Sunday, November 4, 2012

Riding the Curve and the End of the Can

Today, we're trading in the Sardine Can for a small little pop-up camper. That's right! The very can that started this blog is heading for greener pastures, hopefully with another adventuresome family.

Our camping life over the years would look like a Bell curve, I guess. We started out as two in a backpacking tent. We thought about nobody but ourselves and it was ROCKING AWESOME, don't kid yourselves. Jeff proposed to me on the Pine Canyon Trail in Big Bend National Park. At the time, we didn't consider the possibility that one day we'd hike that trail with babies on our backs or strapped to our chests with dirty diapers outweighing our water bottles. But we did.

Tent camping with a baby basically sucks. So we bought a little pop-up camper. Eventually, the pop-up camper was overflowing with 7 people. It was pretty bad, and smelly, too. So we traded up to what became known as our Sardine Can.

Man, it was like we'd moved into Trump Palace! A bed for everyone! A heater! A freaking refrigerator, stove, microwave, and shower! A stereo system that regularly blasted out Red Hot Chili Peppers and, if my dad was with us (and he often was) Pink Martini or Herb Albert or on one very long evening involving tequila, Axl Rose singing "Since I Don't Have You" over and over and over while my dad tried to learn the lyrics. We were always popular with the other campers.

Then a weird thing started to happen. The kids got bigger and wanted to sleep in tents. Sometimes they (gasp) didn't want to go at all. Maybe they had to work, maybe they had something planned with friends, and then Ellie abandoned ship and left for college.

The event, however, that sealed the Sardine Can's fate was the selling of The Bus. Like the Sardine Can, the 12-passenger van I drove started out with 2 car seats, a booster seat, 2 big kids, 2 parents, a friend or two, and The Grandpa. But for the past two years, it mostly drove me and Camille into the city for ballet. It was a HUGE waste of gas and more than we could afford. It was also the only thing we owned that could pull the Sardine Can. I replaced it with a small, red car that rocks on the gas mileage.

And we are now the proud new owners of another small pop-up.

Bell Curve. We start out small, we expand to near bursting, and then we deflate and end up back where we started. You can't really see the curve when you're riding it, you know. Everything is Now and Permanent and The Way Things Are. Of course, maybe if we knew that was all an illusion we'd cherish moments more, but we're not wired that way. Maybe if we knew we were riding a curve we'd never make the climb. Maybe if we knew we were only going to end up right back where we'd started, we'd just stay where we are. It's ingenious, really, the way these things work.

I'm sad, watching the Sardine Can go. It was at the top of the curve, baby! It really was. And on that very first trip to California, the one that started this blog, it taught me a lesson about what's really important. Maybe I don't remember everything about that trip as clearly as I remembered it last year, or the year before. But I'll tell you what I do remember:

I remember being in the camper beneath the stars, the second week into the trip. I remember the feel of a baby nursing at my breast, the love of my life cuddled up against my back. A mere few feet away were the other four children, asleep in bunk beds. It felt as if everything that was good and important and necessary in the universe had been titrated down to it's essence and poured into a 26-foot camper. Nothing existed outside of that little cocoon that mattered at all.  And I was totally cognizant of it. I was lucid - and come on - how often does that happen? It was a gift, that night.

My life is different now. With every milestone of independence the teens and tween take, part of me evaporates. I'm stretched, watered down, I feel...diluted.

They've grown, and I've shrunk.

I'm learning to live with this new version of myself. The version that has held tight, let go, and lived to tell the tale. It has some scars. It's smarter than it used to be. It's more...grateful.

Good things are ahead for all of us, I'm sure of it. There are new Bell curves to ride; I just need to find where my next one begins.

And for the love of God, that does not mean I'm pregnant.

If you want to see what we were like when it all began, you can check out the very beginning of the blog. Or you can just wait and see where we all go from here.

Signing off now, as the Sardine Mama Without a Can


  1. No comments???

    Wow, Carol, you are definitely moving up the bell curve with your writing lately. Maybe part of it is that, like you, I'm letting go of lots when it comes to children. (More letting go ahead, no doubt about it. That's where life leads, if you live long enough.) Let's face it, you have years ahead before you will have an empty nest!

  2. I predict a time in the future where you are at the top of the curve again with many beautiful grandbabies in a new "can". You and Jeff will be the cool grandparents who go camping and play those "oldies but goodies" (can't imagine RHCP being called that). Hee-hee....Lauri M

  3. I was reading this post out loud to my husband--I enjoy your posts so much that I have to share! And I got to the line, "With every milestone . . . " and I couldn't make it through the paragraph for the tears. You have phrased it perfectly. My 21 yr old daughter/best friend is currently in Australia and I miss her so much, I can't tell you . . ha, but you KNOW. Thanks for not only reading my mind, but phrasing it in a way that made me feel far less alone in my slow search for a new bell curve.