When I was growing up, we used to have this amazing, annual 4th of July fish fry down at our river bottom here on the ranch. I loved it. People came and camped, swam, the kids ran around free for days with all their friends and family. We had our last one the year Michael and I started dating. We quit doing it for a lot of reasons. It was such a hot time of year, it was such a lot of work. But for me, this annual get together was woven deep through the narrative of my childhood. So when we moved back to the ranch, I began flirting with the idea of reinstating an annual camping weekend. We tried several times, but the kids were little, the dates were bad for people, it was too much work. Then last year we hosted an Easter campout in conjunction with our annual Easter egg hunt and potluck at the river and it was marvelous. The kids were older, we had great friends, we had great weather. It was some magical combination. We decided that this was our new "fourth of July fish fry".
This last weekend was our 2nd Annual Easter campout. We decided to combine it with a birthday party for both Davis and me. We made lavish plans, I sent out detailed itineraries, we arranged for a port'o potty, for electricity, for mowing. The river bottom grew lavish green grass and flowers as if it knew it would be on show. As the week approached, the forecast looked grim. The weather anchors threatened SEVERE weather. Rain chances steadily grew.
So we adapted. We made a rain plan and moved the campout up to our back yard. We have a beautiful backyard with plenty of room. Why not? Friday morning, the boys ran around with ant poison, Michael leapt on the lawnmower and we set up a fire pit in the yard. I was worried, but decided I could make it work.
And you know, it worked. It was fun. It was great fun. People camped in our back yard. They came. I was so worried no one would come or stay. I was worried it wouldn't be a success. I worried it would storm and people would have to pack out in the rain. I was worried for nothing. Lots of people came out and they were all fun, kind, helpful people. It didn't rain. Not at all until in the middle of the night on Saturday and had tailed off by Easter morning. We had so many children. We had a warm enough afternoon to swim in the river on Friday and a cool enough day on Saturday to be comfortable all day.
Friday evening, people arrived, tents were pitched and the movie screen was set up. We ate lots of pizza and the kids ran around. Several people went down to the river to swim. I made popcorn. It was wonderful. Then we all settled down to watch Big Hero Six on the outdoor movie screen. When it was over, we put the kids to bed and sat around the fire pit down on the road and played guitars and sang and it was perfect.
Saturday night a cold front whipped through and no one slept well, but we all pushed through. People found their way into our living room, Michael made a fire, I made four pots of coffee, we put on cartoons for the kids, we ate and chatted and it was probably my favorite part of the whole weekend. There was no rush and there was time to catch up with everybody. Plus mornings are my best time of day. ;)
More people arrived and a few people left and kids slowly moved outside. We set up a table and Anne led all the children in the craft of blowing and dying Easter eggs. They turned out beautifully and the kids had a good time.
I suddenly realized I needed to set up for Davis's birthday party. Everyone pitched in and we were back in party mode. Tiffany helped paint faces, and then kids all joined in and helped each other. Davis had lots of pies from Texas Pie company with buttermilk pie being his special request. I made more popcorn and put out snacks. Michael had gone to get some hay and set up the tractor with the trailer in order to make a hayride. I bought some mardi gras decor and we decorated the trailer so that Davis could have his very own mardi gras float. Keith drove the tractor and the kids rode all around the ranch and at the end of their ride, they threw mardi gras loot at all the grown ups, who carefully collected it for the kids to reclaim after their ride. They had a blast and were adorable. This was another throw back to my childhood, as I also did a hayride around the ranch for my 10th birthday. Full circle, ya'll.
After the presents, we put up the massive bunny piñata and let the kids swing away. It was time to kill the Wabbit. Then we all started prepping some food for a potluck dinner on my backyard porch. More people gathered, more people left and we all had a fabulous dinner with lots of delicious dishes. It was very "fish fry-esque". :) When we were all sated, we got ready to watch another outdoor movie while the kids ran around a built the most beautiful easter nests I've ever seen in the front garden bed. I polled the guests and everyone voted to watch Into the Woods. I thought this would be fun, but I'm not sure it was really the hit I thought it would be. Mostly by this point, I was super duper exhausted. I don't know if any of my perceptions were good of this time period. I went and took a shower and then stood in my sweat pants at the sink in front of the open window, watching the movie and doing piles and piles of dishes. There was stuff everywhere, on every surface and I completely lost my sense of humor. After the movie, I put the kids to bed and then crouched on the porch, stuffing eggs and grouching at my friends. Luckily, they seemed to love me anyway. I put myself straight to bed.
The next morning I woke up happy again! Sleep is a beautiful thing. It was Easter! The Easter bunny had come! The children ran around like crazy finding eggs in our yard and then everyone made their way back into the house for coffee and more rest. I made five pots this day. We made breakfast and fed our kids and then slowly, forced ourselves to un-party ourselves. Michael showered and disappeared to church. I puttered around with my happy children and met him there later.
When the church service ended, we rushed over to my parent's house for our annual easter lunch and egg hunt. The food was great, the house beautiful and the egg hunt lovely. It was quick though. I think we were all partied out. Next time I need to pace myself better! I do love my parents' house. It is so pretty in the spring time, full of flowers and green and butterflies. It is a beautiful place for an easter egg hunt.
That afternoon, Michael slept to prepare for his night's work and I cleaned and cleaned and tidied and cleaned. I was tired, but there was something satisfying in putting everything back in it's place and knowing a good time was had.
And a good time it truly was. I think I made those memories for the kids. Several times through the weekend, I would glimpse, the children with their friends, heads close to each other, sharing a secret or a laugh or a thought and it would fill me with such joy. I am so blessed to have to such amazing, kind, wonderful friends with such great children. The weekend might have been too much, but my friends and my family were there every step of the way, ready to pitch in and help and work beside me and laugh beside me.
This weekend, my friends, it was epic, and full of wonderful memories and I definitely plan to do it again. It is on.
P.S. I should note, all of the good photographs were taken by Cheris Lifford, as usual. ;)