I am a camper. I love to camp. I have been camping my entire life. I own a cabin AND a camper, and I still enjoy the occasional tent camping weekend. I love the outdoors, being on or near water, and enjoying Mother Nature up close and personal.
Mavrick, not so much. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy the outdoors, he does. As long as the outdoors is connected to the indoors and the indoors includes cable TV, a full kitchen, shower facilities, and a wet bar.
Memorial Day weekend has always been the Big Kick Off Weekend to Summer. Me, my family, and about ten of my closest friends have always trekked up to my cabin in Tionesta and spent the weekend drinking, canoeing, drinking, eating, and drinking. It’s been our thing for years.
My cabin is best described as rustic. More accurately described as decrepit. It sits on an acre of woods on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest. An old hunting lodge, built in the 50s, it is one large room with double bunk beds along the far wall, a living room and kitchen area, and a hallway to a bathroom that is missing a tub, but does have a toilet. There is plumbing, but it doesn’t always work. For the past two summers we have ran a hose from the outside into the tank of the toilet, and turned it on when we needed to flush.
Last summer, during our Labor Day weekend visit, the toilet stopped flushing. (You can read some of our previous repair attempts here, on a trip I took with Polar Bear, of all people) Nothing was going down. It was clogged as clogged could be. All I knew about the plumbing situation was that our cabin had a ‘septic tank’. I asked around until I found someone else who also had this contraption. I told them about the nothing-going-down issue, and asked if they had any theories. “When was the last time you had it cleaned out?” What? Had what cleaned out? Turns out, you need to get a septic tank cleaned out every five years or so.
My mom and step dad bought the cabin 17 years ago, and my step dad passed away three years ago, so I figured to solve this little mystery, I was going to have to call the source – my mother.
Me: “Mom. When was the last time you had the septic tank at the cabin cleaned out?”
Mom: “The what?”
Me: “The septic tank at camp. When was the last time you had the septic tank at the cabin cleaned out.”
Mom: “Oh good lord, mindbling. Never.”
Me: “You owned that cabin for 17 years. SEVENTEEN YEARS. And it never occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, that big cement box under ground that the toilet flushes into might need sucked out?” (because now, of course, I’m an expert on septic tanks.)
Of course they didn’t. My step dad, god rest his soul, was about as handy as a paraplegic life guard. The fact that the cabin was still standing had less to do with his skills as a handy man and more to do with pure luck and the power of plywood. As things broke, we just adjusted to not having them. This included the shower, hot water tank, and eventually, indoor plumbing all together. The toilet, however, was the final straw.
I might be able to get through a three-day weekend with a wipie bath and a dip in the river. I can survive using a hose to flush the toilet. I cannot, and will not, completely lose my ability to go the bathroom inside, and I sure as shit wasn’t dragging Princess Sparkle Pants Mavrick up there for his first camping experience with me. For all I knew, we were literally sitting on a shit bomb, and one misplaced sparkler could send the whole septic tank up like a giant, shit-filled Roman candle. Talk about ruining your weekend.
The decision was made to rent a cabin for Memorial Day Weekend. I would solve the ‘septic tank issue’ later. Hot Mama, Hot Papa, their kids and dog, Sadie, Coffee, Mr. Coffee, their two kids and dog, KROM, Disney, Ginger, and their two kids, me, Mavrick, jr,. and our dogs, Target and Leon, all head to the woods.
Let’s recap! We have 6 adults, 2 teenagers (a boy AND a girl, for maximum cherry-popping potential), 5 children ranging from 3 to 11, and 4 dogs, 2 of whom are over 70 pounds and still have their balls. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
I have mentioned that Mavrick is not a camper. Did I also mention that this past Saturday was his 35th Birthday? So not only am I dragging him to do an activity that he really doesn’t like, for FOUR DAYS, I am doing it on his mother effing birthday. I knew I had to go big with the birthday gifts, to a.) make up for the fact that I am taking him camping on his birthday, and b.) make up for the fact that I got him a toaster for Christmas, a fact he still bitches about every chance he gets. Seriously. If someone brings up something terrible, like, say, their grandmother is in ill health, Mavrick will come back with, “Oh, yeah? That’s almost like getting a TOASTER FOR CHRISTMAS.”
I decide to make him a cake. His favorite. I am going to do homemade, made with love, yummy goodness so we can all sit around and sing to him. I ask him, “Sweetie, what’s your favorite cake?” Some people like vanilla, or chocolate, or carrot. Shit, I was fully prepared to go red velvet if I had to. But no. Mavrick proceeds to tell me that his favorite cake, the ONLY cake he really likes, is a DONUT CAKE, that they only make at a bakery in bloody, buggery Toledo, of all places (Mavrick is from Toledo. If this explains anything).
I call said bakery and asked them if they ever ship cakes. You would have thought I asked if they prepared their pastries with fresh babies. Not only did they NOT ship cakes, they refused to entertain the mere THOUGHT of it, even after I offered to pay $100 extra. Plan B, have Mavrick’s Dad, let’s call him Golf League (because he plays in one, and plans his entire life around when his league is playing). I email GL, and ask him if HE can ship the cake, being that he still lives in Toledo. I helpfully include FedEx’s instructions on how to ship perishable food, a handy, easy to use, 567 page guide.
After much deliberation, it was decided that it would be easier to just drive the cake to Pittsburgh, so we made arrangements for Golf League and Mavrick’s stepmom, Nora Roberts, to just come in for an overnight visit. They could only stay Wed. night, and had to leave at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday because he had to play with his golf league. Mavrick had no idea the cake was part of the deal, so score one for mindbling when he found out that I had been in cahoots with GL the whole time.
And so he got his goddamn cake. Operation Awesome Birthday, Phase One was a success. OAB, Phase Two consisted of me booking a tee time for Mavrick and the Three Husbands at the golf course outside of Tionesta, on his actual birthday. I figure, Mavrick loves golfing, and doesn’t love camping or small children, so I would provide him with an escape.
I was not enough of a forward thinker to realize that this would leave ME alone with The Wives, All of the Children, and The Dogs. Saturday morning dawns, and the men-folk are soon a dusty trail heading away from the cabin. In order to prevent the two dogs who still had their balls, 70-pound Target and 120-pound KROM (you have to say it in all caps, because when Mr. Coffee calls him, he is ALWAYS YELLING IT. I hear it in my sleep. It haunts me. KROM!), I had been locking Target in the cabin while I run KROM.
I put Target inside, and explain to the little person (I think it was the five-year old) that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was he to let Target outside, and did he understand? He shook his head, yes, yes he did understand, and then he ate a booger. I figured I was good to go.
I uncrate KROM and start tossing his ball for him. He is gleefully chasing it, bringing it back, covered in dog slobber, I gingerly pick it up, throw it again, and curse myself for planning this stupid-ass golf outing. I throw it, he runs, I look over. Hey! There’s Target! Hi, Target! What in the fuck are YOU doing out here, and this is going to get ugly, isn’t it?
Yes. Yes it is. KROM and Target locked eyes and ran at each other like raging bulls. The only people outside were all under four and locked in a heated game of let’s-pee-in-the-kiddie pool, so I was on my own. I start screaming for someone, anyone, over 5 feet tall to please come out and help me. The dogs clash in a fury of fur, dog slobber, and blood. I am freaking out. Finally, Disney comes out on the porch. She holds up her finger to let me know she will be one minute, because she doesn’t have any shoes on.
I am screaming, Fuck your stupid fucking shoes, the dogs are killing each other and I’m pregnant! I run for the hose that I had just, ironically, yelled at the children to turn off. I hit the water, turn the hose on the dogs, and spray them until they stopped fighting. The entire episode took 45 seconds, but felt like an hour.
Disney has her shoes by now, so she comes and grabs KROM, and I take Target inside. Lesson: Don’t ever trust someone that eats their own boogers. The rest of the day passed rather pleasantly and uneventfully. The guys got back from golf, everyone but me drank, there was food, campingcampitycamp, camp fire, kids with sparklers, blah blah yadayada beingsobersucks.
The next day, Sunday, we decided that nothing would be more fun than taking all of us on a six and half hour canoe ride in the blazing sun. Ooooh, hindsight. I canoe every summer. I love canoeing. Or at least I THOUGHT I loved canoeing. Turns out, what I actually love is drinking while I paddle down the river. I can’t drink right now, so guess what? Not so much fun.
Mavrick though, oh boy howdy, Mavrick LOVES canoeing. Because he was shit-faced wasted the whole time. Him and Hot Papa totally bonded over 7&7s and watermelon frozen in vodka. They got hammered. I can’t even be upset (psych. Yes I totally can). I wanted Mavrick to have fun. I wanted him to love camping and canoeing the way I love it, so he would go with me again. So I was actually very happy that he was able to relax and enjoy himself. Even if it took a half gallon of whiskey to do so.
The moral of the story here: Mavrick had (I hope!) an enjoyable birthday weekend, kids eat boogers, dogs who still have their balls will fight, canoeing is only fun when you’re drunk, and septic tanks require a good sucking out every five years or so.