COLUMN: Notes from an Okanagan holiday

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Evening, Day 1: Arrive at campground to discover that no one tents anymore. Except us, that is. Squeeze tent onto pad between two houses on wheels.

Morning, Day 2: These houses on wheels are powered by generators. So peaceful.

Late morning, Day 3: Park ranger leads us on a short hike from the campground. Most of us are families with younger children. Another couple on the walk has a boy about five, the same age as our youngest. So far they’ve been content to let him roam freely. I’m an anxious type, always in awe of laissez-faire parenting, so I watch in envy as they let the boy totter along a hillside, following the ranger in search of cactus. The slope soon steepens and the path narrows as it cuts across a steep grade, and I note a subtle rift for the Cool Couple.

Mom has happily wandered ahead. Dad follows the son who teeters along the strip of dirt. “Single file, buddy!” he chirps, a note of panic betraying his mellow pose. “Stick to the path, big guy! Single file! Watch where you’re going! Single file!”

A small victory. Yes, my five-year-old’s palm is clutched firmly in my hand. But at least it’s not sweating.

Later morning, Day 3: Reach a lookout. It’s your standard viewpoint—trail ends at a wide open area, and at one end the land just falls away. There are no fences or warning signs. My still occasionally random five-year-old’s hand is still clutched in mine. Meantime, toddle toddle toddle toddle… there goes someone’s two-year-old toward the edge. Ten feet. Five feet… closing…

There’s a parent about to intervene here, right?

“Far enough!” I blurt. The boy stops and eyes me. Now the mother and grandmother, previously oblivious, are on the case.

Later, I ponder this. Can this type of parent smell people like me, and know they can just zone out for a bit?

Morning, Day 5: Begin tearing down tent at our sun-bathed campsite, already past 30 degrees. Inside the tent, rolling up air mattresses, sleeping bags, packing children’s things it’s got to be 40 degrees. Attempts to usefully engage children in helping out have been abandoned as unpacking their mis-packing in order to pack feels a bit silly. Oldest son is cool in the car, reading his comic book. “Let’s get a move on,” he mutters to me, and for the briefest of moments I feel apologetic. The heat has turned me perverse.

Late Morning, Day 5: Discover ant colony under tent. Thousands of them, dashing in all directions, carrying little white… rice krispies? Ahh... eggs.

Morning, Day 6: At a hotel now. A shower has revived the parents. Now in breakfast room, eating cardboard pastries and shiny fruit. A father nearby is having a fit over his son’s eating habits.

“You always do this! Why do you always do this? I’ve told you over and over to stop doing this!”

The boy is about six. The father is beaking in his ear. The boy is a sea of calm, not responding. Perhaps he turned off the volume months ago. Now he’s just waiting for his dad to run out of gas. The boy looks over at me now, smiles in a way that says “what can you do?” and rolls his eyes.

Afternoon, Day 7: Note to self: purchase car with air conditioning. Spend six hours on highway with temperature around 35 degrees. Get gas at Hope mega station jammed with miserable, hot, dirty fellow travellers. Dante’s modern Inferno would put the inner circle of hell here.

Later Afternoon, Day 7: Or here, somewhere on Highway 1 near Langley where the traffic stops for no apparent reason.

Evening, Day 7: Arrive home to find the cool West Coast no longer so. Turn on backyard sprinkler, and begin dismantling the car. Oldest son irritated that I’m not joining him in sprinkler, opting instead to unstuff our Toyota.

Parents are so selfish.

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.


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