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the great outdoors | faulty vision

“I’m getting sick,” the Guy said, and sniffled.

“Again?”

“I think I’m getting a cold.”

“Oh,” I said.

Hobbes, sitting on the Guy’s lap, craned his head to stare up at his father.

“You’re old,” he said.

***

We went camping.

Hammer. Stakes. Toddler. This will end well.

It was The Guy’s idea, which is ironic enough. Almost seven years Sako has been trying to convince us to go visit her in Yosemite; in the space of one hour, one of his coworkers manages to convince the Guy that what we absolutely want to do this weekend is drive down to Watsonville and spend a night in the mountains.

Sako’s got to learn salesmanship from this guy.

To say that Hobbes was excited about the idea would be to say that the sun sort of rises in the east. He only mentioned it about once every two hours for the entirety of the week before, and spent most of Saturday morning (which we spent at a birthday party for one of his best little friends from daycare) mentioning it obsessively to anyone who would listen.

It was a short trip, and a short stay, but it was a beautiful site. Due to the aforementioned birthday party, we weren’t able to leave until mid-afternoon, and we stopped off in Gilroy en route to buy the little yellow and blue coat that Hobbes is wearing in the picture.

Thank God we did, because it turns out that the mountains in June are fucking cold.

Helping with the tent. Manly!

The Guy bought gear for the occasion, apparently not concerned about the fact that it was his first time camping. “Oops,” he texted me on Friday, en route to the house after an REI run. “I spent $250.” I sighed heavily then, and sighed heavily again when he proudly spread out the six different kinds of lamp he’d found it necessary to buy.

The man has an obsession with lamps.

“Don’t we have a lot of perfectly good flashlights?” I asked while he demonstrated another.

“But this one fits on your head,” he said earnestly, and donned it triumphantly to show me all the ways in which that made it superior.

“Oooo,” said Hobbes.

He saw nothing wrong with his father’s hobby of acquisition.

“You don’t want to get some of this stuff secondhand? Or borrow it?” I asked him at one point.

He just stared at me, with one of his, I do not understand you. Are you speaking American? looks. “Why would we do that?” he asked, obviously baffled.

Because we might never go again? We might not like it? We might not need it? “No reason,” I said. So now we own a tent.

Hobbes really likes the tent.

The trip was actually a group camp with several friends of the coworker’s, all of them hilarious and charming people. As is his way, Hobbes started out shy, and five minutes later had decided they were his best friends ever. It was, in fact, the first thing out of his mouth when he woke up the next morning. “Where are my friends?” He’s a social little beast. I don’t know where he gets it from; certainly not from either of us. Since he immediately fell asleep again on my arm, it seems plain that his concern wasn’t pressing.

Sako would have laughed — a lot — at the amount of stuff we took in with us. “Car camping is different,” the Guy said with authority, his own lack of experience notwithstanding.

I have fond memories of camping with my family, much of it involving my parents struggling with the heavy tent that just barely housed four in those days before fiberglass poles and high-tech waterproof nylon. We lived in the Pacific Northwest, after all. Going out camping was something you did when you were growing up. Somewhere along the way we stopped doing it, I don’t really know why. We got too old, maybe, or too whiny, or had more social engagements than we could untangle ourselves from.

The social instinct skipped a generation in me. My parents always had friends who were willing to lend their cottages/land/houses in the woods/mountains/shores so we could spend a weekend or a week fishing, crabbing, hiking, boating, oyster collecting, clam digging, what-have-you. I can’t imagine what I thought of it then. Now, looking back, those are the memories I regret. If only I’d appreciated them more when I had the opportunity. That kind of thing.

“Did you have a good time?” I asked Hobbes, afterwards.

“Uh huh.”

“Do you want to go camping again?”

His little face lit up. “Now?”

After all, he’s only two. I have another eleven years to enjoy before he learns how to ruin it all.

***

“Here, a riddle. ‘Knock knock,’” said the Guy. He was reading a library book to Hobbes, who had demanded some attention. Elmo’s A to Z. A true masterpiece.

Hobbes just stared at him.

“No, here. Hobbes. ‘Knock knock.’ And now you say, ‘who’s there?’”

Hobbes stared.

“‘Who’s there,’ Hobbes.”

“Who’s there?” Hobbes repeated obligingly.

“‘Boo.’”

Silence.

“Now you say, ‘Boo who?’”

Hobbes again repeated, with an air of patient suffering. “Boo who?”

“‘Don’t cry,’” said the Guy, and started to laugh. Dorothy Parker, he ain’t.

Hobbes continued to stare at him, now with obviously rising toddler concern. I took pity on him.

“It’s a joke,” said the Guy.

“Did you get it, Hobbes?” I asked him kindly.

Hobbes said, “No,” and lit off for the wild blue yonder.

 

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