Camping, something I've been asking for for years, is finally underway. The tradition welcomes me with open arms, but is somewhat lacking the stereotypes I remember so fondly. Slowly trucking down the long driveway in silence in the dusty white Ford was building up for a big reveal, even though I've seen the same house many times before. My mother and I inch past a corner I once scraped my elbow on and pass a ditch a kid, the same kid currently sitting on the patio, fell in. I remember walking back with a smile etched on my face even though there were tears in my eyes.
A canopy stands outside the cabin, sheltering some chairs. Cars are parked sporadically along the expanse of grass, and sets of feet follow invisible dance steps to and from the house. The sight is familiar. It felt good. Warm. Hot.
The unevenly paneled floor greets us with a creak, and so far it's the only one to say hello. The cabin is void of company. Outside, camping chairs are organized in a circle. Various long-time neighbors claim half. Camping used to be a monthly activity between us until every other activity suddenly became more important. The adults didn't even sleep in tents these days, instead taking up the house's offer of air-conditioned rooms and mattresses. These adults just don't take camping seriously anymore.
I claim a chair of my own and stay for what feels like hours before I speaking.
“Can we take a walk?” I say to no one in particular.
A quick response from a close friend pulls me on the balls of my feet. Her name is Patience. We've been friends so long I've forgotten the awkward first moments of introduction and the grudges we'd once swore we'd hold onto forever. Eventually, after snatching water bottles from the grimy fridge, we start. We breathe in the soft colors like a breath of fresh air in peaceful stillness. A rocky slope we recognize starts a friendly conversation on the times we remember on this same hill. I trek up, past the hill and through a tunnel of greenery.
The trees crowd around us like we're on a stage, and we can see the lavender mountains resting on the skyline. The voices from the cabin below echo, and the occasional call of a nearby canine reverberates its way through the trees. The collection of cool colors painting the sky is a view I could stare at for hours, and I actually do. We sit in the center of the hilltop on a seat of rubble and talk about anything and everything for nearly two hours. Eventually, the voices are blocked out by the music they blare from my dad's van.
Our conversation dissipates when we hear the shuffle of footsteps from the tunnel. Dane, a ten-year-old, hops his way up the hill.
“We've been yelling for you,” he tells us, out of breath from the hike, “Dinner's almost ready, we should head back down.”
“Oh, sorry,” I say. The radio must've really cut off all other sound up here.
When we find ourselves on the other side of the tunnel, my curious side gets the better of me. “We should go exploring a little, though, before it gets dark,” I offer. “Dinner'll be waiting when we get back anyways.” No spot is quite as gorgeous as ours.
Dane keeps talking. He explains to us how he climbed the side of the hill through the shrubbery just to get up. Our laughter joins the animals' when Patience points out the trail that led easily to our location. Dane prefers his way because it's cooler.
The moment is nice but interrupted by the deep purple sky. We agree to actually head down for dinner now. We return before the sky turns black.
The chatter falls muted on my numb ears. The things they have to say are uninteresting compared to the glory of the stage among the lavender mountains, so I ignore them, picking at the cold potatoes with my plastic fork. I bare through hours of conversation before the atmosphere deems it okay for me to leave. I approach Patience with the same question as before.
The insects roar in the audience, and I'm sure they too can feel the cool thin air. The stars above reach down in streaks of white like heavenly hands. The spot was serene and more comforting than any place I'd felt before. Maybe it was the silence; maybe it was the lack of disturbance; maybe it was God.
Convincing them to go camping really paid off.