“I hear a bear!” shouts a voice in the next tent.
Screams pierce the night. Young girls shrieking their lungs raw, having the time of their life. There are no bears in these woods and my Scouts know it. They’re just following standard operating procedure; next they’ll let loose about the homicidal maniac who prowls the woods with a bloody hook for a hand.
No amount of yelling is going to get me out of my LL Bean, hypoallergenic, mummy-style, portable bed of nails. As a seasoned veteran of many Girl Scout campouts, I know that the only danger in these woods lurks in the vivid little minds of my Scouts.
“He’s out there!” someone declares with breathy drama, “He’s close, I can smell him!” More shrieks and giggles.
I’ve recently developed a theory that the amount of yakking and yelling after ‘lights out’ is directly proportional to the number of s’mores consumed. And judging from the pile of empty marshmallow bags and Hershey wrappers, this was going to be a boisterous night.
Oh well, I don’t come on these trips expecting much rest. Even after the girls finally crash, the nocturnal creatures pick up where my Scouts left off. All night long, winged insects buzz around my nose prospecting for blood, owls keep asking me “Who?”, and squirrels drop acorns the size of bowling balls on my tent.
None of this seems to be bothering my parent volunteer who is sawing zzz’s through a green plank three short feet away. Good thing she drank that thimble of NyQuil (at least, that’s what she said it was) because she would be in full cardiac arrest if she saw that granddaddy longlegs crawling up her sleeping bag. God bless her. Few mothers are willing to jeopardize their French manicures by going on a wilderness adventure with their daughters.
This campout has gone pretty much as usual. Colleen fell into the creek, Libby squirted bug spray in her eye, and I lost my Oakley sunglasses down the latrine. I briefly considered going after them with the fire tongs but fortunately came to my senses.
Another ear splitting scream. No wonder the bear population is dwindling in Connecticut. They refused to put up with this racket and fled north. I pull my sleeping bag up over my ears and breathe in a heady perfume of bug repellant, campfire smoke, and sweat.
Uh oh. Scouts on the loose. I hope it’s a trip to the latrine and not camper hijinks inspired by Disney’s The Parent Trap.
“Mrs. Barnes?” I recognize the voice and peek out from my sleeping bag. Two flashlights shine into my eyes and out the back of my head.
“Sorry about the last scream, Katie rolled over on my—“
“That’s okay, Sarah. Who’s that with you?”
One of the flashlights moves towards me and someone wearing crampon-compatible, heavy-tread hiking boots steps on my leg.
“Oops! Sorry, Mom.” Sharp knees crush my chest and I feel a sticky kiss on my cheek. “I love you, Mommy,” whispers my daughter, “ This has been the bestest campout ever! ”
“I love you too, sweetie.” We hug.
The flashlights leave and I lay there listening to the overture of Tannhauser, which my tent mate is snoring with appropriate Wagnerian gusto.
This is generally the time I start wallowing in self-pity, wishing I could be home sipping wine and watching old movies with my husband. But for the first time, I feel I’m right where I want to be. I guess I’ve finally realized that bug bites, backaches and latrines are a small price to pay for one sticky kiss.
The snoring is receding. Strange. I feel heavy and light at the same time—like I’m floating in a sandbag suit. Surely I can’t be falling asleep--I never sleep at Girl Scout campouts. Maybe I was bitten by a tsetse fly and am slipping into an acidotic coma. A wonderfully…restful…coma.
Yawn. As I drift into the open arms of Morpheus, I can’t help thinking my dear daughter was right. This has been the “bestest” campout ever. Only next year—no s’mores!