Wally IV doesn’t like to camp. He dislikes the non sleep, campfire smoke, and lack of facilities. But my family were campers, and I have such fond memories of it that I wanted to give Wally a chance to not sleep, smell smokey, and pee outside. So I decided it was time for a modified camp experience—nostalgia-style, in my parents yard where we had occasional camp experiences when I was growing up.

We got the Binder clan to join us, since they also thought it sounded fun. We showed up, tents, sleeping bags, camping chairs, and grocery bag of s’mores ingredients in hand. Oh, and we also had air mattresses and a pump to blow them up and my parents’ backyard fire pit table—we’re not savages, you know! We were all set for a modified camping experience—facilities and a warm house nearby, should we decide it wasn’t going to work.

Sometimes as a parent, you plan an experience for your child, and things don’t go quite as pictured—tantrums, he doesn’t get it, etc. This was not one of those things. (Aside from the moment captured in this picture, during which we wanted a nice family picture and Wally Ben wanted to find more pine cones.)

If you ask Wally his favorite part of camping was, he says, “Me and Kellen ran around the tents. I ate marshmallows. And we slept outside.”

If you ask me, it would be my favorite image from the night. It was dark—around 8 pm, so we do not have a picture. But it is one of those vivid moments where you don’t need a camera to capture it in your memory forever. And besides, a picture would not do the complete moment justice—the smell of the fire, the cool breeze, the clear sky above.

Wally Ben and I had just returned to the fire after using those convenient indoor facilities. Since it was dark, he couldn’t do his usual running around, so he sat in his mini camping chair, just his size, pulled close enough to the fire that I could see the glow from it on his little face. He sat with his back fully relaxed against the back of the chair, and he held his glass of water in his right hand, resting on the arm of his chair. As if he didn’t look mini grown up enough, he even crossed his right ankle over his left knee at one point. He took sips of his water, sighed, and watched the campfire.

Something about the stillness the dark demanded made him more talkative than ever. He made interesting comments about the stars, talked more about Kellen’s baffling pacifier, and even started us on a few campfire songs. (It must just be human instinct to sing around a fire.)

The fire inspired him to sing one of his favorite songs from Daddy’s station, “Tonight, we are young.” We all joined in, “So we set the world on fire! We can burn brighter! Than the suuuuuuuuuuun.” Wally Ben continued, “So if by the time, the door closes…” Then he trailed off, as if thinking, “What, we’re not doing the verses?”

At this point, Wally IV laughed and whispered under his breath, “Oh, Wally. You are going to be so cool when you are older.”

Sometimes as a parent, you expect something to go well, and it goes even better than you planned. And sometimes, you blink, and your baby is no longer a baby. This was one of those experiences.

The rest of the night involved me retiring to the warm house where Vivi was already sleeping, the Binders eventually joining us, and the Wallys retiring to the tent. Little Wally slept well in my 20 degree limit sleeping bag, and husband Wally froze his butt off in his non-arctic bag, not sleeping, and helping wiggly Wally back into his bag and onto his air mattress all night as he slid off every hour. But that 45 minutes of sitting by the fire was such a moment for the whole family, and WV enjoyed it all so much, that we will be camping again—maybe even real campsite camping if we can brave it out!

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