I had never known how many life lessons I could learn in forty-eight hours. It was the beginning of last Summer. We arrived at the Oregon Inlet campground in a large white van packed with five adults— if I am included in that category—along with five kids, a dog, and copious amounts of camping gear that we thought left us over-prepared. Energies were high—we were still reeling from the bear we saw in the trees on the drive over the land and bridges scanning the serene sound circling the island. It was late when we arrived so we set up tents in the dark and went to sleep with excitement for the days to come and the celebration of my nephew Jase’s birthday.
The Oregon Inlet Campground was well laid out. Walking around, I quickly realized that shoes were a necessity as small, round spikes dug into my feet. Scanning the area, I saw tents, a Winnebago here and there, and the odd assortment of other camping vehicles. There was definitely no hot tub around to escape the chill. The bathrooms and showers were well-kept and to our delight, the showers even had warm water. Not like we had the chance to use it.
I awoke in the morning to a chill creeping through my body. Unzipping the tent, I raced to the van to realize I had packed clothes for an Arizona trip. Hurriedly, we all raced around looking for that warm cup of joe to awaken us from our morning slumber but the adults were sullen as the realization hit that the coffee had been left behind. Faces were crestfallen as I looked around, and fingers were pointed at the planner of the trip, Binny. Binny, my big brother, also called B-dawg, saved the day by driving 45 minutes out to town to ease everyone’s minds and bodies with coffee from a local grocery store and putting it in his handy French Press, which he had conveniently remembered.
Although the weather was chilly and skies a bit gray, the children were not deterred from their desires to hit the beach. I set out with the four kids in tow. I am convinced children do not feel the cold as much as adults because they splashed in the sea as if the sun shined brightly with a light breeze when in reality the sun was behind the clouds leaving the air and water frigid to the bone. Seeing their happy, lit-up faces made everything okay in the world. There were a few grumbles here and there but everyone was really just glad to be in the company of family and in a setting away from everyday troubles in our usual environments.
We were still playing and getting sandy in all the orifices of our body when Jade, my big sister, received a call from our mom. It was a shout for help. As we reached the campsite, we saw her holding on to the twelve- person tent for dear life. The winds, reaching probably 60 mph, were dragging the tent away and almost taking her with them. After laughing hysterically for a minute straight, with no thoughts of filming the debacle, my sister and I rushed to my mom’s aid. With one of us on each side of the tent, we tried to stake the tent precariously back into the ground. After numerous failed attempts, hysterics, and screams, we resorted to tying one end of the tent to a nearby picnic table thinking weight would be on our side.
Later that night we all set out on a cold walk around the campground. I put on as many layers that I could scrounge since my blood was now accustomed to the Arizona heat. As we pulled the kids in a wagon, the ground became tumultuous and rocky, but we sang songs as if there were no cares in the world. Turning back, it seemed everyone had a smile on their face only to find the tent broken free and flying off from the picnic table. The sky darkened as the clouds covered the sky. The wind raged about us in circles like tornadoes; the air had a damp smell to it. We realized we had little time to fix this.We staked down the tent again and tied it to the van to block some wind. The rain began to slam down in a torrential downpour and the wind continued to slap us in the head all night through the sides of the tent. I remember thinking, “Death is upon us,” in my melodramatic ways as I pretended to play guard over the kids. There’s nothing like a family camping trip to show a twenty-one year old how ill-equipped they are in adulthood. We stuck it out while mom slept in the van cozied up next to her wine box.
In the morning we had sullen faces but these were quickly changed after our delicious breakfast burritos made by Chef Binny. As always, I felt like a nuisance with my special vegetarian order. Even with full stomachs, we made the decision to leave on Jase’s birthday, a day early, since we could not convince Jade’s tent to stay in the ground. Leave it to Jade to buy a 10-person tent on a whim. There were no disgruntled complaints against leaving as everyone had experienced enough family trials for a forty-eight hour period. I hoped that we could salvage Jase’s birthday when we arrived back to Winston Salem, but by that point, everyone seemed annoyed and tired. My mom could barely keep her eyes open as she kept her water bottle filled with red wine. The kids and I watched as the adults packed the car back up with the broken tent and the other odds and ends. I wanted to be a kid again and treated as such, so I watched everyone pile our things and then themselves into the car and thought about how I couldn’t wait for this trip to be over.
Thinking of stopping to smell the roses, we saw the Kitty Hawk museum and thought of checking it out. Not only was the museum way too pricey for the services, the man selling the tickets sent chills down our spine as he stared into our souls. With little words, this man gave us the quickest horror story before our eyes. It seemed that if we entered this museum, we would never leave. Screeching the car around, we traveled straight home with only one stop for food, five hours of driving, and for me, three hours of sleeping. I closed my ears to the arguments about where to eat when we needed to stop for food. When it came to ordering drinks, all the legal adults hoarded alcoholic drinks like the apocalypse was coming. Back in the car, my sister, Jade, my mom, and I all passed out — and there’s pictures for proof. Nobody had the energy to think of blackmail.
Arriving home, I ran inside to avoid taking everything out of the vans. Sneaking back out thirty minutes later, I asked if anyone needed help. Of course, everything was already done. We closed Jase’s birthday with a comfortable family cookout. Binny cooked burgers like the grill master he is while the kids played outside. There was a light breeze in the air that lifted spirits to an all-time high. Everyone’s usual favorite, the birthday cake, did something interesting to Binny’s digestive system.
Life lessons to be learned: when camping by the beach, you need longer stakes for your tent so it can stay secured in the sand. Coffee is essential for adult survival. You have to make the most out of your time and experience everything you can with your family because sometimes you will long for those moments with every ounce of your being. Also, don’t eat cake with blue icing.