I think it hit two zip codes. At least, that’s how it looked from my spot by the fire. The front bumper was squarely in ours, but the back one was definitely hanging over into the next township.
Two days after school let out, my parents arrived, pulling a fifth-wheel trailer with a big, red Ford diesel filled with four nieces and nephews. So began a solid week of Grandma and Grandpa Day Camp.
Their arrival effectively doubled the population here on the reservation, and when they proceeded to unpack and set up their equipment, our three acres were instantly transformed into a KOA campground. With tire swings, a trailer, a tent, a picnic table, and a fire pit, then mixing in four cousins and two creative grandparents, it was a recipe for a week of little sleep, but a whole lot of fun.
In no time ate all, Grandma had voted herself into two positions – camp director and head cook with Grandpa as chief griller, entertainer, and overall assistant. The skill and efficiency with which they organized the proceedings made them look like positive Boy Scouts. Oh, and a girl one, too.
Apparently, the “How to Run a Camp With Such Military Precision That Even the Pentagon is Jealous” manual states that the job of camp director includes directing activities. That’s exactly what Mom did.
Spotting a trampoline-shaped hole in our entertainment lineup, they moved to fix it. In no time at all, a brand-new one had been assembled and was ready for its inaugural bounce. Immediately, it filled with happy legs, and the shrieks and laughter that floated across the lawn assured the campground management that it was money well spent.
During the day, they would break out the yard games, including bocce ball, ladder ball, and Kubb. Then, Grandpa would call a movie interval. The yard would empty and the house would fill with little moviegoers. When the credits rolled, it was back outside for more jumping or yard games.
It’s a Scout axiom that where there’s a camp, there must be a fire. And, indeed, we had fire. Almost nightly, to be exact. As darkness fell, the circle around the fire pit would fill up with chilly campers, huddling by its warmth. Occasionally, an aunt and uncle would join us, tucking their own lawn chairs into the circle, and we would laugh and talk into the night.
At shouts of, “S’mores,” the trampoline would empty, and the hungry minions would storm the roasting sticks. After tales from Grandpa of practical jokes and wild things that scratch in the night, the circle, too, would empty out, and tents, trailers, and beds would fill up with tired campers.
The next morning, The Mister and I would tiptoe around, getting ready for work as the rest of the camp slumbered. Around 10 a.m., the reservation would come to life again as sleepy outdoorsmen came looking for Grandma’s skillet.
And was there ever food in Grandma’s skillet. Once, it was biscuits and gravy. Another day, it was scrambled egg casserole cooked over charcoal in the cast-iron skillet. Yet another morning, we had omelettes in a bag.
They held nothing back. There were campfires potatoes cooked over the coals. We had pork loins and burgers. Mom made chicken from a family recipe, frying it outdoors and then baking it.
At night, Dad took over, grilling mozzarella sticks. Then, it was Texas toast with a smoky tang, toasted over the fire.
The most popular treat, however, was the doughnuts. Cranking up the cooker, he heated oil in the skillet. From buttermilk biscuits in a tube with holes poked in the middle, he then fried them to a golden brown before rolling them in sugar. The bowl would fill, then empty in a trice.
These were brought back for an encore the night they turned the back 40 into Cape Canaveral. Launching Grandpa’s rocket, they would watch the sky, eager to see if the parachute had deployed and where it had landed. Returning to camp, they would fortify themselves with doughnuts before trundling off to forage through the trees and brush in search of the rocket.
Now that they’ve gone, our yard looks empty. The trampoline is a bit quieter now, and the tent has fewer dwellers. The memory banks of the campers who are left are full, though, and will likely be shared around many campfires down the road. We’ll laugh and say, “Remember when…?”
Oh, yeah. “And pass the doughnuts.”
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