Hope, Terror Haze and Old German Tourists
We went Fall camping, which is awesome if you can get two days off work, live 3½ hours from Jasper National Park, the daytime highs are 27°C and you have a tent trailer with a furnace. Yes, that’s right. Not a backbacking tent which is enveloped with condensation by 4 AM, but a nice cozy tent trailer with a kick-butt furnace pumping out the BTU’s all night. This is necessary in the Rocky Mountains because, no matter how warm it is mid-day, come breakfast time it’s going to be hovering around 5°C. From toques, to shorts, to fleece, to toques all in 16 hour period. Nature is not that forgiving, especially to your wardrobe.
I would say that I was tough, but that would be a lie. Hardy, in that I can take all the frosted breath and brisk hikes to the ladies’ washroom. Dear Husband convinced me to take all the kids — including the small ones — up the Jasper Tramway, which can best be described as a tiny, metal box which zooms up the side of a rock face attached to a tiny, metal cable, all while your children press their oblivious faces to the window screaming, “Look how far doooowwn it is!” Now I, sans kids, had hiked up this rock face and I thought it was quite tame. However I had never considered what a sheer drop of 2400 odd feet combined with progeny with no common sense and slow reflexes would do to my adrenaline level. We’re talking about a 3 year old who runs to the side of a cliff, starts jumping up and down, yelling: “If you jumped off this cliff, you would be DEEEAAAAD!!! Right Mommy?!!” Or nearly crashes into the sliding glass doors that open onto the tram when it isn’t there, just an elevator shaft straight into Hell, to, yet again, demonstrate what one should NOT do in the name of safety. When we finally touched down, unharmed, on God’s sweet Earth at the bottom,
Dear Husband asked me if I was okay.
“A haze of terror. That’s all I remember. Children running to their death and sheer, unadulterated terror.”
He agreed not to take me back up there again.
Jasper, like all the Rocky Mountains, attracts visitors from all over the world. English, Australians, Japanese (less and less), Chinese (more and more), Americans (varies from year to year), and always, Germans. It wouldn’t feel like you hit the mountains unless you heard “ich bin…” or “Stimmt!” at some point when walking around town. If the Parks are open, there’s a German somewhere in it. Including all over our campground. Which was the weirdest part of our trip. All the sites in this campground are extremely open, including ours which was smack-dab next to a walking path to the showers. All the nice Commonwealth types would walk by with a friendly greeting and smile at the children. The Germans though, would return my hello, and immediately look away. As soon as our gaze was averted, they would then start staring at our children. When I caught them, they would immediately look away, and pretend to be really interested in a tree. This happened over, and over, and over again.
Our way too young to be driving a rented RV site neighbours, were the worst. This young couple could barely mutter a word to us, but would stand there — when they thought we didn’t see them — and gawk at us. I couldn’t understand why they just didn’t come up and ask us where the kids were from. But then it I caught one facial expression that I was not meant to see. Embarrassment. They were staring because they felt it was obscene to see a family with so many children. They were watching a freak show, and they didn’t want to admit it. No, these folks had no shame in driving around in a Granny-mobile in their 30’s, wearing uber-expensive mountaineering clothes to walk around handicap accessible groomed trails, and leaving their empty wine bottles at the entrance to the campsites for the “forest fairies” to collect for recycling, but were ashamed for us that we had too many children for their tastes. Huh. Auf Wiedersehen right back at you, Sweetheart. (Did I mention the Australians were really nice?)
I have children because I have hope. At one point I had no hope, and I had no children. I do not believe that life is pointless, I do not believe that God will fail, and I do not believe that things will ever get so bad that I will wish that the human race would disappear in favour of the Dominion of Slugs. There’s a trite expression, “Children are God’s way of saying the world should go on.” They are also people’s way of saying that they should go on. But if you have no hope, and then why should you go on? Waste your money and time travelling around foreign countries, trying to fill your days with some pleasure and diversion, before it all comes to its meaningless end. Staring at big families when they’re not looking. Like I said, Auf Wiedersehen Sweetheart.
(Sorry for the rant. Did I mention the Australians were really, really nice?)