The nice campers stayed in my campground several weeks ago, but I’m just getting this piece edited and posted.
I had some nice campers this weekend.
One little family was Mom, Dad, and a young daughter, maybe five or six years old. When I went over to write their permit, the little girl immediately handed me a drawing she’d done of the trees. Sweet!
The whole family was nice, and I talked to the parents about what they might want to see in the area. Later, after they’d visited a nearby trail, I asked them now they’d liked it, and they said they’d had a really good time.
On Saturday evening, I saw the dad walking up to my campsite with a saucepan covered in foil.
He asked if I had eaten yet, and I lied and said no. I wanted whatever food he was offering, just to eat something different from the things I always cook for myself. Turns out he was offering me homemade cauliflower-spinach-leek soup. I grabbed a bowl and had him pour it all in as I thanked him profusely. As he was walking off, I took a bite and called out after him, This is amazing! It was so good! I haven’t been eating many vegetables out here, so my body was so happy to get some really delicious ones in that soup.
Before the soup, when I returned to the campground after working at the parking lot for four hours, there was a tent set up and a car parked on site #9, the site right next to mine. There is nothing separating my site and site #9. Since I’ve been on site #10, three times people have chosen site #9 when there were other sites available. I don’t understand why campers would want to be right next to the camp host if they could avoid it. Maybe they like the flatness of site #9. Maybe they expect the camp host to observe quiet hours. Maybe they think I am going to protect them from bears or other campers. In any case, I had next door neighbors.
Before I could even get out of my van, a middle-age Asian man was standing next to it looking at me. When I got out of the van, I greeted him and said I’d be right back with the paperwork to check him in.
Turns out he is a linguistics professor from Seoul, Korea who taught at UCLA fifteen years ago. Currently, he and his young wife and her mother are traveling in the United States. We had a pleasant exchange. I checked them in, then I went to my campsite and went about my life.
On Sunday morning, I was sitting at my picnic table, writing. I looked up and saw the grandma-age Korean woman (the mother/mother-in-law) standing next to my van. Then I saw her looking in the open passenger side door and thought, What the fuck! But I smiled and said hello and she said good morning and I said good morning.
I said, Do you need some help?
She said, I don’t know, which I figured meant no or (more accurately) I don’t know what the hell you’re saying.
She moved closer to the van’s open side door, but then she turned her attention to me and made a gesture that said May I look?
I nodded and said yes. I don’t really mind people looking, but asking my permission to look is very important to me.
So she looked into my van and said, Your house very nice.
I thanked her.
She wandered off, but soon came back with her son-in-law. He said she wanted him to tell me my home was very nice.
I thanked her again.
The woman kept pressing the palms of her hands against her cheeks and looking at me. I wondered if she were trying to tell me my face was dirty.
But the son-in-law translated that she thought I was glowing because of this beautiful place where I was living and working. It was a lovely sentiment, although I suspect my face is more likely to be dirty than glowing.
Then the mother-in-law saw the eleven little beaded stretchy bracelets I’ve been wearing since Madame Chile sent them to me. She took my arm and pushed up my sleeve so she could see them all, ooohing and ahhhing the whole time. Then she pushed up her sleeve and showed me the chunky silver bracelet she was wearing.
The linguist started asking me about hiking trails, so I pulled out a map and spread it on the picnic table, and his mother-in-law wandered away.
After the professor left, I decided I wanted to give the mother-in-law one of the hemp bracelets I made. After a few tries, I found a bracelet with a carnelian stone that fit her. I fastened it around her wrist. Her fat little arm with soft, delicate old lady skin made me think of my grandmother whose skin had the same qualities in her later life.
Once I gave her the bracelet, the woman was definitely my friend. First she came over because she’d gotten a splinter in her hand. I grabbed my tweezers and pulled it out, all the while wondering if camp hosts are officially allowed to perform first aid on campers. Then she came over to my campsite to get water from the jug on my picnic table to clean whatever she’d just spilled on her jacket. When the water alone didn’t clean the spill to her satisfaction, she poured some of my Dr. Bronner’s soap onto the paper towel she was using to scrub up. In a little while, she came back to pour water from my jug into her bottle. When she came over the last time, I think she put some Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap on her toothbrush. (I wonder how that worked out for her.)
The whole time she was coming over to use my supplies, I was trying to cook pancakes. While it was very sweet of her to want to interact with me, it was also awkward because we couldn’t talk to each other. She tried to communicate, asking me You middle age? and You single? I had to answer yes to both of those questions.
I got the feeling her daughter and son-in-law were ignoring her, so she was coming over to me for attention.
Before they left, the daughter came and told me that her mom said my house was cozy, and I told her that he mom was a nice lady.
I felt lucky to have two sets of friendly campers in one weekend.