Regarding this past month of living in a semi commune (nearly 10 visitors in my home at all times for about one month), I had a few realizations.
A. Community is great, however, I will never live in a commune
B. I love my neighbors but do not want them over every day
C. In order to have family time I have to leave home with my family
You must know that I decided to have an open door policy since I moved to TN. Anyone can pop in whenever they want. That's fun. You get to work on your hospitality every day. You get to see all these really nice people and get to know them more. I hate telephones, so the pop ins save a phone call. I counted on my fingers each day how many people would pop in. It is an average of 5-10 different people that pop in each day. And some of them tend to also bring their pets when they come.
The Pop In Burn Out...
As much as I love people and as welcoming as I love to be, there came a time where I HAD IT!!! Last Saturday evening, this was my conversation with my husband:
Me: There are so many people that stop over (in a frantic tone)
Husband: You invite them over
Me: Well, I want to be welcoming
Husband: You are, that is why they keep coming
Me: What do I do? (the phone rings with another person who wants to stop in)
Husband: (before answering the phone) What should I say?
Me: I don't know, just say what ever you think.
Husband: (answers phone) Oh, you would like to watch a movie with us? What movie is it? Oh....yeah, come on over!! (with a smile)
Me: What?! They are coming? Tonight? (I was already in my pajamas ready for bed)
Husband: Yes, you told me to say what ever I thought.
Me: Oh, that's right.
Husband: Should I call them back? (by this time I must have looked really burnt out) I will call them back and cancel.
By the next morning I was afraid to have more people come over and I just wanted to spend time with my own family for one day. I knew that I could not spend time with them on our own property, so I said...
Talk about spur of the moment. We have never taken our kids on a camping trip. I could only get my husband to agree to one night. You take what you can get! We packed up the little minivan, kids and all the camping gear. The trip was off to a good start with all the bickering we were hearing in the back of the van. Kids crammed together in a minivan on a hot day is not a good combination. Junior had three sleeping bags and a huge teddybear (size of Junior) wrapped around his area and the others were shoving the bear away from their heads. Mark runs out there to see what in the world the bickering is about. Next thing you know, the teddy bear is flying out the van. Junior comes crying and stomping through the house.
Junior: Whaaaaaa!!!!!!! (He sounded just like a baby waling) Dad says I can't bring my teddy bear!
Me: What would you need such a big bear for?
Junior: I like to lay on it like a comfy pillow. That is how I sleep good every night. I don't like sleeping flat.
Me: Stop fussing! Just be thankful you get to go on a camping trip! (the things kids complain about, wow!)
Junior bounces back and is smiling once again. Minus the life sized bear, the children can fit in the van. Everyone is happy. We were headed down the highway to Georgia, which we thought sounded fun. It was only 4 hours away from home. The state camp ground closed at 5pm on Sundays, so we figured we would be there right on time. Well, we forgot that they are an hour ahead, so yup, we were too late and the place was closed. We did not have internet to find us a comparable place, so we called the first campground we could find in a directory for the Chattanooga, TN area. Raccoon Mountain. That sounded like a peaceful campground. It wasn't like we had a lot of time before these campgrounds were closing, so we just had to pick a place and get checked in.
The guy at Raccoon Mountain told me what campsite we could have. I paid for it and went out to the van to show Mark. He said, "That is right on the main road." Obviously, I needed to tell the campground guy we wanted a different spot. The guy said we could stay in what ever site we wanted since there were no tent campsites that were even checked out. We were all alone! That sounds perfect, right? Just what we needed!
As we drive around the campground, we realize that Raccoon Mountain is an RV park, with a few campsites. After driving past about a 100 RVs and heard all the music people had blasting from their campers, we saw this little humble site that almost seemed secluded. It was on the edge of a suburban neighborhood but there were trees to give us privacy.
We had a bible study around the campfire and sang some hymns together. It was really nice. We were enjoying the crackling of the fire and the fellowship we so longed for as a family. Night was drawing near and it was time to turn in for the evening. For our comfort, we brought two twin air mattresses. One for Mark and one for me. The kids were complaining about sleeping on the rocks, except for Junior. That is why, we found out, that he brought so many sleeping bags. He was trying to be prepared, knowing that he would be sleeping on a gravel driveway. Smart kid. The girls were trying to swindle a sleeping bag from his stash of 3. Junior said he could give up the two sleeping bags if he could sleep in the crack between our air mattresses. Thus sleeping not so flat. All of his convincing arguments were not swaying my dear husband.
We nestled into our nice soft air beds. I fell asleep for a short time. I woke to the feeling of sharp rocks digging into my back. My air bed was flat. When the kids pumped it up by hand, they forgot to push the plug in-go figure! Everyone was asleep so I was not about to start pumping. As I laid there on the ground, listening to the interstate roar and the train every 10 minutes blaring it's horn, I realized how much romanticism is involved with the camping experience. The train was a couple miles from the site and the busy interstate highway was about a mile away. Then there was these cats in heat. It sounded like children arguing. I kept trying to figure out if there was a baby crying somewhere in the RV park. Molly thought it was a black panther. I tried really hard to figure out what the thrill of this was. Is is really fun to sleep in a tent?
Husband: Are you awake? (whispering) Do you hear all that noise?
Me: Yes. And my bed is flat.
Husband: I will trade you.
Me: No, I could not make you sleep on this flat bed.
Husband: Come over here.
I climbed over to his bed. We squished together on that small air mattress and as soon as our shoulders hurt...
Husband: It's time to flip, I can't feel my shoulder.
Me: Me either.
So we kinda just flipped back and forth like a rotisserie, nice and warm. I tied a pillow around my head to try to muffle out the loud noises. I probably could have slept through the white noise of the highway humming, but the cat in heat-NO, the train-NO, and the dogs barking in the neighborhood-NO.
All at once, Mark popped up. I pulled the pillow off my head to see him unzipping a window in the tent.
Husband: I heard something sniffing. Oh, it's a raccoon trying to sniff out our hot dogs. (there were a few left) Psssst! Git!
Me: Oh my!
Husband: I have not slept a wink. That highway is so loud. And that cat!!!
Me: I know.
Husband: Please remind me why we are here and not in our own bed.
Me: Sorry. It's my fault. Remember, the people.
Husband: Oh, that's right. We needed peace and quiet.
We laughed and he got out of the tent to make us a fire. I joined him and one by one the children came out of the tent. There we were all huddled around the campfire at 4 in the morning just laughing our heads off because none of us could sleep except for Junior. He was still in there on his mound of sleeping bags!
After touring the cave of Raccoon Mountain, the kids riding go carts, and touring a big power plant on that mountain, we headed for home. It was so much fun and now we have so many funny stories to laugh about for years to come. And I am ready to be around people again! I am excited to have more productive work days with neighbors and friends...maybe once every other week:) Finding balance is a good thing. Moderation in all things is a good motto to have!
"Mid pleasures and places though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;"
~John Howard Payne 1823