having explained my way through airport security not long ago, whispering in the armed guard’s ear, gesturing oddly toward the long blue stick the 5-year-old was boldly flailing, trying to persuade the nice man that the light saber would really not cause a problem, not unless it was absconded there at the so-called security checkpoint, i was not at all surprised when my virgin camper informed me he was taking the saber to the woods.
of course he was, i thought to self. he’d heard word of bears and wolves, and would not be left unarmed.
what i did not know was that the jedi camper had tucked his make-believe jedi robe into the backpack. and within minutes of pulling into slot 12, at the wooded loop of camping plots, off went the shorts, the shirt; out came the robe.
while i was busy muttering about the tent poles, and which was which, and, oh, look out for ticks there in the underbrush that seems to be poking through the northwest corner of our tent, the little jedi tapped me on the shoulder to ask me this important question: “when you wear a robe, do you take off your boxers?”
egad. he was going to get us chased from these here woods. just two plots over there was a chap, a bearded chap, who looked like he might wrestle bears for entertainment. i was not so sure he’d take a liking to a stick-legged little boy prancing in his ruby-colored chinese robe, with golden-threaded dragon on the back. even if it was a big bad bear he, too, was aiming to take on.
i swallowed hard, i did, i did.
but i said calmly, “why no, you keep your boxers on, my fierce defender.”
presto change-o, i am happy to report, he pranced in robe with red boxers.
and, then, before i could even whisper, “force be with you,” or whatever it is a jedi mama would be inclined to say, he had grabbed the sabers from the wagon.
off he went, so thoroughly equipped to slice and dice the fears that come with all that’s unexplored. how very wise, the instincts of a little boy not to leave himself unarmed when it comes to fending off his worries, even if it’s a glowing plastic stick that carries all the super-powers.
indeed, without so much as a flinch, he and his accomplice, a jedi partner sans the robe, stalked the perimeter of the slice of woods that was ours for the night.
“no bears,” he came back to report, while i kept muttering to the tent.
he stayed in jedi garb right through the chopping of the logs and the igniting of the flames.
then, when just enough mosquitoes had nipped his naked little legs, he turned in his robe, at last, for shorts less likely to get us tossed from those there parts.
and so it went, the early chapters of my little camper’s first dark night in the big, big woods.
the sabers and the robe, as long as they were on the scene, did seem to work. we never heard so much as a single growl.
but then, after s’mores and sitting on a dock, after taking in the bullfrogs’ foghorns and slapping at the swarms of ‘squitoes, when we slithered in our not-so-wobbly tent, and the flashlights did at last go off, there spouted from the jedi camper the deepest, tenderest tears i believe i’ve heard in years and years.
“i’m homesick for my room,” he blurted out, there in the blackest blackness of a woodsy night without a single beam of moon, thanks to fat ol’ clouds that blocked out all of heaven’s light.
this time the saber, lying still, lying darkly, just beside his sleeping bag, could not fend off the scary things that seem to loom when you are planted there at the edge of the woods for the very first time.
all around, there were night sounds. and, truth be told, the ground beneath our backs was rather hard and oh-so-lumpy. the little warrior’s papa, his nearly every night’s bedtime cuddler, was miles and miles away. from a 5-year-old’s perspective, there was every reason to be sick for home.
so we did the best we could, the little one’s big strong brother and i. we started telling stories all about the room he missed. we sketched it out in vivid detail, from the night light to the window prism to the books that line the shelves.
we tried, in every way we could, to make his room come back to life, there in the creepy-crawly darkness of the hardly-sleeping woods.
big brother on one side, mama on the other, we lulled him, finally, into sleep. he slept at last like a little log. while i kept watch the whole night long. i would not let my jedi camper fret the night away.
and besides, the tree root beneath my back made for nasty sleeping anyway.
not long after walking in the door, now back at home sweet home, i bent and kissed that little camper. asked him if after all maybe it was a little bit of fun, fending bears away from s’mores.
“well,” he said, sounding very brave, “i really wanted to shoot more bows and arrows.”
so fierce, the little camper, as long as the lights are on. and the room he calls his own is just a quick dash up the stairs.
my goodness, sorry we’re so late in checking in here. had to check for ticks, shake out the tent, and on the way home we stopped for peaches and farm-ripe tomatoes. just thought you might like a simple little tale of how a boy takes on the woods. do you get scared when you go out sleeping beneath the trees? what soothes you when you feel sick for home?
p.s. next time you take to the woods, be sure to bring along your very own woodsman. that’s big david up there, once upon a boy scout. he had us fully stocked for every campfire a jedi and his mama could ever ever want. why, there were flames for melting marshmallows and flames for heating up old coffee in the morn. twas heavenly, his lovely wife’s bright bold idea, to take a jedi camping. next year, two nights. and of course, twice as many sabers.