We feisty single parents tend to think that we should be able to do anything that “double” parents do. I know I felt that way when my son’s Boy Scout troop needed parents to accompany the troop on a mid-winter overnight. In this age of equality, Moms were just as welcome as Dads.
So even though I’m not exactly a fan of “roughing it,” good single mother that I am, I agreed to camp out with the guys. Well, it wasn’t only guys – it was 20 men and boys, one other mother (non-single), and me.
I began to question my decision when I entered the chilly mountain cabin and discovered that it consisted of a single large room lined, barracks-style, with cold metal bunks. I’d naively assumed that there would be separate accommodations for females. I was wrong.
Then I made the mistake of accepting our Italian-born Scoutmaster’s offer of a steaming cup of rich Venezuelan coffee, fresh-brewed in a French press. Given the brisk cabin temperature and the fact that I’m a (recovering) caffeine addict, I was grateful for a Styrofoam cupful of the strong hot drink.
Barely an hour later, the Scoutmaster decreed that it was time for “lights out.” I obediently boosted myself to the top of the corner bunk we ladies had selected. But how does a woman remove her clothes and put on pajamas – without being seen, that is – in a roomful of males? I considered my options.
I could have hiked outside to the unisex outhouse (another surprise) in the woods and changed there. Or I could have zipped myself into my sleeping bag and, under straitjacketed conditions, peeled off my clothes and squirmed into my jammies. But getting undressed, I realized, would create an even bigger problem in the morning: getting dressed. I decided to sleep in my clothes.
“Sleep” overstates what actually transpired that night. It didn’t help that PMS bloat made my jeans so tight, I felt like I was wearing my grandmother’s corset; or that my recent caffeine infusion had left me bug-eyed.
I searched for a comfortable position. “Searching” meant flipping my sleeping-bagged body from one side to the other like a struggling fish. And I had to flip carefully, so I wouldn’t accidentally toss myself over the side of the narrow second-story bunk. So mostly I remained still but restless, gazing out the window at the bare moonlit trees.
My stillness did allow me to appreciate the charming nighttime sounds of a rustic country cabin. These sensory delights included the creaking and squeaking of aging bunk springs; the middle-of-the-night tiptoed trips of boys to the latrine; the hacking coughs of kids who should have stayed home; and the entertaining duet of a pair of snoring Dads. Ah, the music of nature!
One particular treat was the Scoutmaster’s alarm clock, which for some reason loudly announced the time every minute, on the minute: “It’s 1:01 a.m.” “It’s 1:02 a.m.” “It’s 1:03 a.m.,” it noted in its clear, computer-generated voice.
Some bleary-eyed father must have reached out to silence the sentinel but hit the wrong button; suddenly the clock began to crow like a rooster. It only took a second whack for the “cock-a-doodle-doo” to cease.
Not that it made any difference to me. All night long I stared through the dusty glass, watching the frozen darkness, thinking over and over, “It’s still night.” My tired, aching body agonized silently: how could a single night be so endless?
Yet somehow, finally, I began to relax. Tension disappeared as a welcome veil of sleep at last descended upon me. Unfortunately my rest ended abruptly; that elusive veil was pierced too soon by the accented voice of our enthusiastic Scoutmaster:
“It’s 6:15! Lights on!” he announced.