said to me,
"Those days are over; you are the adult now."
It suddenly hit me that there were no more days of carefree bike rides to buy ice cream at the campground store. no more evenings of pot lucks by the camp fire, and no more nights falling asleep on flowered sheets, knowing my parents were handling everything, They have been replaced by mornings of making my own coffee, afternoons of planing my own dinner, and evenings of paying my own bills.
Some days, I am not ready to be the adult. I did not anticipate this in my younger days, anxious for the freedom of being a "grown up". I also did not know when I was a child how much those camping days would mean to me in the future, and I am thankful for that. Had I known, it would have been one of those moments that was so wonderful and perfect it made me sad. Instead, I got to enjoy them as carefree as a child should be, never knowing when the last of those days would take place.
Sitting by the fire this past weekend, however, did make me a little sad. I was nostalgic for the days of childhood camping trips, and a little fearful of the future. As family members grow older and move away and establish their own busy lives, it gets harder and harder to gather together for a meal around a picnic table. That evening, however, was one of those now-rare-gatherings, and it was so perfect and so wonderful that I wondered if anything could be that good again.