It was a good thing we owned this pop-up camper because we ended up using it while staying on our land. Nearly every weekend, we went to our property. We let the children bring their friends and every weekend was spent exploring nature and enjoying plenty of room to run.
I will never forget...Stefie had an adorable friend named Priya. For years, we had been friends with Priya's family who lived just a few blocks away. However, those few blocks seemed to signify us being worlds apart. You see, at this time we lived in Clear Lake...we had purchased our home from a NASA Mission Controller...everyone around us was high business-minded, most everyone was successful while climbing some sort of career ladder.
However, Priya's neighborhood down the road was very high on the totem pole. Their custom designed stucco house was over 10,000 square feet. They had a six-car garage with luxury cars specially outfitted to meet their every desire. This family might have seemed to be overly privileged and living in luxury, but I must say that they were the most down-to-earth, gentle, compassionate and generous people I've known. The kids did have a lot of advantages, but the expectations of those kids were sky high. Everyone in the family led a highly busy and productive life.
Stefie and Priya often took turns spending the night at each other's houses and us moms would arrange play dates. Looking like two princesses, the girls would have a fun time together. Stefie with her long blond hair and big blue eyes, then Priya with her long jet black hair and dark black eyes. They were quite a pair.
In contrast to Stefie's dad as a Deputy Sheriff and knowing that her daddy was responsible for a good level of authority and power, so it was with Priya's father, except her dad worked as a Neonatal Surgeon at Texas Children's Hospital and lived with the authority and power over the lives of premature babies. However, Priya's dad had acquired such an incredible level of expertise that Stefie remembers the school's entire 5th grade watching a documentary about Priya's father because he helped keep the most premature baby ever delivered alive. His medical intervention helped the survival rates of preemies increase even more than could be imagined. Yes, Priya's father was a world-renowned neonatal surgeon and he also worked part of the time in New York.
One weekend, Priya went with us to our property to go camping. I explained very clearly to Priya's mother that being our land meant roughing it. We would not have a fully stocked kitchen, no private bathrooms, no walls...we would be sleeping in a pop-up tent with a porta-potty stuck in the corner of the screened in room, surrounded by a privacy shield. But, we did have acres of land, wildlife to observe and a big spring fed lake to swim in, instead of a chlorinated pool. Priya's mother thought that the opportunity for Priya to go camping was exciting. She'd never been camping, ever. They lived a life of regularly traveling to exotic ports, staying in luxurious hotels and always experiencing the best that money could buy.
There's nothing wrong with reaping the rewards of what you have sown. That family sacrified a lot to achieve their level of education and Priya's father missed many events because he was trying to save someone else's child. From the outside, people might have been jealous of what Priya's family enjoyed, but they would have to know them on a close level to understand all that it took to achieve their kind of success. I definitely admired their tenacity for perfection in all areas of life. They felt that life was to be lived as fully and as whole-heartedly as possible...with no excuses. It makes me mentally exhausted just thinking about their busy lifestyle.
However, we were ready to share an amazing secret with Priya, sometimes the "best" of what life has to offer is not for sale. Sometimes the "best" of life comes with the most simple choices. Sometimes life holds treasures around the corner instead of half way around the world.
|There's my Stefie, so young, making the "Peace" sign.|
Priya is standing next to her looking sweet in her glasses.
Preparing to leave for the country...Priya's mother dropped her excited daughter off at our house with a set of high-priced luggage packed and ready to go for a camping trip. She had no clue as to how to pack for camping...we all got a good hearted laugh out of seeing her large set of luggage ready to be put into the back of the truck...like the rest of our own luggage, wrapped inside a large black trash bag to protect it from the dirt and debris from the road trip. My children knew to pack their soft duffle bags...bags that they could shove into the crack of their camp bed for quick access. I think this was one of the first lessons Priya learned about roughing it...to pack light and to leave the bulky luggage at home.
Staying in a pop-up camper was a new experience for Priya. As I had mentioned, her house was immense. In fact, their house was so large that during Priya's birthday party, each person was assigned a "buddy" to get around the house so they would have less chance of being lost, alone. At the front door of Priya's house lay a not-politically-correct Snow Tiger skin, it had been shot and killed by Priya's father and uncle during a trip back home to India. It was quite a spectacle to go to their house and to have the front door opened only for you to look down onto the foyer floor and see a HUGE tiger's head still attached to the skin...looking up at you with teeth bared. Later, we found out that these were illegal. But, when you have power such as this family...what do such laws really mean? I have to say, it was pretty awesome. No, I'm not a member of PETA.
Priya was happy to go camping and to be free for a few days in a way she'd not experienced before. Back home, she had a world of private tutors waiting for more sessions, tennis lessons with a pro-instructor and everything of "perfection" expected of her. Her loving parents were also outrageously intelligent, so this set the bar very high for their two children. Camping meant she'd get to forget about anything except being a kid.
They got to play in the dirt, go scavaging for hidden forest treasures and not worry about being "presentable." For Priya, this was a lot of fun. That girl had beautiful clothes...she didn't shop at the Galleria or Baybrook Mall here in Houston, she shopped for her clothes in New York or when making her regular travels abroad. Deciding which clothes to wear for camping was probably a brand new welcomed challenge.
The first night in the camper, we pulled open the foldable table and let the girls take out their little packed "special" things to share. It was dark, so it was indoor time. Priya hauled a modern make-up case that had intricate inlaid designs on the case and a succession of trays that pulled out holding various shades of blush, eye-shadows, lipsticks and such. It was incredible. I'd never seen anything like this in my own life-time. My daughters sat in awe as Priya lovingly showed them her little treasure of make-up. I told Priya that the case was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen and she said, without any pretense, "I just got it a couple of weeks ago during our trip to Paris."
Us three girls looked at each and giggled, "Oh yes, Paris, of course."
Man, I should've known that make-up case would not be found at Walmart! But, we three girls had a great time looking at Priya's beautiful Paris gift. Priya simply gave us all her shining smile. I don't think she realized that going to Paris for a short trip was something very special...it was an ordinary trip to her
One thing is for sure...Priya found it thrilling to sleep in the wilderness with only a canvas tent popped out as the wall between her and the woods. She ate camp food as if it were the most delicious food she'd ever eaten and paddled around the lake in a little boat blown full of air. We roasted marshmellows around a camp-fire and screamed as the bats flew too close to our heads.
We took clean showers outside in our bathing suits, using the Sun/Solar Shower and Stefie still remembers, with humor, how Priya used almost all the water in one Sun-Shower bag that had been sitting out all day so it would be nice and warm...she had no idea about conserving water. That was our fault, we forget to tell her that one bag should last for at least two people to shower. A little kid has NO IDEA of this concept after a life-time of using unlimited tap water; she had no idea that a silly bag of water heated by the sun is a limited supply when camping in the wilderness. But, she did learn. Like I said, that girl was very intelligent, and it took about 24 hours of camping before she became a pro at it herself.
I wish I could find pictures of this trip. I've got them laying around here somewhere and will eventually get them scanned and posted. I even have a photo of the girls sitting inside the camper at the table as they all carefully inspected the make-up case from Paris with huge smiles. I'll find those picture; I may be slow, but I am determined.
|Deputy Dave getting the pop-up set up with his mother standing|
by and watching with humor.
|Later, we graduated to a hard-body camper with a SLIDE!|
Wahooooo! This was after we had worked like DOGS on our land for a couple of years.
We kept this camper at the property for about three years.
|RV kitchens...gotta love the cooking heat of an RV kitchen in the Texas heat!|
|Today's method of camping on our property.|
We're older and require less creature comforts.
|The tent with the carpet that I love...has rubber backing and doesn't slide around.|
One thing is for sure, I know Priya is surely an amazing, beautiful woman who anyone would be blessed to know. I hope life treats her well because she was so caring and loving, even while having the world at her fingertips. That kiddo definitely had a lot of burdens on her little shoulders...she had to work harder than ten people put together...but the expectations of her parents were not unreasonable because she was intelligent enough and diligent enough to meet each of them fully.
I am sure that her camping experience melded into her world in a strange, useful manner. For us, it was wonderful to share our little corner of the world. It may not have been as culturally enlightening as Paris, but our land sure did have a raw beauty to it. Our little forest became a wonderous retreat that could make some dreams come true for a kid.
Today, our land still holds the key to many of my own dreams, and I'm a big kiddo. Forget Paris.