You Can’t Tickle Yourself
We were campers. Camping can be a great family bonding experience. But there can be times when one or more members of the family become a bit stir crazy. This memory was one of those times. The conditions were ripe – two straight days of steady downpour, two adults, two teenagers and two younger ones in the close and closing confines of our Coleman tent. The only respite was meal times where we huddled closely together – kind of like a human ameba, under the tarp covering the picnic table.
Being the youngest, I was blissfully oblivious to the building tension. I was even more oblivious to my own contribution to the building tension. In fact, I can recall that I was in a rather giddy mood as my brother and I lay on our bunk cots thinking of one hilarious thing after another. The climax was when we started doing a puppet show using YES-YES cookies as puppets. We just broke into a silly, spontaneously made-up song when my mother - my quiet, gentle and always loving mother, snapped, “That’s enough! Get your rain coats on and get out of this tent!”
I was caught completely off-guard, but if she wanted us to be gone, then very gone I would be. I tugged on my tennis shoes, buckled up my yellow rain slicker, zipped the tent open, stepped out and then tried to zip the tent closed as forcefully as possible. Fact: You can’t slam a tent door no matter how mad you are.
My brother and I headed to the road and turned toward home. We could take a hint. We knew when we were not wanted. Well, if that’s the way they feel about us, then we’ll just leave. They’ll be sorry when we don’t come back – ever! We both seethed with righteous indignation. We stomped down the gravel road.
We were camped where we always camped – Boulder Lake, near Mountain, Wisconsin. We had every intention of walking home – a mere 70 or so miles south. We did walk all the way out to County W, a distance of several miles. I remember the reality of what we were doing fell upon us, much harder than the pelting raindrops. Still, in our stubbornness we turned south on W and stomped on.
After another half mile or so one of us was finally brave enough to say it out loud: “We really should go back to camp.” There it was – admission that we were never really going to make it home. And maybe by now they were missing us. Or worse, maybe by now dad was getting mad at us for being such knuckleheads and being gone too long. Like two prodigals were turned back towards camp.
Along the way the rain not only stopped, but the breeze kicked up, the sky was still gray but the clouds grew thinner and the sun threatened to finally burn its way through them – you still couldn’t see it but you could feel its warmth. When we got back to camp Dad was sitting out in a lawn chair, enjoying a pipe and a book. Our sisters were down by the lake tossing stones and engaging in the mysteries of girl talk. Mom was under the tarp by the gas stove getting supper ready. She smiled when she looked up and saw us. No one asked us where we’d been. We never said.
I learned a number of lessons that day. Sometimes it takes some distance to come closer together. You are never as innocent as you think you are. You can deny love in anger and get swept up in emotions, but it is better to wait until your heart is quieter before you decide what you really will do. Running from problems never solves them. We need others. We were created for relationship by a God whose very nature is relationship. He constantly shows us that we need to love and we need to be loved, sometimes in surprising ways. Fact: You can’t tickle yourself.