The tent was hot, the kind of hot that makes certain male body parts stick to other body parts. No breeze at all, just the constant sound of my nine-year-old snoring. Soon, his sister began talking in her sleep. Something about braces, it’s been on her mind a lot over the summer. How can it be so loud on a camping trip in the woods? It’s supposed to be quiet where only the sounds of the insects chirp you off to a nice sleep. I didn’t sleep at all and woke up the next day wanting to take a nap.
Our next trip was to Houston. Three kids, a mother in law, my wife all packed into the van. Eight hours the first day that turned into ten hours because that’s what happens during road trips. The next day of driving was only supposed to be four hours. The traffic jams in Houston decided to extend that by two. You could measure how long we were on the road by how loud it was in the back. We started off with soft voices, easy conversations. We ended with screams and accusations of “You are on my side!” It was the same way going back.
Boy Scout camp was held a week after we got back from Houston. More camping. Still hot. Louder though, so much louder. What’s louder than three of your own children? 20 boys that aren’t yours that have discovered the joys of farts, running and fidget spinners. It’s impossible to read a book, to really get into it, with that much chaos going on. Then we gave them knives. Now there was a bit of blood mixed in with the loud.
In Mid July, we took a trip with friends to the lake. They have a house that they get the use of once a summer. Right there on the lake, hidden behind some trees with a big porch where you could sit and listen to the yelling of our families. There’s also a little amusement park nearby which is great for adding scratching metal sounds as you walk. If you wait up at night a bit, say around midnight, you can finally get to that quiet. The park shuts down, all the kids are asleep and a glass of whiskey on that porch can be heavenly peaceful. However, Bacon Hoss had an accident at the amusement park that required four stitches on his eyebrow. He didn’t sleep very well. By the next morning, when I went back on the porch, it appears that the bugs enjoyed my leftover whiskey very much.
Every year, at the beginning of August, we take what has now been called the “Dad’s Trip.” The name implies that it’s only dads, five of us actually. It’s not. The five dads do come, but so do our children. In total there are 21 of us. We pick a direction and try and find what there is to find. We visited a replica of Stonehenge which allows the children’s voices to bounce off the rock so there is an echo. We saw Johnny Cash’s boyhood home, a quaint little cottage in northern Arkansas that is perfect for making 21 voices compact and grating. We ended that trip at a vacuum museum, that’s a real thing. A vacuum museum has a lot of vacuums. A lot. From every era. The kids decided that now they liked vacuuming and turned most of them on. My ears rang for a good hour after we left.
Yesterday the kids went back to school. They had new lunch boxes, fancy new shoes, and bright smiles. The day before I asked them if they wanted to do any more adventures, perhaps camp one more time. The kids ran from me, even the toddler. I put them on the bus, wished them the best of luck, and went back into my house.
Quiet. No sound but the A/C kicking in. I sat down and looked at the black screen at the T.V. There were no jumping thuds from upstairs. I didn’t hear anyone laughing at all. The dog was asleep on the couch, not a single time did he bark or try and chase anyone around. I checked my phone, no one had called. I should put away the camping gear but the garage is quieter than the house. Outside, there was a garbage truck but it was far off. I could hear its engine rev and then fade as it went up the hill. There were no hugs, no sounds of tears being dried and nobody asked if I wanted to play with them. The silence is louder than the screams.
I miss the noise.