OMG, you don’t want a zipper to wake OLA

When buying a new tent, one considers factors like the capacity, ventilation, and stitching on the seams. After a two-night camping trip with the kids, I recommend a new specification to define a tent’s merit: how loud the zipper sounds at 4 a.m. in a full and quiet public campground.

The mister and I decided to try a new sleeping arrangement: we would sleep in our uber-light, uber-expensive two-person tent we bought before we had kids, while the girls slept in another tent pitched beside to ours.

My skinny, expensive, lightweight air mattress was cushion enough before we had kids, but being 10 years older with post-baby inflexible hips likened it to sleeping on a piece of paper. Having not slept well the first night, we were asleep early the second night knowing our youngest, whose identity I’ll protect by calling her our little angel (OLA), would wake us at 6 a.m.

I awoke in the darkness to our middle child (MC) yelling, “Who’s that? WHO’S THAT?” The mister got up to resolve it. ZZZzzzzzzip went our tent zipper. It cracked through the quiet air like a gunshot. My body tensed. All I could think was “Don’t wake the baby” because if we wake the baby, we’re all — the whole campsite is — screwed. OLA will never go back to sleep and she has two volumes: asleep and loud.

ZZZzzzzzzip went the girls’ tent zipper like a lightening crack. “Daddy, turn on the light!” MC yelled. “TURN ON THE LIGHT. KEEP IT ON ALL THE TIME. KEEP THE LIGHT ON ALL THE TIME!” Clearly she was afraid of the dark but all I could think of was a) waking OLA and b) going back to sleep ourselves. In his most emphatic whisper-shout, the mister said, “Use your whispers! Everyone is sleeping and you’ll wake them up!” Her response: “KEEP THE LIGHT ON ALL THE TIME!”

With our tent’s zipper open, I took the opportunity to step into the woods and relieve my full bladder. In the meantime, the mister returned to our tent, having calmed MC by leaving the flashlight on next to her head.

ZZZzzzzzzip! He closed our tent door. When I returned with the sound of gravel crunching under my shoes, I heard OLA stir. “Ba ba baa,” she cooed. I stood frozen next to our tent. I didn’t want to move in case she heard me and thought it was wakey-wakey time.

“I can’t move or I’ll wake the baby,” I whispered almost inaudibly to the mister through the mesh roof. “How long do you think I’ll have to stand here?” I asked him. “Half an hour. Night night,” said my chivalrous husband as he snuggled into his sleeping bag. My poorly stifled giggled was as disruptive as the tent’s zipper.

After a few minutes of no sounds from the girls’ tent, I slowly unzipped the zipper. Slowing the zip doesn’t make it any quieter. Like a bandaid on skin, you’re better to do it quickly to get the pain over with. Tooth by tooth, click by click, I unzipped the zipper in anticipation of another “Ba ba ba.’’ I opened the door just enough to slide my less-than-nimble body into the tent, landing awkwardly on the mister who woke with a start — to my satisfaction. Mosquitos and wasps could have had their pickings in the dawn light because there was no chance I was zipping that door shut.

All that worry kept me awake for another hour, lying motionless and nearly breathless on my back looking out of the mesh roof. I must have fallen asleep because I woke in the dawn light to our little angel singing, “Ba ba baa.”

When Maeve Maguire isn’t writing her monthly column for the News Leader Pictorial, she is creating marketing and technical communications for businesses from her home office in Maple Bay. Email her at maeve@describewriting.com

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.