For the first time in thirty years, my family did not go camping over Labor Day weekend. We have gone away with a group of friends, our children, our children’s children, friends of our children, their boyfriends, and girlfriends— through soccer tryouts and college years— every year. It has been a great run and we have many happy memories. Over time, many of the children have dropped out. They grew up, moved away or haven’t started families yet. My children mostly still came, but when the last of the older grown-ups decided to stop camping this year we decided not go, too.
My grown children were furious and I get that. I love my kids and I cherish the times we have together, but camping has always been about getting together with friends. In the beginning it was a group of friends just starting out. It grew to become a pack of little kids and grownups. Camping was always a lot of work, but we spread it out. Sam brought Honey of a Ham to grill for breakfast, Joan and Kay made whoopie pies. We had communal spaghetti night and grill night. Everyone brought s’mores fixings and I brought little boxes of cereal so the kids could eat before the grown-ups got up.
We were poor. Camping was cheap. The kids could run wild. It was perfect!
Over the years, things became both simpler and more complicated… We camped on private land. First we rented one porta potty, then three. Bags of plates, cartons of cups, cases of water, plastic utensils, firewood. Slowly we went from catering to a bunch of little kids to catering to a bunch of grown adults.
This year, my husband and I took Sadie and rented a little cabin at Lake Winnipesaukee. We hung out for the weekend with our camping friends at their lake house. Sadie loved it. She got to ride their jet ski. We had fabulous food. We all contributed. I sense a new tradition coming on. Next year I want to make a cake for dessert on Saturday night and bring my famous Limoncello Sangria.
I’m sorry my older kids are disappointed. Maybe they will get it together and make their own camping tradition—invite some of their friends, just starting out. That would be great. I hope they will.
Moving on is difficult. Letting go is hard. But holding on can take something special and turn it into drudgery. The trick, I guess, is in knowing when the time has come to reinvent family traditions.