There I was. Minding my own business on the shelves of the Wal-Mart. It was a pretty good life...making fun of the wimpy, tiny tents, chatting with the sleeping bags... I wasn't overly anxious that anyone would buy me and put me to my intended use, although I suppose I always knew it would happen someday...
Then last Tuesday it happened. This family walked up and picked me up and put me into their cart. No more shelf life for me! I should have been wary right away...there were not one, not two, but THREE little kids in this family. After paying for me at the register, the family took me to their vehicle. Again, a clue to my future demise. The vehicle was hitched to a boat and crammed full of...everything! I spent the next hour stuffed under some kid's legs. I learned the mother's name was "Beth" and the father's was "Frank." I think the kids were named "Stop that," "I said stop," and "Quit, NOW!"
We then arrived at the campsite. The mother disappeared supposedly to buy groceries and the father rescued me from the incessant kicking of generic crock-shod feet. At last...I was to complete my destiny as a useful tent! But things started to go all wrong. I don't think the father read the directions at all! He didn't put all my stakes in. He left the rain fly off, leaving me feeling a little naked... But when all was said and done, I was a useful tent in a campsite for all to see. I was being used the very day I was purchased, which is much better than a life in a basement or garage as I've heard from other tents. Things started to improve. I watched as my family (I considered them mine, now.) played at their campsite and cooked dinner and sang songs around the campfire. Life was good. The mother and father put the little ones to bed, and I was pleasantly surprised that they went to sleep without too much poking and prodding of my sides.
Then it started to rain. At first it was a refreshing sprinkle against my nylon sides. The father and mother hurried to put the rain fly on (incorrectly, I might add, although to their credit it WAS in the dark...). They sought shelter inside as the rain became a steady shower. The pitter patter sounds were relaxing...for awhile. But the rain showed no sign of stopping. The kids continued to sleep well, but the adults kept tossing and turning and muttering and then the father got up to check the weather radar on his fancy phone device. I started to worry as I felt the rain drops sink through my seams and into the sleeping area. Whoa to me, I was failing as a tent on my first night...but there was nothing I could do. My poor family just got wet. The middle boy was sleeping in a puddle. The mother and father had wet feet and water dripping on their foreheads. All the towels were put to use, but they could not stop the ever increasing amount of water seeping into me.
By morning my family was not in good spirits. The entire campsite looked like a giant puddle. They piled on the air mattress and ate dry cereal within my confines. They tried to keep the children from bumping into my sides. They bravely tried to play games, but patience ran thin. Finally they ran for the car, and I was abandoned, a failure as a tent. (I hear they tried going to the nature center, but it was closed for the day. They ended up going to the Bloomington Public Library for awhile and then ate lunch in the car, hoping the weather would clear up soon.)
I desperately hoped for another chance. Surely I could still show this family a good time! But luck and weather were not with me. Still the rain poured into the afternoon. The woman returned to me briefly just to wail bitterly at my failure. How I longed to be back on the dry hard shelves of the Wal-Mart. At least on a shelf I still held the promise of outdoor fun. Soon the father returned, too. He ripped up my muddy stakes and threw my dampened poles on the nearest picnic table. I was wadded up and shoved unceremoniously on the floor of the boat. My poles and stakes did not join me and I had no idea where my carrying bag was. I wanted to shout to them, "Don't forget the stakes and poles!" But alas, a tent has no actual voice. And the stakes and poles were left behind as we drove away from the giant puddle of a campsite...
I feared that this was the end for me. Would I stay a wadded and dripping failure forever? But soon I was rescued and my faith in my family was restored. The weather had cleared up. We reached our destination of "the in-laws' house," and I was taken out and hung up to dry. I watched as "grandma" came to take the children and I was again loaded up for travel. But this time there was a sense of hope in the mother and father as they packed their now dry belongings. It was a second chance for us all.
Once again we arrived at the campsite. The puddle had diminished and the father had great plans for pitching me in a better spot. But the poles and stakes were not to be found. Sigh. I am sure a well-meaning camper thought my family had left their campsite for good, and that my innards were fair game for pillaging, but this left me useless and without hope yet again. Until...the father suggested that I be tied and suspended between the SUV and the boat. He is quite an ingenious man, really, despite his shortcomings in reading directions. So I was again restored to use. I may have looked a little odd, but my family was happy, I was useful, and the night was beautiful and clear...
The next day I was packed away again until the next camping adventure, but at least I was in my carrying bag this time...with promises from the father of finding replacement stakes and poles for me at some place called "Ebay." Despite our rough start, I am beginning to think my family and I will get along quite nicely.
P.S. Beth wanted me to let you know that she had a really good time with Frank after everything was dry and the kids were with grandma. Camping round 2 consisted of lots of loungin' on the boat in the SUN and pursuing the quest to toast the perfect marshmallow. :) Here's a picture of the campsite (post flood) and a lake view from the boat.
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