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Igloo Coolers and Family Wellness

The Fourth of July is upon us and that means a weekend of wet beach towels, BBQ sauce on every surface within a 20 yard radius of the grill and a sudden self-mastery of back yard pyrotechnics.  For the past twenty years I have spent many an Independence Day camping with the family.  Last year, I officially proclaimed that I am past the age of sleeping in a tent on the side of a lake eating out of a cooler.  Granted, I have done that on many occasions and the memories are wonderful, but there comes a time when you’ve experienced all you can possibly experience.  I learned early on that the success of a Fourth of July camp out is completely dependent on the contents of the cooler.   When I was in my twenties, that red igloo cooler contained beer, water, more beer, chips, salsa, limes and more beer.  Camping was relaxing and loads of fun.  The first camp out with children completely changed my cooler packing skills.  Now we had juice boxes, frozen breast milk, fresh fruit, and an assortment of ready to grill meats marinated in virgin olive oil and love.   Camping was still fun, but wasn’t quite so care-free.    A second cooler was added for dry goods such as diapers and an assortment of pediatric medicines for everything from runny noses to scraped knees to a sudden outbreak of whooping cough.    As the kids aged, yet a third cooler was added to our packing that contained all things we wanted to keep dry.  The contents included video cameras, cables, chargers, cameras of every make and size, cell phones, SIM cards, Game-Boys and more.    We were going to capture every moment of fun in high speed digital format.  We upgraded to a large SUV just to carry all of our coolers full of needed camping supplies.    We would arrive at the camp site and spend hours setting up our weekend home.  We discovered early on that every campground across the South has a family of twelve who has been at the park for two weeks enjoying the bliss that is camping.  I counted their coolers last time out and realized the cooler to child ratio did not fall within the accepted norm for family camping.   They had ten kids and two coolers.  What was their secret, I must ask!  Camping was so easy to them.   Somehow it was different for us.  We spread the dusty canvas tent across the gravel pad and prayed for success in setting it up since the instruction book had long since disappeared.  While the posse of ten kids was circling us on bikes watching us attempt to set up camp, my son was building a make-shift cellular tower to boost his signal strength for uploading photos to Facebook.  The happy parents down the way were preparing sandwiches by the dozens, toasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs I’ve never heard of.    It looked so right.  The mother wore a bright blue bandanna and had the complexion that Mother Nature surely must have.  Let me point out again… she had ten kids, I had two.  I stood there in sweat with Clinique mascara running down my cheek secretly wishing that I looked as peaceful and content.  My husband was busy trying to make tent stakes with twigs because he had failed to pack any stakes in those coolers.  He had every fishing lure known to man, but no device to keep the tent secured to the ground.  As he began to mumble obscenities and make strange gestures, my daughter headed off to the playground to map out who had control of which playground pieces.  Playground law dictates that the kid who can do the most back handsprings rules the playground.  That power, however, can be usurped by the kid that is known to sit quietly and eat the playground sand.  He can pretty much go anywhere he wants and all kids step back.  So while my husband was building our castle, my son was manipulating cellular signals and my daughter was strategizing playground control with well executed flips in the sand, I sat alone on my red cooler watching the families around me zipped up in their mosquito tents wondering how I was going to wring the cooler water out of the pre-formed hamburger patties that would eventually be our dinner.  Nobody was filming anything, the work had overtaken the fun and I knew that these days were numbered.   It is now days before the Fourth of July holiday.  My son will be at his friend’s house swimming in their salt water pool.  My daughter has a series of birthday parties and social events that will keep her busy all weekend.    I have to wonder what would happen if I grab the old red cooler, throw in a six pack of beer and ask my husband if he wants to go camping over the Fourth.  Without a doubt, I know where we would end up…… That’s right…at Embassy Suites in our terry cloth robes with a red cooler of beer at the end of the bed thanking God for the many memorable years of family camping and the wisdom to know when to let go. 


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