Looking out the window today at the pouring rain reminds me of another time I was looking out the window…of a tent…while camping…did I mention it was pouring rain?
Having two boys in Boy Scouts guarantees you will find yourself at some point sitting around a campfire in the middle of the woods toasting marshmallows and telling scary ghost stories. My son Bennett’s idea of camping is sleeping in a Holiday Inn complete with air conditioning and in-room refrigerator. Austin, on the other hand, was born to thrive in a wooded forest with a stick in one hand and a Swiss army knife in the other.
Camping memories still bring a sweet smile to my face. Truth be told, I love being in the outdoors, listening to the crickets, far away from the city lights gazing into the dark of the night at a sky exploding with hundreds of stars and constellations. Mind you, my back can only take two nights tops before sleeping on the hard ground takes its toll and my therapeutic mattress starts calling. But still, sharing those happy moments with the kids is worth it.
The Scouting program truly turns boys into men and their motto of “Be Prepared” is comforting when you are at the mercy of the elements in the middle of nowhere. One year my “born to thrive in the woods” son Austin and I journeyed for a week-long camping trip with the Boy Scouts. We were “prepared” alright, as the bulging luggage, trusty family tent and voluminous camping supplies streaming out of our minivan attested to.
One thing we weren’t prepared for, however, was “Change”. Change for Austin is not easy – he’s the type of kid you have to give the ‘five-minute warning to’ when changing locations, activities…and tent accommodations.
I (and my back) was pleasantly surprised to learn the week-long camp trip included canvas covered wooden floored units, complete with cots. Austin on the other hand was not. He fully expected we’d be sleeping on the ground in our trusty family tent but quickly learned this particular camping trip required sleeping in the Scout-made canvas accommodations. Learning we were going to be sleeping in “Those Tents!” instantly put him in a snit. I can still see his 10-year old scrunched up nose, lower lip curved in a pout and arms folded across his chest with fingers fisted.
“It’s going to be a loooong week,” I thought to myself. Parents need thick skins because kids are born with a gene that enables them to embarrass and humiliate their parents beyond measure.
It was a welcome relief to be standing outside with the other adults, having settled Austin into “Those Tents” where he was quietly reading. Then it happened. The dreaded “Change”. The wind started howling like I never knew, rain began pelting our faces and before we could gather up our things we were enveloped in a deluge of a storm that was fast turning into a dangerous situation. The Tornado warning siren started screaming. (Yes, the Scouts do think of everything, even ‘Being Prepared’ with a tornado warning system in the middle of the forest.)
Did I mention my nature-loving son is deathly afraid of Tornadoes? I think the Discovery Channel and Weather Channel storm stories did him in.
“Head for the Lodge!” the Scout Master bellowed over loud thunder claps and terrifyingly close lightning strikes.
“Hub-boy,” I thought. Austin is gonna go bonkers. “The Lodge” was a half mile down the trail and the only way to get there was to make a run through the woods for it – in the thunder, lightning, high winds and pouring rain. There he sat, hunkered down in the tent, wind and rain streaming through the shoelace tied sides. We both knew what that siren meant. We had to vacate “That Tent” and vacate it now!
Austin looked at me with terror in his eyes. “No way I’m leaving this tent,” he shouted emphatically. “There’s a tornado coming, Mom, we’re both gonna die!!”
I understood his fear and was truly frightened too, but as all good mothers know, it doesn’t matter how you feel, you have to put on your Braveheart pantaloons, be the adult and get your children to safety no matter the cost.
The angels above surely took over; I looked him square in the eye, told him we had to go right NOW and assured him everything was going to be okay. He grabbed his favorite baseball hat and we scrambled out of the tent, making a mad dash towards the Lodge as if our lives depended on it – which they literally did!
He and I will never forget running through the tornado’s wind and rain, feeling its sting as it hit our faces. We babbled the whole way, distracting ourselves with nonsensical conversation, anything that came to our minds. And then, there it was. The Promised Land better known as The Lodge. We barreled through the doors into a room full of Boy Scouts and Leaders who were pleasantly calm and orderly. Austin and I stared into each other’s eyes, knowing we’d survived – and overcome- a devastating fear. Oh the joy of success.
We still talk about that “death defying” act of bravery Austin and I shared that summer. The rest of the week went well; Marshmallows, campfires and boys with sticks in a forest full of trees go a long way in helping one forget about narrowly escaping a tornado. That, and the fabulous peach cobbler someone made over the fire that night. Compared to living through a tornado, even the small frog I spotted on the mirror staring back at me as I leaned in to take out my eye contacts that evening didn’t rattle me. Austin and I had “faced death in the face” and we were more than conquerors.
Now that’s the true meaning of “Being Prepared.”