One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Part 1 of 2 - "Take Only Pictures. Leave Only Footprints."

I have been writing for many years, but only recently started to blog.  It's time for a little humor. This story was originally written in January 16, 2007.  It is told in two parts.  You won't want to miss the end of this hilarious story!

The sign on the way out of the camp site said, “Take Only Pictures.  Leave Only Footprints.”  We are typically a law-abiding family, but sometimes, things are simply beyond our control. 

Last month (that fact will become important much later in the story) we took our family on our 2nd Annual “Escape the Chaos of Christmas” camping trip.  For my husband, that means a tent and sleeping bags. Problem is, only 4 of our 18 children have been boys—and the majority of our girls aren’t the outdoorsy type. 

I’m head of the girly girls.  The last two times we went camping – oh, who am I kidding? -- the only two times our family camped – we had young babies, it was December, and I couldn’t bear the thought of our infant freezing to death – even if we do live in Alabama.

Therefore, I insist on renting a cabin with running water, a kitchen, and a space for the pack-n-play.  I meet with little resistance. Everyone prefers the comforts of heat, a soft bed, and no living creatures with more than 2 legs– even if that means 13 people crammed into a cabin built for four, with a single bathroom.

Months before the big event, my husband begins asking, cajoling, and finally begging for his girls to join him in the tent for a fun, frolicking evening around the campfire.  He’s not a seasoned camper – as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t know food inside the sleeping tent is a bad idea – but the girls don’t know the difference. 

The kids that are willing to humor their father and sleep in the “man” tent insist on the campsite nearest the outdoor bathroom facility.  Moreover, after spending all day inside the cabin in their sweats without a shower, they line-up for the only indoor bath in order to shower, shave, straighten their hair and apply full make-up before spending one night in a sleeping bag in the bitter mountain cold. No amount of reasoning convinces them that this is not necessary. I find it highly amusing.

I’m fairly certain that they are not trying to impress anyone.  I doubt the bears care about make-up.  It’s more about comfort.  They simply feel better sleeping on the ground when they are clean and pretty.  

But I digress. Obviously, we survived the four-day camping trip.  When it comes time to pack the cars (it takes two cars to transport our family anywhere) each girl assumes the task of collecting her personal items, stowing them in her designated, pre-sized duffle bag and placing all of the extraneous parts and pieces directly beside the car so that they can carefully crammed into the car at one time.  After years of traveling with a large crew, I have packing down to a science.

The two and one-half hour drive home with 8 people in a Suburban is a bit crowded, but we are not above using a portable DVD player to keep them from killing each other.  Fortunately,  I had to leave a few hours earlier with some of the kids to get our 10 ½ month old to her “as close to 9 months as we are able to remember and can actually find the time to make the appointment -- well check-up”  But that’s another story.

Somewhere in route, I received a frantic phone call from one of my girls – speaking in a rushed, high pitched tone, she says, “Mom!  Mom! (Insert screams!) Can you hear me?  There’s something in the car.  Mom! I promise you!  We have some furry creature in the car with us.  It just crawled across my! (Insert 7 screaming girls!)  It was the kind of voice that made my mother heart jump as I immediately envisioned dead bodies strewn across the road.  Listening to her words, I realized it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I still couldn’t make sense of what they were screaming about. 

She continued, “Mom!  Dad doesn’t believe us, but I promise you some furry thing just crawled across the floorboard of the car.  We must have packed up some animal when we packed the car.  Mom!  Please tell dad that we are serious.” 

I try reasoning with my loving husband. “Are you sure it’s nothing,” I say sweetly.  Okay, anyone who knows me, knows that’s a lie – I never speak sweetly. But I do ask him.  Then I figure any animal crazy enough to get in the car with 7 screaming girls and my husband deserves the punishment.  Besides, I was in another car.

Anyway, he refuses to pull over on the side of the interstate, refuses to unpack all seven girls, the entire truckload of camping supplies, 6 hair straighteners, 8 pillows, the dvd player, and all the dirty clothes to find an imaginary animal.  He did suggest that they open the windows.  He was ready to get home. Creature or not. 

The remainder of the trip home the girls kept their feet in their seats and refused to sleep – all watching intently for the next sign of fur. There was none.  When the girls got home and emptied the car, there was still nothing.

Perhaps the problem is that seeing fur in the Suburban isn’t all that unusual – however, it is more likely to be that furry green mold that grows on a two-week old peanut butter sandwich than a small animal.  In spite of the lack of evidence to support their story, the girls remained firm in their belief that there was, in fact, an illegal stow away from the camp ground.

Flash forward 21 days and approximately 2,000 miles on the odometer. 

I give my 20-year-old daughter two plastic applicator tampons to put into the glove compartment.  She lays them on top of the tire warranty that we bought with the new tires just days before the camping trip. These items are emergency equipment in a car full of teen-age girls.

Two days later, we are loading the car for coop.  My 14-year old daughter opens the glove compartment and finds a perplexing scene.  Holding up one of the plastic wrappers that has obviously been chewed open and a plastic applicator with a tiny hole in the handle she looks quizzically and said, “Is this supposed to look like this?”

Initially, I wasn’t paying attention to her, which is not all that unusual because I’m taking a head count of kids, making sure the baby is properly restrained, checking behind others to make sure they what they need and loading my teaching materials before we drive off.  But her facial expression causes me to notice her.

I glance over at the items she is holding and then divert my eyes to the open glove box where I see that the cotton that has been removed and shredded into tiny pieces which are now lying on top of the tire warranty.  Upon further investigation, we discover that the warranty is missing a one inch semi-circular chunk from the right corner. The edge of the paper has a pattern that bears an uncanny resemblance to tiny teeth marks. 

What can I say? My husband was wrong.  The evidence is overwhelmingly against him!

How a small rodent has survived a month inside our car is a mystery. How anything can survive in our grungy 1998 Suburban that is literally falling apart at the seams is a mystery.  How it could go unnoticed during a 500 mile trip to Florida with 8 children, an  800 mile trip to Kentucky, and a minimum of 12 trips per day taxiing kids on every  errand you can imagine, is priceless

Okay.  We took plenty of pictures.  We left at least 13 sets of footprints.  It was the “only” that gave us a little trouble. 

The story continues in Part 2, which I will Post simultaneously.

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