This baby had a tented-in porch and two different rooms. It was a beauty. Plus it came with only five poles and a one-page, single-sided sheet of directions.
Which were misleading. The tent kept collapsing. I sweated through my clothes, and most of my four-letter vocabulary, before figuring out what I was doing wrong. (I needed the other yellow pole for the main support. Not the yellow one I was using.
See? All the poles were yellow.) Meanwhile three of the children were jumping on the trampoline and the oldest was suffering through helping his mother engineer.
It was three days after the Summer Solstice so nightfall came late. The shenanigans were starting at the time I should have, ideally, been asleep, never mind them.
But my husband, Tim, and I were commandeered to stay with them until it was completely dark. We were needed for two things only: to decipher and downplay all noises and not to mention the “Dogman.”
We succeeded at half of that.
A lantern hung at the peak inside the tent. Only four times did I whack my head on it. One boy was perched high on a blow-up mattress at each end of the tent and in the middle, two boys on 1,000 comforters, better than the bed I slept on 365 days of the year.
We turned off the lights and waited for the pitch dark to envelope us. Instead, the tent was illuminated in the front porch light, perhaps brighter than a day at high noon.
“I’ll go turn it off,” I said, thinking I would just round out the trip with an eight-hour sleep in my own bed.
“No! It stays on,” the boys bellowed in unison.
So, settled in under a shell of nylon and each other’s company, I expected one or the other to implode at any moment. One kid was moaning to everyone to shut up and go to sleep, one was talking about the Dogman (Tim), and one was trying to suffocate another two with a comforter.
Things were really cooking. I sat back and waited for a lot more secrets and sorcery to start happening like when I was a kid. But, instead, it got a little quiet. No one had much to say except maybe it was too bright to actually fall asleep in there. It was almost like they were… waiting.
It was clear Tim and I were about to be demoted to the house. Before they demanded it, we took our leave, carefully zipping the fun in and the chaperones out.
We combated our dismissal by reveling in running water and flush toilets while listening to them “sleep” at a volume that could be heard through a two-by-six insulated house wall.
But an hour later, when they should have been either asleep or petrified, we heard a mass exodus from the tent. We smiled to ourselves. This was it. They were done. Would we cave and let them come inside or force them to sleep outside at the mercy of whitetail deer and cottontail rabbits?
Instead, they went the other way, four boys on a mission to use the long grass for a bathroom. They didn’t even bother to look up at the house. I was impressed and shocked and maybe a little depressed.
Indeed, we had served our purpose until morning when we would be summoned for pancakes and electricity.
But it was as it should be: four boys on their own in their own domain, in a tent made for 10, with nary a parent in sight.