Dada, take a chill pill. — Nicholas Pascoe
The highway unfolds before us, a ribbon wrapping the land, a clarity, a now. Nick and I are on the road. We have direction, and direction seems a state of the soul.
We are Lewis and Clark, Kerouac and Cassidy, Quixote and Panza. We are seeking a campsite for the Fern Hill school.
In the past few days, I’ve had fifty conversations with Sarah, who works in the Fern Hill office. Sarah is married to James, who organized the spring camping trip ever since I can remember and passed the baton to Don last year, who passed it to me—it seems ages—was it only a week ago?
Not, actually, one of those smooth, world record passes where if you trace the baton arc, it seems to magic forward at the speed of light. No, not one of those, actually. More a dropped baton, actually.
But still within the passing zone! Still eligible to be plucked up off the track! Schlepped in pursuit of the other runners. In the race yet!
Don is off starting a new job, and James, in a work crunch, isn’t available for consultation at the present time. But Sarah is a wellspring of inspiration, advice, and facts about past Fern Hill camping trips.
“You can do this,” she says.
She is my muse, my coach, my life raft. I cling to her apron springs and suckle on the milk of her wisdom.
Do I mix my metaphors? Very well then, I mix my metaphors.
My desperation is large. It contains multitudes.
El Capitan State Park is our third and last stop of the day. The first two parks Nick and I visit won’t suit. But I’m heartened by the access road to El Capitan, whose trees vault over us as if in prayer.
The camp sits on a bluff overlooking the sea, the view breathtaking.
“How many campers, you say?” says the friendly ranger.
“Memorial Day?” he says. “Good luck with that.”
Nick peers out the back window. He won’t get out of the car.
“Don’t you want to see the camp sites?” I say.
“You heard him,” Nick says. “Plus I like Frog Creek.”
“Sancho Panza wouldn’t say that,” I say.
“I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”
I abandon my first plan, which is to scout the best sites. It’s getting late. Instead, I look for feasible sites, sites arranged close together to accommodate the Fern Hill horde.
I discover two clusters that look pretty good. They have names: de Anza and Portola. I repeat them to myself, stretching the syllables out. I like the sound. De Annnza. Portooola. Try them. They roll trippingly on the tongue.
Each cluster—or loop, as the rangers say (and who am I, but Ranger Wolf?)—has a group site at its core, surrounded by individual sites. Perfect. All I need to do is reserve one of the group sites and the surrounding individual sites.
It occurs to me I still don’t know diddly about reserving anything. But first things first. I have a goal!
I’ll think about the rest tomorrow.
Don calls to check in.
“We’re going to El Capitan!” I say.
“Sweet,” he says. “When are you signing people up?”
“When you you think?”
“Next week, before the site rush. Then you’ll know how many you’ll need to reserve.”
I call Sarah at home.
“I need to announce the sign-ups in the Fern Hill Bulletin,” I say.
“I’ll need to get the director’s approval,” she says. She means our school director. ”Work on the copy and I’ll send it out tomorrow. You should do a flyer, too. We can put it up at school.”
Flyer? How do you do a flyer?
I’m up late, learning about Word Templates. Nick wanders in.
“Dada, it’s past my bedtime.”
“Can’t mommy put you to bed?”
“It’s your turn.”
I prevail on Nora to take over. I don’t have to look at Nick’s face. Dolorous it is.
“Do you want to go camping next year or not?” I say.
I finish everything by 3:00 am. Sign-ups at the front gate on October 25. Site rush one week later, November 1. It’s all falling into place.
I email the sign-up announcement to Sarah, then go to bed. Nora has fallen to sleep diagonally. There’s no room for my feet.
In the morning, I tack the flyer up at school. Sarah sends the sign-up announcement out in a special bulletin. Zap! 100 Fern Hill families get the news to enroll next Tuesday for the camping trip.
“It’s a big deal to send a special email announcement to the whole school,” Sarah says. “We only do these once in a blue moon.”
I give her my most insouciant smile and go home to nap.
As I close my eyes, I’m beginning to feel good. Of course, I still have no idea how to get the sites I want, but there has to be a way. Self soothe, I think. Look how far you’ve come.
My cell phone wakes me. It’s Don.
“I just got the email about the sign-ups,” he says. “What’s the date?”
“Next Tuesday. October 25.”
“That’s not what the email says. The email says the sign-ups are Tuesday, November 1.”
“That’s not possible,” I say. “November 1st is the date of the site rush.”
I shake myself awake and stumble to my desk. I look with horror at the email that Sarah sent out. It’s an exact copy of what I sent her last night at 3:00 am.
And the date is wrong.
Camp director continues next time with Team.
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