Henry jumped into the boxcar, and Jessie gave him the pine needles. He made four beds in one end of the car.
“This side is the bedroom,” said Jessie
“What will the other side be?” asked Bennie
“The other side?” asked Jessie. “Let me think. I guess that will be the sitting-room, and maybe some of the time it will be the kitchen.” . . .
. . . [Jessie] took the string out of the laundry bag and tied one end of it to a tree. The other end of the string she tied to the boxcar. This made a good clothesline. When she had washed one towel and Violet had washed the other one, they hung both towels on the clothesline.
“It looks like home,” said Henry. “See the washing!” He laughed.
—The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Bennie’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and maturity fascinated me as a elementary school-age girl. They used what they had and what they could find to create a cozy home for themselves in an old, abandoned boxcar. At age 8, I saw myself as Jessie, the smart, responsible older sister tending to the basic needs of my family in a less than ideal situation. Like her, I would have found unique ways to provide the necessities of life while still having a lot of fun. My sisters and I spent many happy childhood summer days pretending we were the Boxcar Children.
I credit the those adventurous children for planting the seed that grew into my absolute LOVE for camping! After we had children of our own, my husband and I made camping our family’s # 1 wholesome, recreational activity every summer.
Recent articles have touted the rising popularity of camping, particularly among Millennials. Not long ago my husband asked our five children, ages 26 – 33–well within the “Millennials” age range–to name their favorite family vacation. Without fail, they chose a family camping trip. Granted, even when we visited Sea World in California or Disney World in Florida, we stayed at a campground. The seven of us could stay several nights at a campground for a lot less money than the cost of a hotel.
When I asked my children to share a happy camping memory for this article, this is what they said:
“Tubing on the Schroon River (in northern New York). The funny things we said and the nature we saw.
“I remember when we all tried the ginger beer, because we all agreed it tasted horrible.
“I also remember when we camped out in the camper at Seneca Lake and we had to sleep under a lot of blankets because it was cold and we had no electricity.”
“On our Nova Scotia trip. We stopped at Peggy’s Cove with the ocean, the lighthouse, and the amazing rock we were standing on. I remember hopping around on the rocks and standing on the edge with Liz, listening to the waves. Also, watching the sunset off the red cliffs of Prince Edward Island.”
“During the PEI trip, there was the belly flop Duke (Mark’s best friend) did into the freezing cold spring for a dollar. And that crazy fast tide that came in (Bay of Fundy-tidal bore). And the jiggly bog swamp hike we went on (in New Hampshire on the way home.) It was Duke’s first time out of the state and Country, and he bought an air-soft gun and shot himself in the knee with it in the back of the van.”
Liz “I remember the Grand Canyon, and looking for precious stones in the dirt, and looking at the petrified wood, and seeing the ravens near the edge of the canyon while it was really foggy. I guess it was just me and the parents, but setting up camp (at Roger’s Rock, Lake George, NY) and crocheting with Mom under a tarp in the pouring rain, and kayaking with Mom and Dad are great memories. I remember playing Ratuki while we were driving in the RV down the California coast and just having fun with everyone. Also, Marky sliding all the way to the front on the cooler (whenever Dad stepped on the brakes).”
Ashley “I remember playing Impossible Creatures with Liz and Jess and how much Malachi loved it. I exercised to my music outside the camper. I think we walked to church. That was the trip we took all the pictures with the Butterfield side for the reunion (in Idaho). And I told Mary how to pick out carrots from a bag without letting any make her gag. She was pregnant with Oliver.”
These camping memories are a few of many that our family members cherish. I love it that most of their memories include little things like ravens in the fog, walking to church, and playing games together.
Wherever we go, however long or short the trip, no matter what there is to see and do, we enjoy spending time together experiencing our surroundings and discovering the wonders of nature. Most of all, through our camping tradition, we’ve become closer as a family and strengthened important family bonds that can last for eternity.