Every summer, my extended family goes on a great
drunk-out I mean camp-out. Maybe it’s my chronic aches and pains, or maybe it’s because I’m the type of responsible drinker who can’t let myself get wasted while caring for small children around fires and rivers, but I never have much fun, and my participation is sporadic. Also, the big selling point of shared meals and rotating kitchen duties doesn’t appeal, because we’re vegetarians and my extended family is exactly the opposite.
It’s all more work than fun, and I’m a big spoil-sport.
Most years, though, I do send my daughter with my mom so she can experience the enriching aspects of sleeping in the woods, while I stay home enjoying my comfy bed and avoiding the panic attacks I’m susceptible to when my children have near-death experiences in the Wild. Some years my husband and I make an appearance for an afternoon or even overnight.
And when we do, I sleep in our minivan. On an air mattress.
Don’t judge me, because fibromyalgia.
Two summers ago, the camping trip was a short road-trip away, and our son was old enough that we couldn’t really use the excuse of “the new baby”, so there was no getting out of it. I dutifully planned our meals, arranged them in their respective grocery bags, added the sporks and the tin cups–one per person!–and packed the back of the van like a real life game of Tetris, then loaded up the family. We drove off into the woods where the GPS doesn’t work, got lost, turned around, lost again, and finally found the family’s private enclave deep, deep in the forest.
We set up the tent for the boys; blew up the air mattress; cooked and ate our strange, private meals; and helped the kids make tie-dye shirts. I think there may have even been a talent show. That night found us around the fire with our vegan marshmallows making up a continuous, non-sensical story–you know that game where one person starts a story, then the next person adds on to it, and so on, and so on? Yeah, that one.
I was having fun.
And drinking. I was drinking. Cider? Wine? What’s this? Yes. More please.
My daughter was asleep with grandma, and my son and husband were asleep in the tent, and I was up–awake–telling stories around the campfire, getting drunk. Unprecedented! I mean, I never, ever get to do the fun things! Just sit around and drink and hang out? Me? (To give you some perspective on how rare this is, I am 41 and have never sat at the grown-up table at a family Thanksgiving. I have always sat at the kid table, because I was either a kid, a teenage kid-watcher, or the mother of small children.)
It was so much fun, but all fun must end. Off I went to the pit toilet, trying to void as much alcohol from my system as possible before climbing into bed in the minivan at the opposite end of the group campsite.
Everybody turned in. It was maybe 2 a.m.
I tossed and turned on the air mattress, head spinning from too much alcohol. Oh, and I had to pee again. Of course. Well, I wasn’t about to walk across the entire campsite in the dark, and I wasn’t going to pee on the ground either.
Hmm. A tin cup! Bingo! I could dump it into a toilet in the morning.
I squatted over the cup, emptying a perfect pint of pee into it–seriously, it was right up to the edge. I was lucky it didn’t overflow. And I decided I shouldn’t push my luck any further; there was no way that pint of pee would make it through the night unspilled.
So, I opened the sliding door of the van to pour it on the ground.
Well, I tried to.
The alarm went off. Honk! Honk! Hooooonnnnnnkkkk!!! Where are the damn keys? Gotta press the button and turn this off.
I put down the pint o’pee and scrambled to the front seat to try to open the front door. No luck. Dogs yapping. Oh shit! I can’t open the door! Where are the keys??? I scrambled to the back, running my hands along the air mattress, trying to find those keys.
Honk! Honk! Honk! Panic! Aunts & uncles shouting! Turn it off! Oh why doesn’t my husband come out of the tent and help me? Where are the fucking keys? I put them somewhere I’d be sure to find them!! Goddammit! Turn on the lights! Try the handle! Why won’t it open??? WTF??? HOOONNNKKK!
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Well, just great, my son was up and crying for me. Scramble to the back again. Open every cubby. Where are the goddam fucking keys??? Dammit!
Just sit on the air mattress, now, laughing hysterically. There is no escape.
“Press the button on the keys,” my husband yells at me through the window. “I know! I can’t find them!! I’m trapped!” Oh shit, think, think, the keys, where are the keys? More shouting. Everybody is mad at me. I’ve woken up the entire campground. Oh my god! FUCK FUCK FUCK!
Oh my god! The keys! That’s right! In the cupholder! Under the mattress! Of course!! The place where I’d never forget I’d put them!
Okay, okay, just press the button!
Silence. Finally. Blessed, blessed silence.
Open the car door. Pick up the baby. “Mommy, why did you set off the alarm?”
“Well, I peed in a cup, and I had to open the door to pour out the pee, but the alarm went off and I couldn’t find the keys.”
“Mommy, did you pee in a cup?”
“Yes, I peed in a cup.”
The next morning, I expected tired accusing glares and snarky jokes at my expense. But nobody said a word. Nobody, that is, but my two year old: “Mommy, did you pee in a cup and make the car honk?”
The next month: “Mommy, did you pee in a cup and make the car honk?”
A year and a half later: “Mommy, did you pee in a cup and make the car honk?”
The kid will never let me live it down.