Great Expectations


Great Expectations

I thought I knew quite a bit about camping before I ever experienced it, what with Mom’s all absorbing preparations for one camp or another.  Finally, I flew up to Guides from Brownies and actually went myself.

Great Expectations

Guiding and camping were great equalizers.  The shrill of the phone rang often when camp time drew near as Mom reassured one nervous or unrealistic mother or another.  “How many party frocks should be packed for my Mary Jane?” was the sort of burning question that needed to be cleared up.

At camp itself, expectations still needed to be checked, and the idea of self reliance introduced.  There was always a Jocelyn, or two, who was not too tired after a day’s camp to slip her shoes outside the tent, before it was laced up for the night, expecting them to be spit and polished by morning.  “By whom?”  Mom would ask.

For my part, the joys of camping were elusive and came with their disillusionments too.  Where was the joy of digging a latrine trench and erecting Hessian from tree to tree, for a modicum of privacy?  Dad, it seemed, had, only recently, finally successfully moved heaven and earth to bring water born sewage to town so everyone could get rid of their PK (Picannini Kia, ‘little house’ – drop toilets) at the bottom of their gardens.

We’d just got a wonderful new electric stove with a warming drawer to keep Dad’s dinner warm when he didn’t get home for supper. Going back to a wood fire, making Dutch ovens out of mud and lashing together our own tables made out of sticks, did not really seem like fun to me.  It seemed like going back in time, while Dad was going forward, slowly, for everyone’s benefit.  Mom insisted,  “It’s healthy to get back to nature. It’s character building.  You’ll  learn self reliance and survival skills.  You never know when you’ll need to fall back on these in life.”

Meanwhile Dad and the boys were learning self reliance at home, usually on short notice.  I secretly envied them.