Thursday, November 06, 2008

Time Flies

The summer before I turned six, my family went camping in Killarney Provincial Park in Central Ontario. It may come as a surprise to many of you to learn that I was ever the sort of girl who enjoyed camping. After all, I complain bitterly now when Hubby makes me “slum it” in a three-star hotel. Sleeping on the ground and being at one with nature is not how most people picture me. But it was once true.

Although I was too young to participate in much of the hard work, my family pitched our own tents, cooked over an open fire, and took baths in the local lake. Some of my most vivid memories from that long ago trip involve the long, hilly drive to get there, being the world’s best Barbie doll for a few fellow campers who enjoyed French braiding my waist-length hair, and leading my family up to the peak of Hawk Mountain. My brothers swam out to Turtle Rock several times and jumped into Georgian Bay, while I frolicked on the shore and wished I were big enough (and not wearing water wings) so I could join them.

To think of my incredibly urbane mother carrying our garbage to the black bear inhabited dump near our campsite boggles my mind to this day. While she may have had to do the garbage runs, she was lucky in other ways since my parents got to share the “big” tent while my brothers and I lay side-by-side in our cotton sleeping bags in the “small tent.” For those of you who have never been camping, the first rule of tent living is that you are never allowed to touch the sides or roof of your new canvas home. Should you choose to ignore this warning, it will rain on you. Needless to say, whoever was the more annoying child during the day always got rained on at night. Family togetherness is great, but torturing your siblings is priceless.

Occasionally, when I think back to that long ago summer, I can barely believe that those halcyon days ever actually happened. Maybe it was all some incredibly vivid dream I had as a child. After all, I hate insects; loathe sleeping on hard mattresses; and think that the only food that should be cooked over an open flame is Jiffypop. But I know it all happened and have a lovely, live reminder of that summer every time I pull up to my parent’s driveway.

The day we returned home from Killarney, my father had a fit. Half of the trees on my tree-lined street had been physically uprooted and removed by the city. The twenty year-old oaks, we were told, were dead and needed to be replaced with saplings. The ugly, bony saplings the city replanted needed metal rods to stand upright and were an eyesore for several years. They were a reminder that constant vigilance is the only defense against a city-planning commissioner with a vendetta against large, healthy-looking trees.

Today that sapling is living large in my parent’s front yard. They have probably long since forgotten the story of its planting but I haven’t. That tree and I grew up together. I collected snow for a science fair project on pollution at its base, and watched year after year as my mother attempted to plant a ring of flowers around it. I have mowed the lawn around it and cursed its existence for making my job more complicated than straight lines, and marveled at its autumnal beauty.

It's interesting how people mark the passing of the years. For me, the summer before grade one will always be about having my hair French braided by strangers, climbing a mountain, and watching a tree grow. How did you do for your summer vacation?

8 comments:

Aurenna said...

I don't remember that far back. You're lucky I can remember yesterday.

LadyFi said...

This was hilarious! I do remember camping with the Brownies in Argentina in a tropical storm. All the tents got washed away and our parents had to come and fetch us in the middle of the night... Haven't really been keen on camping since then.

Connie said...

I grew up in Florida. My parents' first date was fishing. We spent a lot of our summers camping. Not wilderness camping, but tents with electrical hook-up (mom had to have her tv :-p ) and water. We had this huge tent that could probably have slept 16 people, half we used for sleeping, half as a screened in porch. Solid canvas too... by the time my dad got it set up, it took one hell of a storm to knock it down... although, being Florida, it happened.

We had mosquitos, fire ants, snakes, alligators, etc. But I loved the fishing before sun-up, swimming all day... run around in the afternoon downpour (until the lightning started and we had to take shelter) then run around in the deep puddles until they drained. Back in the boat for evening fishing. When it got too hot, we'd go to the bait shop and play pool... I was a pool shark and could whip nearly anybody when I was a kid. We water-skied and jet-skied. We snorkled. I remember hanging in the water with mask and snorkle, cracking open clams, and feeding giant large mouth bass with my bare hands. We'd ride out in a boat, just to ride... I can remember my mom telling us we couldn't go swimming after we ate... and being miserable in the heat, until dad would 'accidentally' knock us off the pier or out of the boat ;-)

Now, because of pollution and other dangers, I have to tell my own kids "Don't touch that!" far too often... I miss living in a place where nature can be enjoyed and touched.

Anonymous said...

There was also that trip to Newfoundland but you were definitely too little to remember that!
You probably don't remember the time your mother saw the Massassauga rattler in the entrance to Killbear Park.
Ah the halcyon days of our youth. :)
You should see the willow out the back--although the one next door has gone, thank goodness. There was also the time I had the Manitoba maple at the end of the garden cut down when your father was away...
merthyrmum

Braja said...

Summer vacation means getting out of the heat and finding cold weather somewhere! I live in summer, so it's a treat to have the reverse. My idea of heaven is a day in the cold :)

Kat said...

I remember so much by what grade I was in when it happened. Like first grade we lived in Florida. My mom broke her arm roller skating. And I rode my bicycle further than I was supposed to - and was caught by my dad as he drove home from work!

We went to the beach for most vacations. I am sure that it had a lot to do with living in Florida.

And I am so with you on the camping. And slumming at 3 star hotels :-)

Nicole said...

I'm like Aurenna, I am glad I can remember what I did yesterday.
I got my hair French braided once though, by a neighbour :)
And I was about that age as you were :D

Hi! I'm Janola. said...

Ahhhhh....summer. i grew up in southern california so summers meant going to the beach, grandma's pool, the neighbor's pool, roller skating with my sisters, and the annual family trip to disneyland- back when you got that book of tickets.

Man, i'm old!