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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Past Tents

My daughter got back from her youth group's mission trip to the Upper Peninsula last night. It was a great experience. The kids and sponsors were exhausted, and as I was helping them unload a trailer full of gear, I was struck by how compact the tent bundles were. As I carried an “8-man” nylon tent (light enough to strap on the back of a bike), I remembered that a few posts back I mentioned sharing some thoughts from my own "tenting" days.

The canvas tents of my generation were massive wads of dead weight so heavy they were used in “World’s Strongest Man” contests. He-men from around the globe gathered to see how many times they could heft a 6-man canvas tent in and out of the back of a VW bus in 60 seconds. The record was seven times, but the moose who set it had to drop out of the competition with a hernia. You’ve probably never seen this brutal event on TV because it has since been replaced with the less-grueling Atlas Stones and “semi-tractor-trailer pull”— both child’s play compared to the canvas tent lift.

The tent my family had was so cumbersome Dad built a special crate with handles on each end so we could help him haul it. This custom-built box was designed to replace the center bench seat of our VW bus. We had to take turns perching on the box as we vaulted down the road at 50 MPH—top speed for a fully loaded VW. Mom helped pass the hours by teaching us songs never heard on the radio (e.g."When Patty Put the Paper on the Wall," “Eggbert the Easter Egg," "Ahuya-huya-huyaya, Swiftly Tumbling Waters").

I didn't mind sitting on the crate, even on bumpy roads. Years of vicious "teeter-totter drops" during school recess had prepared my butt for bouncing on wood. Who says those kiddy catapults weren't good for something? They were later banned from playgrounds for safety reasons.

(I don't think safety was discovered until the Seventies. For instance, it goes without saying that Dad’s "box seat" had no seat belts—but since we hadn’t yet heard of seat belts, we never felt at risk.)

Dad's tent crate is still in my mom’s walk-up attic. Whenever I see it, I open the lid just to breathe in the memories and the enchanting smell of the old family tent. All of my childhood vacations began with that smell, and the sound of aluminum poles clanging from their bag, and hard thwacks of a mallet sinking stakes into sandy soil. It's all still there in that magic box. Other than the lid being opened now and then, it's been undisturbed for over thirty years.


Blogger Jody said...

My nanny and I had similar thoughts and conversation while we set up a tent in our backyard a few weeks ago. I too remember when we had a HUGE army-green canvas tent; it slept up to 12, I believe. It was a chore to pitch and then tear down. Now I recall great memories of family camp- many laughs because of that old heavy tent. My kids are making memories of lightweight tents that set up in mere minutes...and the comfort of sleeping on an airbed too. I suppose they will look back and laugh at their memories too! Thanks for sharing, and hope you enjoyed the great up-North vacation. We loved it up there!

26/6/06 10:47 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Ah...tenting in the backyard. When we came home from our camping trips, Dad would set up the tent in the backyard to "air out." So we boys and our neighbor friends would sleep out there for several days. It was great.
Jody, I wish you could meet my mother sometime. You have so much in common when it comes to making memories with your kids.

27/6/06 9:11 PM  

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