Flash! Pop! Crackle! Rumble! Downpour! Oh greeeat. We are in the woods, with a hypothetical tornado raging towards our flimsy tent; I win Worst Mother of the Year award. This all runs through my head as I sit on a hot sunny Texas porch, gazing at the weekend’s weather report on my phone. We will be camping over the weekend; real tent camping, away from running water, and storm shelters.
A tornado transporting baby and myself to the Land of Oz would not be ideal, but I could also be a candidate for Worst Mother of the Year if I tried to shield my child from all literal and figurative nasty weather. I decide to go for it, and hope for cool gentle showers when I’m hot, and blazing sun when I’m ready to dip into the chilly water. Wishful thinking.
We drove out to the river with the sun blazing through the car windows and that precious AC blasting. All seemed good, but the weather report was not shifting, and there was a sheet of darkly ominous gray glaring at me on the horizon.
We arrived at our stomping grounds for the weekend and settled in. As dusk descended, the storm was upon us. Not the storm you’re expecting, oh no, something much worse, a storm of mosquitoes. I think I would prefer a tornado. They came in clouds and were the highly evolved skeeters that found the most poisonous of bug spray to be simply scrumptious. They also loved baby blood, specifically blood drawn from the head. Because I am adamantly against smacking my baby on the head, regardless of any honorable intentions, I rugged up my sweaty baby from head to toe; and the mosquitoes penetrated his clothing, they were insatiable. After an hour or so of being the helpless victims of flying vampires, the little devils dragged their full bellies back to wherever mosquitoes live; I suspect the bowels of hell. We were itchy but alive, and the baby seemed to care less about his quickly rising red welts.
This proved to be the only storm of the night and we spent the next few hours zoning out on the fire, brilliantly vibrant shooting stars, and live fiddle music; the calm before the real storm.
The clouds had settled in and there was menacing thunder in the distant, taunting us with occasional rumblings. Well, we in the Gaddis clan are no fair weather campers; so we brewed the coffee, popped the top on some champagne, and donned our river bikinis, even the men, just kidding. We were in it to win it, rain or shine.
We reached the river and went about optimistically setting up our sunshades, chairs, and various colorful floating objects. Hudson and I stuffed his baby chub into an ultra sun proof body suit, covered his noggin with an adorably blue sunhat, complete with earflaps, and smothered his remaining skin with absurdly expensive organic baby sunscreen. Yes, it was sprinkling by this point, but the sunrays are most intense when it’s cloudy, right? With Hudson in his full sunny summertime getup, I plopped him down on the edge of the shallow sandy bank and handed him a bucket full of exciting new beach toys. Happy as a baby with a boob in his mouth!
We have snakes in Texas. Rattlesnakes are usually the biggest concern, but on a Texas river we have an even more unnerving slithering creature to contend with, water moccasins. Rattlesnakes have no desire to go head to head, or mouth to foot, with humans, but will strike when startled. Water moccasins are nasty brown territorial serpents that will spot you from across a river and swiftly come over to not so kindly tell you you’re on their turf. Because of my rational, but paranoid fear of snakes, the brown swimmers in particular, I consider myself truly blessed to have not seen one of these slimy devils at this river in over ten years. My blessed luck was about to change.
The first sighting was made by my father while walking through the young vegetation that had popped up along the river’s edge, since the last time we had dipped our toes in this slow moving water. Dad was in search of rocks to pelt over to the thickly forested other side of the river, where our rope swing and the snakes hung out. As he was slogging along, a brown biter wriggled in front of him and slipped into the water, to alert his buddies on the other side; ‘the people have arrived.’ WTF, why is there a snake on our side?! This is not good. They now had a source of shelter on our usually sandy side, which had never before existed, at least not in the past 30 years.
I tried to eradicate the panicked hormones coursing through every inch of my being and focus again on splashing around on the edge of the water with my little man. But, because I’m now a mother, I could not shift out of high alert. Sure enough, after 20 minutes of obsessively scanning the dark green water, I spotted a thick and ugly golf ball size head traveling across the water, about 15 yards from my baby, and traveling in the wrong direction. My voice then adopted a foreign shrill tone as I asked my impeccable rock throwing abilities brother, to do something. He quickly gathered a few warning rocks; not big enough for a kill, but big enough for a ‘holy s*** these walking creatures mean business’ reaction. He got in a few good shots and just to show us that he, or she, was no sissy, Mr. or Mrs. Snake would go under water for a frightening amount of time, and would pop up a few feet closer to us. As this horrifying dance was playing out I spotted another moccasin crossing the river. They’re closing in for battle, save the baby! Brother continued his rock blitz, getting just close enough to threaten them, but not close enough to thoroughly piss them off. Then, a miracle happened, they turned, and swan back to their side of the river. Thank the river gods, there was no second act to the snarling snake dance.
As my panicked hormones slowly seeped out of me, probably through all the water I was peeing out, a traditional storm rolled in. As a large group of us huddled under the non-waterproof sunshades, being thankful that the storm was not accompanied by lighting, a terrifying bolt of lighting struck, accompanied by an even more terrifying immediate crack of ear splitting thunder. I was not holding my baby at this time. I assumed he was in safe arms, but I was quickly re-saturated with panic. I waited for a shrill baby wail to closely follow the BOOM, but was met with something even worse, silence. I then looked three feet to my right and saw my dad holding my smiling baby. In that moment, I swear he gave me a ‘What? Chill out mom’ look. My baby was braver than I was; don’t tell anyone.
This ominous snap, crackle, pop rattled us all enough to cause a mass scamper up to the higher and “safer” ground of our campsite.
After battening down the hatches we waited, and waited, and nothing came. Murphy’s Law wins again. We all emerged from our caves, I gave my muddy baby a freezing solar shower hose down, that he was unfazed by, and commenced to stuff myself with sinfully creamy potluck food. Goodnight.
I awoke to a jump-evoking clap of thunder. Here it comes, duh duh dunnnn. The wind quickly picked up, the temperature dropped 5 degrees, and we scurried about, building a makeshift “water proof” fort we could breakfast under; because by golly we are going to feed our faces. Again, baby Hudson proved to be more of a trooper than his mama. As I huddled in the leaking corner of the fort, he giggled as the rain spattered his fuzzy head.
As quickly as it came, the rain whizzed away, and left gloriously sparkling sunshine in its wake. Quick! Dry everything out and smash in every non-card playing activity we can before the next wave of rain surges in. Spring pool hike, check. Canoe rides full of snake mimicking turtles bobbing their heads up and down in the water, check. Snake free rope swing flips, check check. Laying solar shower out, praying it gets warmer than ‘frigid,’ check. We did it, and made it all the way to dinner, downpour free!
As we sat around the campfire, receiving our karmic revenge from the mosquitoes for throwing rocks at the snakes, I felt the sense that everything was too calm. Then it happened, the burst of light on the horizon. One, two, three, four, five……eighteen. The storm is eighteen miles away. Another burst of light on the horizon. One, two, three, four, five….ten. Oh great. Here it comes. Save the coconut cream pie, and the baby.
It was not a drill, the storm descended upon us and rained down with the fury of a den of water moccasins stirred up by a raging flash flood. Cold solar shower clean baby snored through it as I lay in wait for the railroad train roar of a tornado that never came, go figure.
Torrential downpour, Cards Against Humanity, chocolate, and beer; in our rain fort.
Moral of this story; watch for snakes and rinse your baby in a solar shower every evening, when camping.