We went camping this weekend, out by Julian, with the folks from our Unitarian Fellowship. Their fourth-of-July campsite is in a woods, overlooking a meadow, next to great mountain-bike trails. It was beautiful, albeit a bit odd in some of the company. It was especially fun watching Sophie playing with the older Unitarian kids. The four-year-old girls kept picking flowers for Sophie. The five-year-old boys started holding their frisbees upside down, declaring that they were special serving platters for bringing food to Sophie and me. A six-year-old girl explained it well: “It’s like your baby is a princess, and we’re the princess’s servants.”
I’m not quite sure what Sophie does to merit all this attention, except she does take so much delight in everything. I hope she’ll grow up to be as generous and empathetic as her Unitarian seniors. One three-year-old spoke with me very seriously, wanting to know how long it will be until Sophie gets to be “three like me.”
This was Sophie’s third camping trip, but it was the first one for which she seemed truly conscious of camping. So she didn’t sleep much all weekend. In her opinion, the tent was just way too much fun for sleeping. It probably didn’t help that I slapped the mosquitoes inside the tent, inadvertently introducing the slap-the-tent-walls game. It also didn’t help that we brought the quilt from our bed, since it was warm and easiest to cuddle up as a family instead of in separate sleeping bags that rustle and wake the baby. We didn’t realize that in Sophie’s view, the quilt on our bed is a playspace for tickling, squealing, and safely flopping over in whatever direction she wants to flop. The quilt in the tent is even softer and safer for flopping. She didn’t nap all Saturday — she just kept giggling and flopping and slapping the tent walls — and after that marathon of wakefulness, she didn’t even go to bed at 7pm as she usually does. She insisted on watching the fire and her new kindergarten-age friends and the evening sing-along, trying mightily to sit upright in my lap for as long as she could.
I admit, I actually like fireside sing-alongs. Ben wanted to know: how do I know the words to James Taylor songs? I don’t know, but I do. And finally Sophie allowed me to put her to bed, to the sounds of “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
The day before camping we had one of those pre-baby-like-time when we actually went to three parties in one night. The best party was with our old neighbors, who carry on like frat boys and remind me that I don’t always have to pretend to be a grown-up. The disjuncture between parties, between frat-fest and sing-along, sometimes feels schizophrenic. But actually, I think our frat-like former neighbors are more deeply kind and personally satisfied than many of the Unitarian spiritual seekers. And I’m glad I know both.