Posted August 11th, 2008 by Jen in family life, features, the ranch
The plan was to pitch the tent in the yard, gaze at the stars, enjoy a campfire, roast some hotdogs and marshmallows, and generally enjoy the great outdoors. We almost made it, and did everything but pitch the tent. I know, that’s probably the most important part, but we were tired.
In our case, sleeping on the wood floor in the almost-done house, not yet hooked up to plumbing and just one or two electrical outlets functional, it was still quite an adventure. It helped the effect tremendously that this house is set among a twenty-acre juniper forest with regular visits from deer, jackrabbits, owls, and the howls of coyotes, kept at bay by our dog. We had to use the outhouse, eat over a fire, and brush our teeth out by the teeth-brushing-tree. We all felt like we were honest-to-goodness-camping.
We reminisced around the campfire about the summer we lived on this property, just two years ago, in our travel trailer, parked right there by the teeth-brushing-tree. Back then, we were off the grid and had to haul in water, use the propane tank for heat and electricity, and make regular trips to dump the sewage. So, of course, we performed as many bodily necessities out-of-doors as we could, so as to cut down on the trips to the sewage dump place. Thus, the teeth-brushing-tree.
“See there, kids, remember when there was no house here?” Dad asks the children. They have a hard time remembering.
“Yes, there was just a pile of concrete,” JJ responds.
“No,” Dad has to jog her memory. “It was just dirt and trees.”
Good thing we have pictures to prove it.
We did a lot of stargazing in the camp trailer days, and the kids talked about how they hope once we move into this house, we’ll still have campfires every night and look at the stars.
“Mommy, did you know the Big Dipper isn’t actually a constellation?” JJ inquires, eager to display her knowledge of the night sky.
“Well, tell me about it, honey!” I urge her on.
“It’s really just a piece of the constellation called the Big Bear,” she proudly informs us. “And the handle of the dipper is the bear’s tail.”
Big L can’t let a seven-year-old control the information, so he adds, “The Little Dipper is also not a constellation, it’s part of the Little Bear.”
I need to teach them to say “Ursa Major” and “Ursa Minor” and maybe we can impress some friends.
So, the sky darkened to black with just our fire and the stars to brighten the night, helped out by the moon now 3/4 full, and the children grew tired and all wanted to climb into Daddy’s lap. I had mopped the wood floor of the living room earlier, the one patch of the house not covered with a fine film of dust, the residue of new construction. I snuck into the house to lay out the sleeping bags as Little L cried, “Mommy, where’s the tent?”
I had explained to the kids that we’d truly sleep in the tent soon, just not tonight.
“But aren’t you so excited to be having a campfire and sleeping in our new house for the first time?” I chattered happily, hoping to draw attention away from the absent tent.
“Yes!” the children all chorused.
“Whew.” I breathed sigh of relief, meltdowns averted. My husband had already broken the news to me that indeed he would not reset the sprinklers which would have soaked us all in the wee hours of the morning, nor would he be breaking down a tent when he needed to be off to pick up his construction laborer early the next morning, not to mention he was dog-tired. This was the perfect opportunity to set aside my well-formed plans and realize the particular season we’re in, which I call the mad-dash-to-the-finish-line-please-don’t-give-up-now season. There will be plenty of other occasions to pitch a tent.
In my incredible foresight, I had packed the laptop computer, and busily settled the children into their bedding to fall asleep to the original 101 Dalmations. I felt a small twinge of guilt as I recalled my idyllic vision of camping out in the tent, totally into nature. Jolted back to reality by the fact that now I could steal a quiet moment with my husband, I could avoid sibling rib-poking and other silliness, and for crying out loud, the kids spent the whole day outside already, I smiled a contented smile.
Displaying even more incredible foresight, I had packed our coffee maker and some excellent fresh grounds. This first morning in our new home, I awoke to the opening rays of the sun, children still in dreamland, and using one of those available outlets, brewed a steaming pot of coffee for my husband and myself. We took simple pleasure in how the gurgle of the coffeepot echoed across the room, and basked in the morning sun, amazed at how the sunlight lit up the kitchen and living room, and how its beams played on the mountains in the most delightful way.
My first thought was, “I’m so glad we didn’t sleep in the tent!” Even though my back was stiff from the hard floor, and it certainly wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve had, experiencing what it will be like to have morning in our new house was worth it. My husband and I chatted over coffee, walked the house and talked about the future. We watched a family of deer come to munch on the lawn, and a shy jackrabbit made his way forward as well. Just as I was about to snap a picture of three adorable young fawns in the side yard, the dog started them up.
It did our hearts good to see the dog finally have a job. He’s a cattle dog with an undeniable instinct to herd and chase. His tongue hanging out and a spring in his step, he bounded back to the dining room door, checking to see that we were watching his prowess. The deer were not that intimidated, and returned in a short while. It was a lovely show.
Somewhere in there, the kids awoke. They immediately asked if we could have a sleep-out again the next night. As I pulled a half-gallon of milk from the cooler I brought, stashed in the empty space soon to be occupied by the refrigerator, I said, “maybe.”
I think it worked. I think they actually felt like they were camping. Once the new-house-feel wears off, we’ll get the tent out.