by Caroline

The one fixed point in our past several summers is a multi-family camping trip: four families, eight boys between the ages (now) of 6 and 11, hikes in the woods, splashing in the river, and of course lots of great food and cocktails. This year it seemed both fitting and a little crazy that we would be heading off for our three nights of camping less than a week after returning from family camp.

At least we knew we’d eat just the way we like to, with plenty of fresh produce and homemade dishes. Over the years, we’ve developed a Google doc through which we sign up for meals, remind ourselves of what we need to bring (a sharpie!), and ask each other about other things:

But this year, just as we were getting all the family camp gear washed (or not) and put away or repacked, Ben got sick, and as we got closer to departure day, it became clearer, to everyone but him, that he and I were going to stay home. As I shared on Twitter:

So Tony finished packing and headed out with Eli, leaving me with a sick kid and this sweet paper tent card, showing himself and Eli in their sleeping bags, with hearts on Ben’s and my pillows where our heads should be:

Ben and I have been home and very sad, consoled by messages and pictures texted to us by Tony and our friends, knowing they miss us, too:


As I write this post, Ben is starting to feel just better enough to remember the treats we always have camping — the Nutella one family brings for breakfast and the s’mores the kids make after dinner — and I’m remembering some of my favorite treats from last year’s trip, like my friend’s gorgeous appetizers:

and Tony’s fabulous coffee bar:

But for the second week in a row, I find I’m thinking less about the food than the experience around the food, and that’s what I’m missing by not camping. I’m sad that we’re both missing time that in years past we spent like this:

and this:

I can let go of my desire to share my latest pickles, to use Mark Bittman’s kebab generator, and to reinvent our s’mores a la Sunset Magazine. I’ll find more recipes by next summer. And I’m trying to be philosophical about the weekend we’ve missed. We will go again, with all our boys another year bigger and more independent. The woods and the river will be waiting for us till we’re ready. For now, it’s all tea and toast around here.