I was a brush and flush away from living the weekend dream of lying on the couch and fading in and out of Netflix. I summoned enough energy to announce to the children that it was time for bed. I could see the finish line to the long day. I saw a countdown clock to my freedom...the dreamy darkness at the beginning of my slumber tunnel. And then Quin, who can remember the day he was born, reminded me that I'd said we were going to camp in the backyard.
I did not tell Quin what I’m about to tell you, but camping in the backyard is dumb. If you’re going to spend a sleepless night rolling around on the ground well it had better be in nature. It had better be after a cathartic day on the river; a lovely stroll through Eden. That’s why you go camping. It’s the tiny sacrifice that city dwellers make to get closer to something wild. Camping in the backyard is choosing not to be comfortable for no reason at all. I mean I get the appeal. I used to look forward to the croup just so I could sleep in a tent. I was in a tent inside a house. It’s the biggest deal. People could save thousands on Disney trips and Chuck E Cheese if they simply assembled a tent in the living room. But when you leave the confines of your cozy home only to end your journey in the backyard, you’re essentially leaving your insulated hive so that you can enjoy the sounds of the city, only louder. And your dog thinks you’re an idiot.
Paco would perforate the night with attacks at the slightest disturbance. Either that or he was crying out for help.
There is one silver lining. It’s my dear wife being able to see my little promises explode in my face. It's not so sadistic as acid to the eyes, but the illumination of my expression as I realize my fate. She smiled and pulled her legs criss-cross for more comfortable viewing of my weekend routine train wrecking into reality. Otto is more forgiving. He likes going to bed. But Quin will remind you just because you need to be reminded. He might be tired and long for the comforts of his room, but at some point someone said we'd be sleeping on the lawn so he lawyers up a timeline taking us back to the exact time and place the agreement was made.
She's warned me before. Sometimes it's with a subtle interrogation: "Jared are you sure you'll have time to take the boys skydiving before work?" Simply because she asks I steel my resolve against any obstacle, no matter its gravity, or gravity specifically. And time? I have time. I can make time for my boys. I might be stressed and ruin the entirety as I try and take them fishing on my lunch break, but it’s not not going to happen
She also offers the more direct, "You shouldn't promise them that," and of course she has no idea of what I can or cannot promise. Until, of course, I'm about to go to bed on a Saturday night and a seven year old swoops out of the nocturne to feast on an old favor.
At first it wasn't cold. It was muggy. Hot day Port-a-potty muggy in the little dome tent. It had been in the 90s all day. And then Quin peppered me with questions about plans for a fire. All he was missing was a tiny room with a solo suspended light bulb and at least one good cop. The sun had yet to set before we had our own orb of flames in our backyard. Branches from June's crazy hailstorms were to be put to rest, taking the surrounding temps into the mid 100s. Soon, however, it was cold. The sun was waking China and my yard debris was subdued as soot. As far as warmth, I settled for watching two tiny men snuggle into their dreams. Paco, my snuggle buddy, had ditched me for sleeping outside the tent. It kind of reminded me of how you want to get the jump on someone doing something dumb. He would be the first to greet any comers with how he had nothing to do with camping in the backyard.
It's funny, because if you’re to lie out on the grass in the college quad or in a park on a hot day, the ground feels kind of good. Yet when you pour yourself down for a night in a tent, your body pools into the slightest depression. Your muscle mass disappears and you're but bone and nerves sucked to the craggy face of a speeding space rock. I had put down a tarp and stacked two thick blankets, and so was certain it was going to be comfortable. Two hours later only my head could move. I blinked but most everything else was broken in a way only a commune with nature can break things. I was a neck tweak away from having no blood to my brain. The boys slept twisted but beautifully, their giant eyelashes bowing to their ruddy cheeks. I did a quick frustration spin to free my now 700 pound leg and contorted my blanket to some new shape that refused to cover my feet. With sleeplessness conquering reason, I made the unfortunate decision to not sleep at all. I'd leave the tent and get a head start on the day.
An hour of trolling Facebook later, I drifted off on the couch. It was warm. A dozing comfort plowed over me and I was on my way to a softer place where I could feel my fingers. This was the sleep that I needed. It was also a perfect time for Quin to wake up. Well rested, he was excited to see his father in the living room.
And Sarah smiles. Good morning she says with her passing warmth. Something I'll never take for granted.