“I got a bike!” squealed Morgan when she woke up and saw it sitting in front of her in the camper floor, pink bow stuck to the seat for a moment.
“Happy Birthday,” Military Man and I told her in a semi-whisper, so as not to wake up Jake, who was sleeping on his cot just a foot away from our pre-dawn celebration. Her beaming smile obvious in the subtle lights of the living room, we knew she got exactly what she wanted.
“Can I ride it now?” she asked, rubbing sleep from her eyes.
“Let’s wait until you can at least see the road outside,” I said. “Besides, you have school today.”
Once Jake woke up, he gave her his present; a miniature pink and cream camper pulled by a pink jeep. “It has a fox family to live in it!” said Jake, excited for her to play with it.
“Ooooh, look at the little tiny baby bottle,” she said, holding something no bigger than her pinky fingernail and pretending to feed a baby fox, or as I was so clearly corrected, “it’s a kit, mom, just like my doll’s name!”
“There are 38 of those accessories,” I told Military Man with an eyebrow raise.
What could only be a nostril flare in relation to the future of the camper, he replied, “I think it’s time to get the floor vent covers that we can close, because we all know, woman, that Jake had some help picking out that present.”
“Touché,” I replied. “But look at that little camper table! It’s sooo cute! And my old doll’s deviled egg can sit on the table there.”
After a Christmas at my parent’s house, where ‘somebody’ lost my vintage American Girl doll, Samantha’s incredibly miniature, and ornately detailed deviled egg from her picnic lunch tin, and then it was found, I’ve become obsessed with making sure it gets appreciated. “But did you SEE how the egg fits right in?” I asked Morgan when she wouldn’t let me put it on the dashboard of her jeep.
Leaving the 6-year-old birthday girl at school, Military Man and I began a conversation about his upcoming travel schedule, the fact that our house in Georgia still isn’t sold, that we are paying a mortgage (plus the trimmings to keep it looking amazing inside and out), and that this is a tight season on the budget.
Not to mention, every day that we call to check our status on the waiting list for a home on base, we continue to move farther down the list. We aren’t really sure how it keeps happening, and as of yesterday we went from number seven on the list to number 13. We haven’t made much of a complaint about it yet, primarily because if we accept a home on base, we lose our finances to pay for a mortgage. We can’t afford to lose the housing allowance until we don’t have to worry about paying for one.
“It might be smarter financially for you and the kids to come with me on the long TDY’s until the house sells,” said Military Man. “I guess so,” I replied. “We are back at the financial reason why we uprooted Morgan during kindergarten in Georgia, aren’t we?”
With bills piling up, a house payment, a campground monthly rental, plus a TDY schedule with it’s own hotels (that yes, the military pays for), we are talking about expenses that no matter what you’re given, you still spend extra when you’re in different places.
Picking up Morgan from her second day at her new school, we found out her teacher forgot to pass out her birthday goody bags for the kids, and she was really disappointed about it. “I just wanted to give them to my new friends,” she cried in the car on the way to the campground.
“I know,” I said, thinking of the 25 bags we carefully built with bouncy balls, bubbles, ninja turtle masks, party horns and rice Krispy treats, sitting forgotten on her teachers desk. “I am sure she will give them out tomorrow. Let’s go ride your new bike!”
Walking back into the camper, we realized Arco, with the jumping skills of a gazelle and the climbing talents of a mountain goat, had gotten onto the counters and apparently leaped up high enough to remove a jumbo bag of dog treats that was perched on the top piece of trim above the kitchen slide out.
Looking at nothing but shreds of a treat bag that once contained more than 300 treats, Arco was nowhere to be found and Gunney, standing in the middle of the shreds was just wagging his tail.
“Obviously he didn’t do it,” I said to the kids. Arco, hiding between the bed and the closet upstairs, was peeking with one eye around the corner of the mattress. “Get down here,” I said. “NOW.” Emerging slowly, and waddling like a woodchuck that lost his legs into his immense extra fat folds, it was clear he’d overeaten.
“Gluttony will get you every time,” I told him, looking at a potbelly usually reserved for piggies. “I know, it happens when I get a bag of Oreo’s…. Your pain is your punishment,” I said into his pitiful, ‘I can’t believe I ate the whole thing’ eyeballs. “You ate it Ralph.”
Realizing my night would be spent listening for the gurglings and burblings of his belly blow up, I set the cleaning supplies on the counter.
“Oh no, what did he eat,” asked Military Man, walking in and seeing the diarrhea preparedness kit sitting there.
After telling him the story, we’ve decided that we need camper cameras. “When we sell the house,” said Military Man.
“Agreed,” I replied.
Maybe, because he and Morgan share the same birthdate, Arco opted to hold it all in until sunrise, and spare me the agony of quarantining the camper in the middle of the night.
“I couldn’t pick it up,” said Military Man, in reference to the diarrhea Arco had that literally went the length of a football field from the parking lot all the way to the dog park. “It was nothing but liquid.”
“Poor dog,” I said.
“Poor dog!” “I had to smell it all the way down there,” he said with a half gag.
“Seriously, at least he was outside! How many laps around the camper does a dog poop to cover the length of a football field,” I asked him, referencing his supreme case of ass flu when we first moved into the camper.
“I don’t know,” said Military Man. “Morgan! We have a math problem for you!”
Excited for something other than counting apples, she was disappointed when Military Man said he was just kidding.
And as if Arco was just kidding too about feeling bad, he decided to once again climb the counter and drink four cans worth of tuna juice while the kids and I were standing outside telling Military Man goodbye for the day.
“You DID NOT!” I shouted at the dog. “I WAS OUTSIDE FOR FIVE MINUTES!” Not able to hide his guilt due to his wet mouth and tuna stench, he stood there and owned the moment. I was also convinced my old dog Dixie would have tried to roll on him. (“Do they have tuna in heaven,” Morgan wondered out loud. “Probably for Dixie,” I thought to myself.)
And then he belched… In my face.
“Lord help us all,” I prayed.
When Military Man returned in time for happy hour, something our campground neighbors started every day at 4pm, I gladly took a chair and a pina colada. Open to anyone in the campground, the group continues to grow and talk, and the kids ride bikes and play where we can all keep a good eye on them.
Disappointed to see Jim and Char leave today, the original happy hour hosts, Military Man and I have taken the torch and it has relocated to outside our camper. “It’s definitely a quick way to make friends, but the moment Arco launches tuna poo through our party, I’m sure we will lose them all and the torch too,” I told Military Man.
And if the prospect of losing friends before we made them weren’t enough, we withdrew Morgan from the elementary school on base after only four days of being there. She didn’t even have a real chance to make friends, but because of the upcoming travel schedule and a few other reasons going on, it seemed like the only option to finish her kindergarten is homeschooling.
“I keep praying for friends and as soon as I meet one, they move again,” said Morgan after her latest bunch of campground pals departed for the Petrified Forest.
“It’s just the season we are in,” I told her with a hug.
“You’re squeezing me too hard,” she said.
“But you’re my friend,” I told her, still not letting go.
“Mom. You’re my friend too. Now let go,” she shoved.
And with that, a new airstream parked in the old friends spot, and two little boys piled out of the truck pulling it, looking about her age.
“KIDS!” she shouted, and off she went to say hello with Jake in tow. From my chair at Happy Hour, I could hear her asking them if they wanted to ride bikes, and I realized the best way to make friends is to just embrace the ones I have right now, sitting in front of me, and worry about Morgan’s education, our finances and Arco’s tuna poo ruining the opportunity in the only way a southern gal can – by embracing the words of Scarlet O’Hara,
“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Besides, we’ve realized something else about the Crowded Camper lifestyle, and that’s the fact that making new friends is the easy part. Keeping them when they move is where it gets complicated. We are left with things like Facebook, email and random text messages of photos we think they’ll enjoy. But now that we are homeschooling Morgan, I believe it’s time to bring back the forgotten art of phone calls. You know, the ones to your relatives to see how they’ve been doing lately? Or the one to that friend from highschool that you’ve not talked to in years because you’ve traded the sound of their special voice for ‘liking’ their posts on social media?
As people blitz in and out of our lives, we can show Morgan how they become her friends, and that’s by staying in touch as best we can. And maybe, just maybe, the next batch will stay longer than a few days. Well, until Arco poops anyway.
Don’t forget to check out Crowded Camper® on Facebook
Rebecca Dickey’s author page to learn about books and upcoming signing events
This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Rebecca with 1 comment