One of my favorite childhood memories used to be the “most embarrassing moment” story I’d keep in my pocket… you know, for that random opportunity when a near-stranger would ask…
Well… it goes like this…
I believe I was about 14 years old.
Our family was on one of our many camping trips… the four of us were practically experts at the family camping trip. Dad and Mom would sleep in the tent trailer, while my little brother and I would sleep in a tent just outside. Sometimes during the summer, because school was out, we’d all head to the coast (a 20 minute drive) for a week-long camping trip. Dad would still drive into town during the day for work… but it gave us something to do and a change of scenery. Thank you, Morro Bay… for being the host of some of the best memories of my childhood!
We simply loved it! Super thick sleeping bags, and extra blankets to layer underneath us, and over the rocky ground… and warm pjs and many sets of socks… well, we were set!
It was a child’s paradise… playing in trees, riding our bikes, searching the shores for seashells, adventuring, playing, laughing, bonding with my brother… oh yeah, and the time I got lost in the woods near our Sequoia National Park camp site (when I was 5!)…. yeah, that happened.
Camping felt like a second home to me. Dirt didn’t bother me. Waking early in the morning and hearing the crunching of the leaves outside the tent… we knew it was the birds or squirrels looking for food. Hearing the early morning sounds of families waking up and people making coffee on their propane stoves, or over the fire… all too familiar sounds. Carrying my towel and a change of clothes to the community bathroom/shower in the center of camp, wearing my favorite flip-flops, and walking back to the camp site with wet hair… it’s just how camping life looked.
On this fateful occasion we were camping near the Columbia River Gorge … there were sage-colored fields of dandelions and creeks filled with interesting pebbles. Running through the rolling hills, tumbling in the knee-high grass… it was my freedom.
It was the last morning of “camp”… and we had some food leftovers to heat up and enjoy before we headed home. Dad got out the vintage travel chest, it was dented and orange and locked with a brass arm on a hinge. As we cooked and prepared, Dad started loading up that chest with equipment and other items that we didn’t need for breakfast. The orange chest sat on the seat of the picnic table, as if it were the 5th member of our family.
Other families were stirring… again, the familiar sounds of morning at camp. People shuffling off to the showers, families in cars heading off for their daily adventures, kids on bikes, couples out for their morning stroll…. the regular morning hum of activity.
Mom set to warming up a little bit of everything… we had the 2-burner Coleman propane stove on one end of the table. I recall the smell of bacon and sausage and scrambled eggs. And in the other skillet Mom started on the last batch of pancakes. We each got busy with our normal jobs… one of us setting the table with plates, cups and silverware… another one of us putting out the syrup, orange juice, milk, etc. That table was loaded high with leftovers from the ice chest! It was the feast of all feasts!
Mom moved the plates of cooked food to the middle of the table while I sat down next to the orange chest and my little brother sat down across from me. Dad put a clean pot of water on one of the burners so that we would have warm water to do our dishes by. Mom and Dad sat across from each other. And then Mom noticed two things… we needed napkins and someone needed to wash his hands before eating. ::: boys!:::
My brother got up first to wash his hands. And my Dad stood to get the napkins. At that point the weight of the half-packed orange chest, Mom and myself on one bench, on one side of the table (and NOTHING on the bench on the other side of the table)… well, it was just too much to handle! The table, including Mom and I, fell backwards onto the soil with the contents of the entire table sliding off the surface and landing squarely on top of us!
My Dad, trapped between the bench and the upset table, simply stood there.. my mom and I staring up at him, after wiping our eyes of the scrambled breakfast that was now no longer our breakfast, started yelling… as you can imagine.
The whole camp ground stopped. Even the squirrels quit searching the ground momentarily…
Dad eventually helped Mom up… and I scampered to my feet. And we stood there, for quite a long time… just looking at the mess, slowly starting to wipe off breakfast.
And the rest is history… but only after taking another shower in the community bathroom … at least we can laugh about it now.