When buying a new tent, you look for things like capacity, seams, waterproofness. After last weekend’s two-night camping trip to Bamberton, I suggest a new feature for determining what makes a tent worth buying: how loud the zipper sounds at 4 a.m. in a full and quiet campground.
The mister and I sleep in a different tent than the girls. It makes crawling into bed late easier, though on this night we were asleep early knowing our youngest would wake us at 6 a.m. with her daily morning wake-up call. The mister hadn’t slept well the night before, so fell asleep quickly while I dazed through our tent’s mesh roof at the tree canopy above. Peace, quiet and the cool fresh air sent me to sleep shortly after.
I awoke around 3 a.m. to the cry of a toddler named Jeremy in another campsite. I know his name was Jeremy because halfway through his wail his mother whisper-shouted, “Jeremy, be quiet!” Jeremy answered her with, “I need a pee pee!” That made me giggle, then Jeremy went quiet and I fell back asleep.
Around 4 a.m. I awoke to the sounds of another child wailing, only this time, unfortunately, it was a voice I recognized. “What is that?!” my 4-year-old Clodagh yelled in what was not her inside voice. “What is that? Eilish? EILISH MOVE!” she reprimanded her sister who must have moved into a position that Clodagh was not happy about; Clodagh, awake in a dark tent without her parents, was not about to let her get away with it. “Mommy! Mommy!” she wailed. I could have been 10 miles away and I would have heard her, as I’m sure the campers on the other side of the campsite did.
We tried shushing her with a whisper, “Shush Clodagh. Whispers please.” No luck; the yelling continued. The mister got up to deal with it. ZZZzzzzzzip went his tent zipper. It cracked through the quiet air like a gun shot and my body tensed. All I could think was don’t wake the baby, because if we wake the baby, we’re all—the whole campsite—is screwed. She will never go back to sleep and she is one loud little chicken.
Zzzzzzip went the girls’ tent zipper like a lightening crack when the mister opened their door. “Daddy, turn on the light!” Clodagh yelled. “TURN ON THE LIGHT. KEEP IT ON ALL THE TIME. KEEP THE LIGHT ON ALL THE TIME!” Clearly she was scared, but all the mister and I could think of was a) waking the baby and b) going back to sleep ourselves. In his most emphatic whisper-shout, the mister said, “Clodagh, use your whispers! Everyone is sleeping and you’ll wake them up!” Her response, “KEEP THE LIGHT ON ALL THE TIME!”
While this was going I took advantage of the fact that our tent’s zipper was open to go into the woods and relieve my full bladder. In that time, the mister returned to our tent, having left the flashlight on next to Clodagh’s head. This calmed her down and sent her back to sleep, thankfully.
Zzzzzippppp! I heard him close the tent door and when I returned with the gravel cruchity crunching under my shoes, I heard the baby stir. “Ba ba baa,” she cooed. I stood frozen next to my tent. I didn’t want to move in case she heard me and thought it was wakey wakey time. The mister had zipped the tent door shut so I couldn’t crawl back into my bed. I was stuck.
“I can’t move,” I whispered almost inaudibly to the mister, “I’ll wake the baby.” I giggled at how ridiculous it all was. “How long do you think I’ll have to stand here?” I asked him. “Half an hour,” he replied. “Nigh-night,” he said. That made laugh, so much that my poorly stifled guffaws were noisier than any zipper would have been.
After a few minutes and no more sounds from the baby, I slowly unzipped the zipper. Slowing down the zipping doesn’t make it any quieter. Like a bandaid on skin, you’re almost better to do it quickly and get the pain over with. Tooth by tooth I unzipped the zipper in excruciating anticipation that at any moment I’d hear another “Ba ba baa”. I opened the door only half way and slid my less-than-nimble body into the tent, landing awkwardly on the mister who woke with a start, much to my satisfaction. Mosquitos and wasps could have had their pickings because there was no chance I was zipping that door shut.
All that worry kept me awake for another hour. I heard trucks on the highway nearby by, owls, leaves dropping from the tress, the mister snoring, and the girls rolling over in their sleeping bags. I must have slept again because I woke around 6 a.m. to, “Ba ba baa Mommy! Daddy!”
Music to my ears.