Thursday, June 24, 2021

Life & Style

Camping Memories, Good and Bad

This summer I read that the local camping area opened later than in previous years due to state budget cuts. Staff to maintain the area has been drastically reduced and people wonder if in future years the campground will be able to continue running. This makes me sad.

To be truthful, I don’t have the best memories of camping. My friend Lola puts it best. “I like not camping,” she says.

My primary camping memory is as a 10 year-old when my family camped as a vacation because neither my parents nor my aunt and uncle could afford anything else. Those were tough times and camping seemed a way to have a vacation getaway without breaking the budget.

We loaded up in station wagons from different directions (New Jersey and Ohio) and met at the campground. There were four adults and eight kids. Twelve people, three tents, two cars—one running, one dead. My family’s car died on its way into the campground with a spectacular display of rattling and gray smoke. Although it had been dubbed “The Bluebird of Happiness,” that car never ran like it was happy. It certainly didn’t appreciate how long it took to get to our destination.

The place was called Camp Whispering Pines and was in Suffern, Pennsylvania. It rained from the day we got there until the day we left. My Aunt Mary soon redubbed it “Camp Pissing Pines in Suffering, Pennsylvania.”

The grownups were in one tent, the older kids in another, and us younger kids in the third. At night, the tents would leak. The thing about the one I was in, though, was that we had Cousin Michael, a.k.a. Porker, in it and he still peed the bed. So, the wet on our sleeping bags each morn was part rain water and part Porker water. Not pleasant.

There was a lake to swim in, but that was kind of pointless because we were already wet all the time. To warm up, Jill the Pill and I would retreat into the corpse of the now-deceased Bluebird of Happiness and talk about things you weren’t supposed to talk about. Things like how Jill the Pill saw that dirty scene in The Graduate where Mrs. Robinson walks into the room and it’s clear she’s wearing no shirt. Or how this one dog kept trying to get my dog, Lobo, pregnant and how it was kind of funny the way Aunt Minerva called it “playing train.” Aunt Minerva always wanted me to tell her when Musket was “playing train” with Lobo so she could put a stop to it. This is the stuff you talk about at 10 when the rain is falling for the fifth day straight and you’ve been to the campground general store three times a day and there isn’t anything new because there isn’t anything new all summer, much less on any given day of a rainy week. We also talked about dolls and teachers and favorite sweatshirts. Jill the Pill’s sweatshirt was navy blue, mine was mustard yellow. We wore them the entire trip.

We ate hot dogs and beans and potato salad. The moms went to the store daily to get the meal fixings and, of course, to find relief from the rain. At night, we roasted marshmallows if the precipitation let up at all. The firelight from other campsites danced in the distance and we could hear people laughing.

We left Camp Pissing Pines in a new junker that Dad somehow found. It got us home, which was all that was important by then. And it didn’t leak.

That camping trip was a sometimes-miserable experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. All kids should have the chance to have camping memories, good and bad. It’s not the experience at the time that matters, but the laughs that carry on for years after. There are few adventures that prove as memorable as a week-long ordeal in a tent with pissing pines and pissing cousins. Just ask Porker.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at

Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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