The family arrived first—Mom, Dad, and three kids, ages probably 11, 9, and 18 months. The little one was toddling, not talking. Mom and Dad spoke with accents I couldn’t place, but the kids sounded full-on American. The story I made up about the family was that Mom and Dad were immigrants, but the kids were born in the U.S.A. and learned to speak here.
I liked the family even though the parents had a lot of questions. The oldest child—a girl—was quiet and seemed shy, but the middle kid—a curly-haired blond boy—was friendly, with a ready smile. Mom was funny, while Dad was earnest. They all seemed to dote on the baby, who toddled around on his short, chunky legs all through the questioning and check-in.
The young couple arrived later. They’d made reservations in advance. They were both somewhere in their mid-20s to early 30s, and the man, thin with tattoos on his hands and forearms, was driving the car, a Lexus. The woman had short hair that was obviously bleached.
They immediately had needs. They’d hoped for a bit more privacy. Could they move to a different site? I did my best to accommodate them. I wanted to like them, but I really didn’t.
The arrivals were on Friday afternoon, after I’d finished working at the parking lot. After everyone was checked in, I ate my dinner and hunkered down in my van. As usual, I was asleep before 9pm.
Also as usual, I was awake and moving early the next morning. I’d already cleaned the restrooms and was cooking my breakfast when the young man with the tattoos strode into my campsite.
I said good morning and he said something along the lines of How ya doin’?
I said I was doing great, that I’d had a good night’s sleep…
He interrupted to say I was lucky, that he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep.
I ask him if the cold had kept him awake. (People from the hot lowlands aren’t always prepared for the chilly mountain nights.)
He said the baby had kept him up all night. He said the baby had cried for two hours straight. He said the baby had cried every half hour.
I hadn’t heard the baby cry even once, not even with the back and side windows of the van open all night.
The young man with the tattoos asked me if the family with the baby were staying another night. I told him they’d been undecided about how many nights they wanted to stay when they checked in, but I’d know their plans for the night later in the morning. He said if the baby were staying, he might find another place to sleep. I don‘t know if he was hoping I’d offer him a refund if he decided to leave or if he wanted me to tell him his reservation was transferable to another campground. (Reservations aren’t transferable between campgrounds, and I’m not authorized to give anyone a refund, EVER, so I didn’t make him either of those offers.) All I offered was to let him know if the family with the baby decided to stay another night.
After I’d eaten and cleaned up the breakfast dishes, I talked to the family with the baby about their plans. They had decided to stay another night. As soon as I left their campsite, I told the man with the tattoos of their decision.
When I got back from the parking lot around 3:30, the Lexus was parked on the campsite of the man with the tattoos, and the tent was still set up, two indications that they’d decided to stay.
I went about my life, did my paperwork, ate my dinner. There was a lot of activity in the campground, kids running around, music playing. It wasn’t dark out when I got in the van, and I was probably asleep before 9pm again.
Sometime later, I awoke to a light knock on my van. At first I thought I’d dreamed the knock, but when I said Yes? someone outside responded.
My solar lantern had run out of power before I fell asleep, so I had to grope around in the dark to find clothes to put on. When I opened my curtain, I saw the women with the short bleached hair standing outside my van.
She said they didn’t know what to do. The baby was crying again, and she and the man with the tattoos couldn’t sleep. (At no time during our conversation did I hear the baby cry.) She said the baby had kept them up the night before and was now keeping them awake again. She said they wanted to be polite, but didn’t know what to do.
I told her I wasn’t sure what to do either, as I’d never had a crying baby in my campground or in my personal life.
She said she and the man with the tattoos didn’t have kids either. As I suspected!
She suggested the parent(s) sit in the car with the crying baby.
I said I would speak to the parents, although I had no idea what I was going to say. I was fairly certain
- The parents knew the baby was crying
- The parents didn’t enjoy being kept awake by the baby’s crying
- The parents were doing everything in their power to stop the baby’s crying and get him to sleep
I had no idea if it were within my rights as a camp host to ask the parents to shut their crying baby in a car because he was keeping other campers awake. The whole situation reminded me of that episode of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye is on a packed bus and they’re in danger of the enemy finding them and one lady has a noisy chicken and Hawkeye pressures her to silence it so she smothers it, only it wasn’t a chicken, it was a baby, but Hawkeye represses the truth until the kindly psychiatrist gets Hawkeye to face the truth so his healing can begin. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodbye,_Farewell_and_Amen)
In any case, the woman with the short bleached hair left, and I put on my uniform. (I’m not big on uniforms, but nothing says official business like brown polyester blend pants.) When I looked at my watch, it was 12:40 in the morning. I dug around and found a flashlight so I could find my way in the dark. At no time during my preparations did I hear the baby make any noise.
When I stepped out of m van, the sky was lovely. Within the frame made by the tops of the tall trees, I saw stars filling the heavens. As I looked up, a meteor shot across the sky. Wow! I don’t think I’d been outside late at night since I got to my campground, so it was a real blessing to be there at precisely the right moment to witness the shooting star.
I didn’t hear the baby crying, and I thought it would be silly to go onto the family’s campsite to ask them to quiet their silent baby. What if the baby had just passed out for the night, and I woke him? What if the young couple were crazy and hallucinating a baby crying? I didn’t think I should say anything unless I heard the baby cry with my own ears.
I sat down near the restrooms and listened while enjoying the starry sky. I didn’t hear a single sound coming from a human of any age. I sat there for fifteen minutes and listened to the silence of the night. Then I decided to go back to my van and go to bed.
I closed the door of the van as quietly as I could because I didn’t want to wake the (hopefully) sleeping baby. I got out of my uniform and back into my bed. Of course, I was wide awake, but I just lay there, waiting for the baby to cry.
It was so quiet, I could hear a car pass on the road on the other side of the trees surrounding the campground. The baby must have heard it too, because he let out one long wail. Then he fell silent, and that was the last I heard of him until morning.
The baby did start howling, screaming, wailing, crying around seven in the morning. It wasn’t continual, but it was consistent. I thought I heard the young man with the tattoos shout his disbelief and frustration with the kid, but I could have misinterpreted what I heard, if it was actually the young man with the tattoos I heard shouting. I was supersensitive, afraid he was going to march over to me and accuse me of not having done anything the night before or demand I do something to stop the current baby noise. He didn’t come over, and he didn’t pack up and leave, so things must not have been too bad for him.
I went to the parking lot as early as I could, eager to escape any conflict that might be brewing. When I returned to the campground around three o’clock, I was met with blissful silence. Everyone had cleared out (check-out time is noon), except for the folks on site #1 who were staying over one more night.
As I was eating my dinner, the woman from site #1 came over to ask some questions about the route they should take to their next destination. I asked her if she’d heard the baby cry, and she said yes. She told me she is a nanny in Berkley, and while she loves the kids she works with, she had been looking forward to time away from children. She seemed to be taking a just my luck attitude to the inclusion of a crying baby during the first leg of her vacation. She wondered if she’d have to deal with kids during her whole trip.
I told her I didn’t think the crying baby had any sort of karmic retribution aimed at her. I told her I thought the universe had sent the crying baby as a means of birth control for the tattooed man and the short haired women, as they were obviously not ready to deal with being up all night with a child of their own. The nanny laughed, but I hope the crying baby did his job and kept those two from reproducing. They just didn’t seem ready for the annoyances of parenthood.
Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/astronomy-comet-constellation-cosmos-631477/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/affection-baby-birth-black-and-white-266055/.