I originally thought my idea to get the girls to go camping with us, probably for the last time as a family, was a good one. I guess it was an attempt on my part to reminiscence of days past when the kids were little and we all had such a great time enjoying nature and just being together as a family.
But the girls were both in college and things had changed. Amy would graduate the next spring and Emily was a sophomore. Getting them to agree to come camping with Helen and me on the last week end before they both had to head back to school, was like pulling teeth. We had a long week end and I took the Friday before off work, so I could get the pop-up camper in shape. It hadn’t been used in a while. I also had to head over to the sporting goods store and buy a small four man dome tent and two air mattresses for Amy and Emily. As “adults”, they refused to share the camper with their parents. They needed their privacy. I thought that was a load of crap, but I was determined to make it a special week end and reconnect with my kids, so I agreed to get them their own tent.
I told Helen I wanted to be on the road by early afternoon so we wouldn’t be too late arriving at the campground — I disliked setting up camp in the dark. I had made reservations at a state park up near the Canadian border which made it a longer drive than we usually had done in the past for camping, but this was a special trip and I wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. The park I chose had waterfalls and boating and I was sure everyone in the family was going to love it.
At noon, Amy announced that her college roommate, Tara, was going to be dropped off at our house in an hour to spend the week end with us. Amy had also promised her roommate that we would drive her back up to school the following week when we took Amy up.
“What do you mean she’s being dropped off?” I protested. “We have plans. We’re going camping. Why does she have to come here?”
“Dad! Chill … Tara’s my best friend and her parents are flying to Hong Kong — somebody died. I told Tara it was OK to come and stay here and we’d take her up to school next week.”
“But this camping trip is special. It’s been planned.” I didn’t want to sound like I was begging, but I was.
“Hey … you guys can go … Tara and I can hang here … we’ll be fine.”
“No! You promised to come camping. This is probably the last time we’ll ever go camping … as a family, anyway.”
“Alright. Alright, I’ll come … we’ll just have to drag Tara along too. Gawd, I hope she likes the outdoors.”
I was in the garage finishing packing some last minute items for the camper when a car pulled into the drive way. A middle aged couple got out, followed by a young woman who emerged from the back seat. I hadn’t met Tara or her parents before, but it was obvious who was who. Tara was the strikingly beautiful young woman coming up the drive with an over stuffed back pack slung over her shoulder. Her parents both had salt and pepper hair — like me.
I exchanged hand shakes with both her dad and her mother as Amy came bursting out of the side door and ran up to Tara and gave her a big hug.
“Hey, babe, what have you been up to all summer?” Amy asked. Amy and Tara fell into to a barely audile conversation as they headed into the house.
I made small talk with Tara’s parents and assured them we’d get their daughter back to school safe and sound. As they pulled out of the driveway, I gave them a friendly wave.
As soon as Tara’s parents left, I closed up the camper and got the hitch hooked up to the SUV. As soon as that last chore was completed, I went into the house.
“OK. Let’s get this show on the road.” I announced loud enough for everyone in the house to hear … or so I hoped. I knew the routine. Even though everyone knew I wanted to leave on time, it would take at least half an hour for everyone to get in the car and be ready to actually depart.
Amy came into the kitchen as I was getting a glass of water. I was just about to go through the house and herd everyone out to the waiting car.