“We need to go back to Number 17.” My husband looked at me quizzically. “That very spot?” I assured him that only Number 17 would do. It was magical. It was sacred. It was our place. I batted my eyes and with sudden inspiration added, “We could do that for my birthday!” He laughed. It was beginning to look like it just might happen.
My mind trailed back to that camping trip, over 7 years ago. Our family had hit a season of busyness, and the summer was rapidly waning. We felt a sense of urgency; if we didn’t plan a vacation soon, it wouldn’t happen. I hopped online and looked at the more local options. We soon decided that a camping trip along Wind River, east of Stevenson, would be just the thing.
When we arrived at the campground a couple of weeks later, the hosts were waiting for us, eager to direct us to a site. “Would you like to stay at Number 17? It’s the most beautiful site, and it’s just along the river!” We weren’t about to argue with that. We unloaded our gear, making our temporary home in the woods grow like an overnight mushroom. While the boys wrestled with the tent, I draped a colorful, striped tablecloth over the picnic table and commissioned the girls to gather wildflowers for our centerpiece. Home was happening.
Home continued to happen over the next few days, for we were together. We had no distractions: no media, no obligations, we didn’t even have neighboring campers. We had only each other. We had each other skipping rocks and splashing along the shore, we had each other roasting hot dogs and singing campfire songs, we had each other playing card games and exploring the woods, and yes, we had each other when it was time to divvy up groan-inducing chores like washing the dishes and tidying up the tent.
I knew we needed this togetherness. Years prior, I had read a book as a student at WSU Vancouver. I didn’t keep many of my textbooks, but “The Shelter of Each Other” has remained firmly on my bookshelf. In it, Dr. Mary Pipher describes the family rhythms that, as a college student, I had hoped to create someday. As a family therapist, Pipher’s cautions are many. “Today family members are often living in the same house, but often they are not interacting. Interruptions and pressures keep people from spending time together and even from knowing each other. The outside world pours into the living room.” Written over 20 years ago (it has since been updated), we now have only that much more of the outside world pouring into our homes.
Pipher’s encouragements, however, are just as numerous.