Today is my day off. Done. No article. Go look at something else.
While my regular paying job relieves me of work on this day, I feel its not fair to take a day off from doing something I enjoy so much.
Memorial day is supposed to be about remembering our fallen soldiers in battle. For many of us (especially in the north), Memorial day is the summer kick off. Today is the day that there’s a pretty solid guarantee that there won’t be snow in our weather forecast until at least October. Today, we will blow the pollen off from our grills and heat up the usual “fixins” that will complete our barbecues. I don’t personally know a soldier that has died in combat but that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for them sacrificing their lives. Mike Birbiglia can speak for me on that subject: “I love the troops. Because if they weren’t the troops, I would be the troops and I would be the worst troops.”
Last year on this day, we were the furthest away we could be in the continental United States. Port Angeles wasn’t on the original itinerary for our trip but when you live in a tent for six weeks, sometimes you have to adjust for weather. Further North than Seattle, Port Angeles was hidden from the freezing rain in the forecast. Instead, we just had freezing. The cold had nothing on us though. At this point we had enough experience to know how to thrive under heavy blankets and burning logs.
Because of the holiday weekend, the campground we stayed at was packed with people. People getting away from their normal lives and enjoying the beautiful landscape that Washington has to offer. There were families from all over the state and some from neighboring states as well. People taking their families into really small quarters because they love them and want to spend time with them. Most of them at least.
Our camping neighbor, a scraggly guy by the name of Sean (or maybe Shawn, or even Shaun) seemed to be the exact opposite of everyone else around us. For must of us, zipping ourselves closed in a tent with the people we cared for most was about love and experiences and memories. For Sean, camping with his family seemed to be his own personal hell. A hell that he very much enjoyed wallowing in. The look on his face in the morning even suggested he was playing out his very own “No Exit”.
In the evening, he sipped his cold Coors Light while he talked to us with an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth. As he talked about being a transplant from the east, his children interrupted him often. Their obvious ploy for attention was lost on Sean. These kids just wanted their father to spend time with them and all they got was a “You know, adults are talking right now, so you need to go find something to do.”
I wish I could have told his daughter that I really had no interest in talking with her father. I never wished him unwell, but there’s only so many times you can hear the same story. Sean’s version of talking was more of a hostage situation where he tried desperately for his captives to get Stockholm Syndrome.
I’m sure Shaun loved his family. In the time we were neighbors, I heard more hollering than laughter but I did capture a glimpse of them all snuggled by their own camp fire, relishing in each others warmth and love. For Sean, and many families, memorial day is about dragging our families out of our warm houses and into the freezing cold. There might be a metaphor in our camping experience or even a longing to relate to our fellow man who gave up time with their families to fight for what they believe in.
Celebrate this day however you want. If you know a fallen soldier, hold their memory next to you as sit by your own campfire. Keep them warm.
What’s your favorite camping memory as a kid? What’s one thing you want to do this summer with your family? Share your thoughts and favorite smore’s recipe in the comments below. Or use the form below to contact me.