It was the summer of 1999. I had just successfully completed the second grade and was looking forward to three months of wearing Winnie the Pooh overalls and having Lemonade stands with my best friend.
I was not looking forward to swim practice every day. But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway. This summer my family decided to take a camping trip to Calaveras Big Trees for nine days. Why do I remember that it was nine days? I don’t know. Why do I remember that I wore a navy blue windbreaker to TGI Fridays on my 11th birthday? I don’t know that either. Nevertheless, for nine days, my family camped. And when we camp, we do it right. None of that sissy camper trailer nonsense. Just us, campfires, dirt, no showering, the open road and singing songs from the Forrest Gump cassette tape that played in our Ford Aerostar.
I remember learning to fish in the Stanislaus River, hearing my dad tell us the story of how a bear tore up his brother’s t shirt when they were kids, gold panning at Beaver Creek and the Lava Trail.
The Lava Trail is a legend in my family.
Why we hiked it, no one knows. In fact, you will still strike a cord with my family if you bring it up. Sometimes we blame that hike on Dad. Sometimes on Mom. Either way, there is a lively debate. Kind of like the ones we get into when we try to decide where to go out to dinner. It’s all Hannah’s fault for not liking Mexican food.
Anyway. The Lava Hike. There was no lava. Or lava rocks. Unless we repressed the memories of them. I’ll tell you what there was. There was a poison oak sanctuary. So we retreated. But it was too late. Because we had all been in it for long enough.
The time following it was a blur. Mom was putting all of our clothes in plastic bags. We were yelling about whose idea it was to go on this hike where we didn’t even see any lava. Hannah was only 3 and was not pleased to be losing her pink Keds.
We needed Fels-Naptha.
Fels-Naptha is some sort of weird soap that takes stains out of clothes. It also works for treating poison oak. Who figured that out? Someone just got poison oak one day and was like, “Oh, I’ll rub laundry soap on myself”? Anyway, it works. Except apparently not on my mom who got poison oak anyway.
The Lava Hike, while terrible at the time, and still not a resolved debate, is one of the things that my family can still laugh about (sometimes). So that’s why when I saw some Fels-Naptha in WinCo, I sent it right on down to California to my mom. She’ll get a kick out of that stuff, after she recovers from remembering the incident.
That’s one of my favorite things to get in the mail. Quirky presents or things that remind me of inside jokes. It means that someone has been thoughtful and that you are important to them. So that’s my thought that counts for today – send a joke present. It can be Fels-Naptha, an exact replica of the Mayflower from Goodwill that you and your friend used to play with at your family’s house etc. Go forth and get creative – the USPS can be your best friend.