Way back in January of this year, my little brother Bug turned 5 years old. Sheesh. Even as I type this I can hardly believe he's five years old already; it seems like just the other day that Captain Mommypants and Superdad decided to adopt an unbearably cute little 9-month-old butterball. Well, anyway, it clearly wasn't just the other day, it was clearly more like 4-ish years ago, given that now he's a strapping five year old with biceps, quads of steel, and back hair, but that's neither here nor there. What's relevant to this particular story is that for his birthday I got him a book starring his absolute favorite character, Curious George. Curious George Goes Camping, it was, and wowza, was that a big hit with the Buggo, given that he loves the outdoors like a teeny-bopper loves the mall. In the front of the book, I wrote him a note:
"Dear Bug, happy birthday! I love you so much, and so does Curious George. In this book Curious George goes camping with The Man in the Yellow Hat, and he has so much fun being outside, sleeping in a tent, and having a campfire! Now that you're a big boy and five years old, you're big enough to go camping, too, so study up on this book and when I come home in May I'll take you camping too! All my love, Amazing Cheastypants."
It would be understating the situation considerably to say that for the past four months Bug has been in a state of frenzied delirium, anticipating my return to North Carolina like most kids look forward to Christmas. He apparently carried the book around with him everywhere, all day, every day until it vaporized from overuse. When Mom woke him up for school in the morning he'd say, "No school. Want to go camping with Cheasty." He started playing "camping" with his toys, building "tents" out of blankets, and playing intense games of make believe with The Guys, his rotating cast of about 15 stuffed animals that travel with him everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Bug and The Guys:
Individually, they are Big Dog, Soccer Bear, Fuzzy Bear, Patrick Bear, Little Bear, Red Bear, Max, Purple Bear, Cat, and The Righteous Turtle. It's an exhausting list, so Bug just calls them "the guys," as in, "Come on, Bug, it's time to go!" "Ok, just a minute, I've gotta get the guys!"
So yes, he's been anticipating this camping trip with a fair amount of enthusiasm. To be fair, of course, I stoked the fire. I send him postcards all the time, and in each one I'd talk about going camping. I got Superdad and Mommypants talking about camping. Every time I talked to him on the phone I'd mention going camping. So when I finally came home on Tuesday night, I snuck into his room to kiss him hello, he woke up amidst all the guys, smiled sleepily at me, held out his arms for a hug, and said, "We go camping now?" "Yes, sweetheart," I said, hugging him tight. Tomorrow we go camping." And we did. The next morning I woke up to the pungent aroma of Big Dog landing on my face, and Bug crawled into bed with me. "Camping?" he whispered. "Yes, camping," I whispered. "What do you think we should pack?" Bug thought about it a minute. "Books," he replied, with enough certainty to melt my heart into a giant puddle on the ground.
Right. Books. Check.
But first things first, we had to find a spot, so off we went on a little hike around the farm. Where should we camp? The pond? The woods? By the river? In the end, we found an ideal spot right in our own backyard, just at the edge of the woods and started to set up the campsite. Or rather, I set up the campsite, and Bug made sure all The Guys got to the tent all right.
Sadly for you all, and for me, I forgot to take pictures once we got into things, but we had a grand old time. We jumped into the pool to cool off after making camp, and then as evening fell we made a campfire and roasted hotdogs on sticks. I taught him how to make smores, and he practiced writing his letters with a smoking gokel stick. When the sun went down, we went to bed in the tent.
And guess what I missed since I was last home back in December? Bug knows how to read now. I know, right? Who knew. So while I'd anticipated a long night of me reading Smash Crash and Curious George to Bug, instead, he read to me, of the adventures of Dick, Jane, and their fetching pup Spot, of Pam and Penny, Mike, and funny, funny Sally. I was so proud and impressed I kind of teared up a couple of times, like when he read, "What is Spot doing?" and his voice went up at the end, just like it should when you read a question out loud. He looked at me, put his finger on the punctuation mark, and said, "Cheasty, that's a question!"
We read for a while more, then Superdad came in to give us kisses good night.
We finally turned out the light, though it would be a mistake to say that we really slept. First we cuddled and snuggled up, but when Bug finally fell asleep he started rolling around and kicking me in the teeth every few moments. Then he kicked off the covers and started shivering, so I kept trying to keep him covered, but whoa, nelly. Losing proposition if I ever saw one. At any rate, I woke up around six this morning, but Bug had beaten me to it. He was already reading again.
So there you have it, the Campstravaganza with my little brother Bug. It was one of the greatest times I've had in a while, and oh my goodness, do I love that little boy.