I married an outdoorsman.
When a little boy is born on the Chesapeake Bay, that’s what he’s bound to become: the rugged type. In GB’s case, he spent his first six years catching Maryland Blue Crab in great steel pots; poking at jellyfish with long, dull sticks; and playing in the sunshine until his hair bleached white.
When his family moved to Kentucky in 1984, he searched the ground for shoreline, and finding none, took to the woods. That’s why our basement is like an Orvis store: Backpacks, fly rods, tackle boxes, tents, army surplus sleeping bags. There’s a kayak in our garage; he launches it on warm Sunday mornings and returns a changed man, with pictures of large-mouth bass on his Blackberry.
He tells our sons about the places he’ll take them when they’re older—out west, up north, through mountains, down streams—and thinks I wouldn’t want to join them. He sees me at home curled on the couch with a book, or out with girlfriends, or relaxing in a pedicure chair.
What he doesn’t know is that he married an outdoorswoman, too. I’ve never been fly fishing, but I still can cast and reel with the best of them. Just ask all the bread bags and shoes I caught from the Scioto River as a child. And then there was the night of my junior prom, where I slept on the deck under the stars because I couldn’t find the key to the front door. So see? I’m no stranger to nature. Obviously.
I’ve hidden my love for fresh air quite on purpose. That way, no one would ever expect me to be a proper gardener. I like a good pillow and a hot shower and a quick swipe of lipstick in the morning. Even so, give me a tent and marshmallows for toasting, and I will not say no.
This past Saturday was the National Wildlife Foundation’s Great American Backyard Campout. I had big plans for the three guys in my house: cook out, pitch the tent, unfurl the sleeping bags, roast marshmallows, catch lightning bugs, and finally prove to GB that his prissy wife can survive a night in a tent, exposed to the elements and away from her iPhone.
All went almost according to plan. The event began the way every campout should: With a grill full of brats and a table full of bacon-laden German potatoes, sweet corn, and big, leafy salad greens.
When dinner was over, my dad headed home. SC, GB and I pitched the tent around two excited little boys…
…who learned to toast the marshmallows themselves (with heavy supervision), and then stack them with graham crackers and chocolate for one enormous, delicious bite.
They proved to be stealthy lightning bug hunters, too.
I inspected my brand new sleeping bag, carefully selected by one GB (who, after witnessing my profound tent-building skills—sans instructions *ahem*—finally agreed I can hang when it comes to outdoor livin’). The bag is luxe, for sure. I kinda think the old boy still likes me a little.
“Ok!” I said. “It’s late. Time for little boys to use their sleeping bags.”
Cue thunder, of course, and the gathering mass of storm clouds I’d hoped would pass. “I think we’ll be fine,” I said. “Let’s give it a try. As long as we’re dry, we should just stick it out.”
That’s when lightning cracked its whip across the sky.
We spent the night curled up in sleeping bags on the living room floor. The boys watched fishing shows with GB, and marveled at the giant catches. I closed my eyes and listened to happy whispers, and in the morning, listened again as my boys rehashed what they called “the best night ever.”
I still have mosquito bites up and down my legs, and we were all exhausted on Sunday. But I tell you, I would do it all again, 1,000 times over, just to hear those happy whispers in the dark.
When I checked out the tent the next morning, it was completely dry. Which means we can strike out into the actual wilderness next time—a place with giant bugs and bears and rocky terrain and no showers to speak of—without any silly fears of the rain. We’ll cook a whole meal by campfire. Maybe hike a little. And maybe GB will have a chance to launch that kayak somewhere new.
I’ll have my guys all to myself. Off the grid. Uninterrupted. And I honestly cannot wait.
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