My husband and I pride ourselves on preparation. We know not to wear cotton while hiking and to slather on the sunscreen even when it’s cloudy. We can build a shelter, start fires without lighters and have spent months looking forward to introducing our 5-month-old daughter to the joy of summers spent outdoors.
But this past weekend, the Maine woods defeated us. It was bound to happen one of these days.
We should have seen the red flags. The slight grogginess in the morning from one too many margaritas the night before. The numerous missed turns even though we knew exactly where we were headed. The sunscreen left downstairs in the basement. The baby squirrel who broke into our breakfast, munching right along for who knows how long.
Instead, we blissfully ignored the omens and headed to our destination — Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land in Franklin. As we pushed our packed stroller down the half-mile path to the waterfront camping sites, I breathed in deeply. This was going to work out. Donnell Pond is my happy place. It’s the place I envisioned during my hypnobirthing class and eventually during labor. With the baby here in the flesh, it had to be perfect, right?
We set up our tent, and I made the first attempt at many to send the baby off to dreamland. But, it wasn’t happening. Maybe there was too much too look at, put in her mouth and feel, but she wasn’t having any of it.
It was hot and stuffy in the tent, and she was only slightly comfortable completely stripped down. But that meant she was more susceptible to sunburn with the sunscreen locked up miles away in our cool basement.
So, I did the only thing I knew would work, I strapped her hot little body into a carrier and walked the sandy beach up and down until she finally dozed off. Unfortunately, the minute I went to transfer her from the carrier to the bed in the tent, those pretty blue eyes popped open like a doll and the jig was up.
All the while, my husband, Brian, was having one heck of a time fishing. The fish weren’t biting, there were lures and bobber-doo-hickies scattered in the car, our bags and who knows where else making for many trips back and forth from the water.
And for as little interest as the fish showed in his flies, the bugs showed 10 times as much in us as they tend do this time of year. Since I spent last summer being asked if I had a skin disease because of all the bites on my legs (yes, I’m serious, it happened), I was justifiably nervous about the baby. After all, if the bugs love momma, they’re bound to love her sweet blood, too.
I wasn’t wrong. After a few more hours during which our smoldering fire gave us little reprieve from the mosquitoes and blackflies, our “little bug” grew more tired, louder and less willing to retire to the tent. So, we raised our white flag and headed home.
We haven’t abandoned all hope of camping with our little one this summer. I think we’ll just need to take it slow, maybe do a few dry runs at home. And, that’s OK with me. S’mores taste just as good made over a candle in the living room.