I was born into a family of campers. My parents tell stories of camping with my 6 month old sister in a tent. My sister and I goad my father about the time we were camping outside Ottawa, and everything that could go wrong did, and so she and I were sent out on a walk to “find the bathrooms” so my father could vent his rage in a more offensive language. We’ve seen it all, from field to forest, from east coast to west coast in our trusty tent trailer. My sister even spent a summer living in it one year.
You would think with that background in “roughing it” I would be accustomed to less than stellar facilities. But here is the important thing to note: my mother married into a camping family. As a result, some accommodations have been made on her behalf. We camped at sites with electricity, when possible, to run a portable heater when necessary. We limited camping to a couple weeks, or a small handful of weekends, rather every weekend, like the excursions my father’s family took all summer. And most importantly, we camped at campgrounds with above adequate washroom facilities.
You see, my need for a proper toilet is genetic.
I married into a family of cottagers. You would think that camping vs. cottaging would likely mean that I would be improving upon my camping-toilet upbringing. And regarding the cabin that my in-laws owned when I married into the family, a case certainly could be made to support that. It was a nice cabin, boasting two washrooms: a three piece just off of the kitchen, and a two piece just out back. While I never set foot in the outhouse (I was told on my first visit out to the cabin, the indoor washroom was “The Girls Washroom”), I did try the outdoor shower a time or two. Quite refreshing, I must say.
Sure, the cabin did have it’s short comings (I never did get to see the kitchen not in a state of being remodelled), it was cozy and met my requirements for acceptable facilities. But with a father-in-law who is never happy just sitting (he has “retired” many a time, only to get bored, and start working again), once the cabin was nearing completion, it was time to move on and move up.
It turns out the best way to ensure that my father-in-law remained retired was to ensure that he had no end of projects, and those projects came in the form of not one but two cabins PLUS a boathouse with sleeping quarters. Now don’t get me wrong, the place is amazing (picturesque landscapes, a lake made for boating and fishing, and a location so remote you can’t get there by land). But there is no end of projects. And the bathrooms? They function. And for now, that’s good enough for them. In fact, they do more than function — they even provide some topic for conversation. The main cabin’s bathroom slopes at a dangerous angle making you constantly fear falling off the toilet. And there are a couple steps you have to climb once you’re in the bathroom in the guest cabin just to sit on the composting toilet. And you never know what kind of reading material you’ll find in the outhouse (which is reserved for the “big jobs” I was told when I first arrived).
In the year and a half that they’ve owned the cabin, we’ve been up twice. Admittedly, in the year and a half that they’ve owned the cabin, we bought a house and had a baby, so it’s been busy. I kept expressing apprehension at taking the baby up there every time my in-laws laid on the guilt. After all, the first time we went up was only for a day trip because at 9 months pregnant, no one was that crazy about having me on an island in another province even if medical care is just a 7 minute boat ride away. And isn’t a baby a more delicate creature than a pregnant woman?
The second time was this last weekend when we found ourselves unexpectedly with some time on our hands. It was supposed to be a day trip. I kept telling my in-laws and my husband that it would be rough on the baby — being in a new place, and going through this sleep regression, and cutting some teeth, and on and on and on. But in the back of my head, I kept calculating how many times I was willing to go to the bathroom there. If I was conservative on my liquid intake, and stayed away from alcohol, I could handle the minimum required bathroom stops over 12 hours, including a total of 4 hours of travel time. But as the tall fir trees whizzed past us, the steep rock walls climbed either side of the highway, and the lake glistened in the sun, I became mesmerized and found myself agreeing to stay the night before we even boarded the boat to get to our island destination.
“In the end, it only mean packing a couple more diapers than we would have needed for just the day” I rationalized to my father-in-law as we loaded up the boat with the bags and suitcases required to take a baby anywhere for more than an hour. And that’s when the reality hit me. My “12 hours” quickly climbed past 24, and there was no getting around the bathroom issue, even if I got creative and went swimming just to pee in the lake. Suddenly, I was jealous of my daughter for getting to wear diapers.
Nine diapers later (for the little lady, not me), we arrived back home, and I made a b-line for the bathroom. Sure, we missed cleaning day with our impromptu trip, but it was a nice to be on a porcelain thrown of my own. As relief washed over me (as I relieved myself), I realized the level of my bathroom paranoia. I had spent the 24 hours fixating on my apprehension over using less than pristine, (and somewhat unconventional) facilities, instead of realizing the countless struggles we overcame in those few hours that were immeasurably more difficult than basic waste removal. Our little girl survived (and didn’t completely hate) her first two boat rides. We managed to get a decent night sleep with a baby sleeping in a new place in a new bed. We even managed to stay dry during a thunderstorm that caused our cabin’s ceiling to leak. And we managed to have fun through it all.
I’m sure in the months and years ahead, the cabins will be fixed, possibly even including the bathrooms. We’ll undoubtedly take more day, weekend, and maybe even week long trips up there. I also have no doubt there will be many times we’ll talk about a trip up to the lake and I’ll raise a concern about “the baby” taking a tumble down the treacherous stairs, or “the baby” screaming the entire drive, or “the baby” getting caught in the rain on the boat on the way out to the island. And in the back of my head I’ll know that the real baby will adapt just fine, it’s me, the big baby, that just has to make sure she doesn’t get her panties in a knot when it comes to going to the bathroom.