Camping Out… What Was I Thinking?

There’s no place like home:
A warm Aga, my house smell,
Bedding that missed me.


I could have stopped at the title, right? You all know what this piece is going to contain: tales of insects the size of your palm; the stickiness of sweat that never evaporates; sentient rocks that migrate to the perfect position under your sleeping bag at the exact moment you finally drop off; a forgotten item that sends a child into fits of despair.

But wait… there’s more. We camped out at the zoo, which happens to be located more or less in the city.

Do you know what animals do at night? Well, it seems very few of them sleep. I didn’t realize that the peacock was nocturnal, but he sure as hell felt compelled to announce his presence several times during the night. Asshole.

And there is an insect, native to the zoo apparently, that makes the most peculiar noise. To replicate it, do the following. Go find a kids balloon, un-inflated. Put it in your mouth (warning: do this when the kids are asleep). Now chew with your mouth closed and your fingers plugging your ears. That eek-a-eek-a-eek-a noise? That is exactly what they sound like. But they do it, thankfully (?) at a slow, waltz-like pace… eeeek-a….. eeeeek-a….. over and effing over again. I kept praying the damn peacock would eat them. No such luck.

When the animals weren’t doing that they do in the middle of the night at a zoo, then the city filled in with its own orchestrations. The Cincinnati Zoo is right next to several hospitals. It was Saturday night. What happens on Saturday nights at hospitals? Ambulances like to visit. A lot. The occasional helicopter flew over, at times seeming indecisive about which roof top to land on, instead rather content to just hover for many looooong minutes. I know there were ill people aboard, so I didn’t curse them – I was grateful I was on the ground and not in the air. Rather, I cursed myself.

What the hell was I thinking? I was the one who found this event. I paid for it. I talked my hubby into it. I shared it gleefully with the kids, as I wanted to get them to quit asking “to camp out”. I figured the zoo camp out was an easy way to tick that box until next summer.

[Note: except for the sleeping (or more accurately the not sleeping), this was an exceptional event. Small group. Nighttime walk around the zoo. Animal visits. Behind the scenes tour. Really, a not-to-be-missed opportunity that I recommend to anyone near Cincinnati.]

It is simply that my body is soft. It has no clue how to deal with sleeping on the ground. As it is, I’ve reached the age where I can hurt myself when I sleep in a normal bed. Imagine my body’s reaction to a sleeping bag on summer-dry dirt. My god. The next day I felt like someone had beat me with a stick. In really strange places. With a sense of just the right angle to maximize joint pain and hamper mobility. It took me 40 minutes to make sandwiches for the kids. Later on, for some reason, I decided to bake, and try as I could, I just couldn’t get all the ingredients assembled in less than 30 minutes. My body was screaming; my brain a garbled mess from the total lack of good sleep. It took a strong cup of coffee at 2pm to finally shake me out of my stupor and get me somewhat productive the rest of the day, although I was in a coma (in my nice, comfy water-bed thankyouverymuch) by 9:15pm.

Here is the funny part. Did I say funny? I meant masochistic part. I would do it again. The kids loved it. It was relatively easy. There were toilets near by. We didn’t have to drive far. But next time, I won’t talk my husband out of the blow up mattresses (“they’ll be a hassle” I insanely told him hours earlier); and I’ll pack an adult beverage or two to ease the transition to dreams. Perhaps with some assistance, those nighttime animal calls will morph into some bizarre dream that will be worth it for the retelling.

[I must thank The Embiggens Project/Face like a frying pan for this post. It tickled me tremendously earlier in the day, and at one point during a sleepless interlude, I started thinking about it… and I started to giggle… which turned into silent body earthquakes as I tried not to wake anyone else. Tears were streaming down my face into my ears… I couldn’t stop. And since I couldn’t make any noise, it made the whole thing that much funnier. It was a welcome respite during the otherwise tortured audio events of the evening.]

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