Tag Archives: outdoors

A Refreshing Sip of Summers Past

In the pitch-black of early morning, my dad would gently shake me from heavy sleep. I’d agreed to go fishing with him, but from within the comfort of my cool sheets, I’d nearly changed my mind about this 5:30 wake-up call. We’d set out for the country roads, bouncing along in his pick-up truck and stopping at a gas station on the way to pick up our lunch. Nothing would taste better on the lake than that soggy sub and a bottle of Cheerwine.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had Cheerwine, years, but recently when I took a swig of the distinct Southern cherry soda, memories of summer mornings with my dad on a quiet lake came rippling back.

Cheerwine soda

Cheerwine takes me back to days on the lake fishing in Virginia with my dad. It’s a soda born and bred in North Carolina.

I remember baiting the hook with slimy worms, weaving them back and forth like ribbons. I’d lost too many from poor technique in the past. We’d cast our lines and wait. We never said much. We didn’t catch much. Often the only sound was the water gently lapping against our rented canoe. But those were some of the best times with my dad. Sure, there was that big one on my line that got away. My dad tried so hard to tell me how to reel him in, excited and patient and set on letting me do it. He still tells the story of how big that bass was. I never got a good look. It could have been a tiny catfish for all I know, but Daddy was proud whatever it was.

Looking back now, I see that as a parent I don’t need to try so hard to make memories. It’s not about always being fancy. It doesn’t need to be much. It’s just time spent one-on-one that matters, with no interruptions. Well, except to reel in a big one. That’s OK.

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Who Learned More on the Overnight Trip: the Chaperone or the Kids?

I recently chaperoned a two-night third-grade field trip and lived to tell about it. Previous field trips have left me exhausted and irritable, so I was nervous. Never having experienced an overnight camp as a child, I set out with another mom, our kids, and a carload of more crap than we needed not knowing what to expect. I felt certain we’d get no sleep, I’d be grumpy, the boys would be wild, and it would rain to the point where we’d need canoes to get around. I was wildly mistaken, pleasantly surprised, dry, hot, hungry, tired, and eager to learn.

Here’s a recap:

1. I learned how to read a compass and follow a course through a horse pasture. Each point we found led to another point and so on. Thankfully, we found nothing else.

Thanks to a compass course, at least I know what to do if I get lost in the woods now, or a horse pasture.

2. I learned there are more than 70,000 types of U.S. soil. The kids talked about viscosity, porosity, horizons, and permeability, which is not “when you get a perm,” in case you were wondering.

3. A field of geese is an open invitation to a gaggle of boys who just had to sit quiet and still for 30 minutes and listen to a cool bird presentation. They couldn’t upset the birds being shown inside, but no one said anything about the geese outside, who I’m pretty sure won’t return to that field for a while.

4. I learned that a dark, quiet, blow-up astronomy dome showing the night sky offers a perfect place to catch up on missed sleep. Just be aware when the instructor points the laser in your direction and you’re suddenly in the constellation spotlight.

5. I learned that I can’t sleep to the sound of 11 sleeping bags swishing and plastic mattresses scrunching all night after day one, but after day two, I can sleep through almost anything.

6. When given the option, boys who don’t have their moms with them will not shower for three days, regardless of how sweaty they’ve gotten, how much grass and sand they’ve rolled around in, and whether they splashed around a little too much in the stagnant water in aquatics class.

7. When allowed to go through the dining hall line alone, boys will return with a plate full of carbs, cheese, and not much else. When you point out they could have made a salad with the lettuce, they tell you they didn’t see that.

8. When asked about the coolest thing they’ve ever done, half the kids say going to that camp, fishing for their first time while there, or catching their first fish there. I learned that for some, in their short lives, it was a lifetime experience.

9. Third graders are really smart. They knew answers I didn’t expect them to know and made conclusions I didn’t expect them to connect.

10. During the course of our stay, the parents struggled a bit to keep up, wished for better sleeping accommodations, cursed bathroom stalls that required feats of contortionism to use, and yearned for gourmet food. I didn’t hear the kids whine, fuss, or complain about the heat, the long days with no breaks or snacks, the gross food, or little sleep. For them, it was thrilling hands-on learning outside the classroom.

The camp may have been geared toward kids, but I know I learned a lot.

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