Trailer Date: Summer 2009
The trip did not start out soggy, but when it began to rain, the effect was no less than spectacular.
On the first night, the five of us were first jarred awake by the deafening clamor of a storm hovering over our heads. Lightening cast stark shadows through Ol’ Rusty’s cloudy plastic windows, and the thunder seemed to be strong enough to shake us off the earth altogether. Silently, we lay in our beds, in awe of the power of the storm, yet feeling snug and safe in our portable little home.
There is definitely something to be said about experiencing the raw power of a storm in the woods and we all shared that elemental joy as we lay in the deafening silence. We knew that there was little to fear from this stormy night. We were all together, the rain could not touch us and we did not need to fear the lights suddenly going out.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, and we took advantage of the abundant sunshine to try and dry out our gear. The storm had insinuated fingers of moisture into our trailer despite our best efforts, and there were quite a few things that needed to be hung out to dry. The reality of weathering a storm such as that one is that we can endure it, we can admire it, but we can never truly escape it. On a more concrete note, Ol’ Rusty was so named for a reason, and she does leak a bit around the edges.
We enjoyed our slightly damp day enjoying the smell of the water, squishing around camp and tromping through wet leaves in the woods. By days end, my toes were unpleasantly withered and white from the constant wet. I kept my smile and my sense of humor, but there was a rather large part of my heart that longed for surfaces not spattered with mud, my clean(er) house and my soft bed.
That night, another storm rolled in.
This storm lacked the awesome power of the first night. It was not a storm of rolling thunder and cracks of lightening, but rather, more of a medium sprinkle that was just enough to create puddles on the leaves of the trees above us that then descended to the ground in irregular sloppy drops creating a legendary stew of mud.
In the face of these meteorological conditions, Frances and I did what we deemed sensible, and retreated into the camper and burrowed into our sleeping bags. We took turns cranking our wind-up lantern so we could read. Our precautions helped us stay as dry and warm as is feasible in such conditions.
A bit of honesty here: I love camping, and am a big fan of nature, but I am not as big of a fan of mud, and I despise being cold, so I would just as soon escape the great outdoors when the sky begins to leak.
Call me a wimp, but there it is.
Matt and the younger kids decided to embrace the mud instead of hide from it. Frances and I shook our heads ruefully and told them not to bring mud into the camper when they were done.
Not much of a fire was possible in the damp drizzle, but the three of them capered around the fire pit anyway, sloshing in the mud, giggling and singing songs. Matt is well known for rewriting songs on the fly to suit his fancy, so trying to sing along with him can be an interesting proposition, but the kids valiantly tried to keep up with him and they would all howl with mirth when he sang the wrong words on purpose.
At some point during the festivities, the squeals of delight suddenly turned to frightened cries, and I bolted from the camper to find Matt standing somewhat unsteadily beside the fire pit with the side of his face covered in blood.
He insisted he was fine, and tried to revive the dance, but he was very unsteady, so I had to talk him out of it, and try to convince him to sit for a minute so I could get a look at his head.
As I stood next to Matt with a clean towel pressed to his head, looking critically into his eyes without knowing quite what I was looking for, I realized that this might be serious… but life not being as definitive as it might be, I was not sure.
I had questions such as:
Is the wound serious?
Is there a concussion?
Does it need stitches?
We are in the middle of the woods…where do we go?
When I looked around for someone to ask, I realized that all eyes were on ME to give the answers.
I suddenly felt very alone.
One of the things I learned as I left my childhood behind is that life is painted in shades of grey. As a (so called) adult, finding answers is not as easy as asking a question. There is often nobody to ask for guidance, and you simply have to stumble along as best as you can. When you add parenthood into that equation you not only have to stumble along, but you have to ACT as if you know the way or risk scaring the kids.
This would really be so much easier if there were a procedures manual, but failing that having a partner helps a great deal. Unfortunately for me, my partner was in questionable condition, and needed me to take the helm alone on this one.
Honestly if I had known that this is what it meant to be an adult and in charge, I am not sure I would have signed up voluntarily. For that matter, when did I become a grownup anyway?
Returning to the problem at hand, I tried to assess things objectively. Scalp wounds bleed a great deal, I told myself, so the amount of blood does not necessarily equate with the severity of the injury. On the other hand, I had heard too much about sneaky injuries that can look fine, but have catastrophic consequences down the line unless promptly checked by qualified medical practitioners. Of course, these stories were gleaned from the tabloids and medical tv shows, so the truth behind them was suspect at best.
As I tried to decide whether to drag my reluctant, and very muddy husband to the nearest ER (wherever that might be), he continued to insist that he was fine.
I wavered, and by reflex I almost capitulated to his insistence, but in the end, I decided that it was better to be cautious, and I made my decision to take him in, and I dragged my now complaining, and still very muddy husband out of the campsite and back into civilization.
The GPS answered the question of where. Civilization is not as far away as it seems when you are camping in the woods, after all. The doctor in the ER, after eyeing Matt’s extremely dirty feet, examined his head, and ordered a CT scan and some socks.
It did not turn out to be terribly serious. He had a mild concussion, and needed about 5 stitches. These days, the dent the experience left in his forehead is only visible from some angles, and when he regained his wits the next day, he thanked me and acknowledged that the trip to the ER was not a total waste of time.
On a more profound note, the whole experience illustrated how relative the experience of adulthood really is.
Sometimes the blind really do lead the blind.
As for me, I am glad that I have a partner to help me navigate the darkness.