Not two days back from Boston, and we strapped our baby angel into his carseat and made him drive three hours deep into the desert to Joshua Tree for his first camping trip. Pretty impressive for a couple of old farts like ourselves. My high school friend Elizabeth, who planned the expedition, admitted she thought we might cancel, considering the emotionally trying journey we’d just had, but we were determined! We did shorten our trip from two nights to one, but that was alright considering it was Baby’s First Camping Trip. And we did stop to buy an air mattress at Target and fortify ourselves at McDonald’s, thinking boo would like Playland. He did. And he was so cute, they gave us free cookies and an apple pie. (Or maybe that was because they took a good 20 minutes making my grilled chicken mcsandwich. I figured they’re not used to having to cook real food, only dunking stuff in grease.)
Our little guy was a real trooper. He napped in the car and only cried about fifteen minutes from our destination when we’d been driving for much too long. He didn’t stop smiling from the minute he set knee in our tent (which his hunky daddy put up with great efficiency and skill), except to crack up. Out at the campfire, he charmed everyone, adult and pipsqueak alike. He demanded his own seat and staunchly refused to succumb to his usual bedtime. Instead he stayed up for Boston talk, gossip about girls we know from high school, and Beatles songs (Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was a hit), and eventually he fell asleep in my arms with the warm glow of the fire on his cheeks. He slept bundled in my arms through most of the night. Only woke disoriented twice, sat straight up, whimpered, and calmed immediately when offered the boob. While I squished my butt up against Harlan, begging for warmth, Aidan was comfy cozy snug as a bug in his mommy’s embrace, and he awoke delighted to still be in this strange green canvas pod we called home for the night. In the morning, we let him crawl around the dusty campsite accompanied by the lovely young Audrey, who said he was the cutest baby she’d ever seen and liked to carry him around like a doll, and Lilli, who rescued him from a red ant hill. He climbed into the car the dirtiest baby in the land.
The truth is for a baby Aidan’s age, or maybe just for Aidan, delight is to be found everywhere. He is as thrilled by the flowers in bloom outside his bedroom window and he is with those bursting from a cactus in the middle of the desert. A moment’s disorientation in an unfamiliar bed (or rather air mattress on a tent floor) is nothing compared with the joy of bouncing around a wall to wall mattress while mama zips two sleeping bags together into one and dada covers our tent with a wind fly. It all dazzles him—the familiar, the unfamiliar, diamonds and dust—which is why this is the perfect age to move cross-country. He loves it here. He’ll love it there. He loves the sunshine. He’ll love the snow.
On Sunday morning after we ate pancakes and bacon and packed up camp and he got good and dirty, Aidan fell asleep the minute his butt hit the carseat. We’d planned to go for a hike in the national park, but instead cruised through, seeing the sites by car, until he woke up and we did a quick walk through a cactus garden, which he loved. The trip home was long. Aidan got even crankier than his mom, who only managed a five minute nap, and his dad who stopped for a double shot of Starbuck’s in a can. We had to race home, because—I kid you not—a beach mama group dinner party in Venice awaited us.