When my family went camping there were two cardinal rules: don’t squat to poop in a hornets’ nest (which I did once and was forever after ragged by my brothers) and always sweep out the tent before you fold it up.
What to tell my eager, newly matriculated 17-year-old off to a flooded Plett with the tent? Don’t have unprotected orgies on the beach. Don’t bend the tent stakes pounding them in. Don’t get into cars with drivers who have been drinking. Don’t forget to call me every 15 minutes. Don’t drink drinks that have that invisible date rape drug mixed in. Don’t forget to have a miserable time and come home early.
The mysteries of mothering are many. After 17 years of feeding, cleaning, admonishing, looking-out-for, defending, waiting, pushing, not pushing, attending, cheering and there’s a big muscular young man looking down at me with a smile as I stutter out my long string of don’ts.
Plett was so wet that 16 fully grown teenagers decided to squat in a two-bedroom flat for a week because the other targeted residence was under water. Hmm. Then my child moved to a backpackers’ where they rent you space in a field in the rain to pitch the tent. Not a bargain-basement purchase, the tent seems to have weathered all storms except for one leak through the top of the rain flap, which inexplicably seemed designed to let in air — and water.
In a big storm one night last week, it bent almost double and swayed wildly but held up the family honour by not collapsing on top of him like other people’s tents did. Halala, family tent, halala.
There and back on the bus. The Citiliner arrives from hundreds of points north, discharges sticky people, fretting children, bags and bags and bags, although no goats or chickens. And my baby. I hear people from PE are chill, hey. He met all kinds of folks — from PE, DF Malan, Pretoria. From our point of view here in Cape Town’s southern suburbs, those are all places far away.
The tent is coming back with a friend who drove. It’s anybody’s guess how much mud will be caked on the inside. But at least it seems he didn’t meet the bad end of a hornets’ nest.