Sunday, September 26, 2010

Emily's 11th Birthday, on the cheap

We didn't intend to make this a bargain birthday, and in fact, the planning process felt rather extravagant. Outdoor adventures can be, like Everest or a trek on the Appalachian Trail, something for only the rich or richly sponsored; at the same time, they can be the cheapest form of family entertainment. I'll spare the credit card advertisement about priceless, but you get the idea; $16 for the shelter reservation and a few more dollars for grilled cheese and cake fixings, and we had a party I'm pleased to remember, even while still recovering my wits.

But luck was with us, too. The dry summer yielded just enough to make campfire-building easy, but not dangerous. The moon, just a couple of days past full, made the late-night bathroom trips less scary and more beautiful. The cold made the mosquitoes go away, and made it possible for all the girls to sleep in tight quarters, rather than having to spread out and split up for ventilation. We had enough experienced campers to make the experience not-too-scary, but enough inexperienced campers to add the wonder and awe and excitement.

I'm exhausted. I needed caffeine today in a bad way. I hated unpacking our backpacks and putting the things away, and I hated, as every weekend, putting away the mountain of laundry (not all done yet). But there was not a single moment of the party when I wished to be anywhere besides where I was, when I needed space I couldn't get, when I wondered whether we'd bitten off more than we could chew. Even when Brian was helping the girls use the saw to get firewood, I felt glad to be where I was, and comfortable enough with the first aid kit close by.

Next week, all of the 5th graders from Emily's party will head off for a week at school camp. I know some kids there will be camping for the first time, and Emily will be camping the first time without me, and probably every kid going is somewhat anxious about *something* - who isn't, even before the best camps? But I'm hoping that turning 11 while outdoors overnight at a state park, in the company of family and 6 good friends, gave the birthday girl a good start on her tweens, some extra confidence to carry into the darkness of puberty, middle school, Camp Allegheny, and whatever else the next few years might throw at her.