One of the appeals of the annual camping trip is that my sister and her family always come with us. This means that, at least once a year, I get to spend an extended amount of time with my four nieces.
They are [read: were at the time of vacationing] 10, 7, 5, and 2. Good ages! And ages that make for hilarity, given the appropriate contexts.
They’re all smart as whips, which means I often spend my time regaled with facts. 10 loves to talk to me about the books she reads and the stories I write, but is not opposed to whipping out a fun fact as the situation demands it.
7 is obsessed with birds (which makes her a great companion for my dad, who is infected with a similar zeal). Most conversations have an ornithological bent to them for this reason – luckily, I live with my dad, which has trained me to be a good aunt for these conversations.
2 is so. funny. Melodrama? She’s got it in spades. She somehow juggles a million of her own comedy bits with an unforgiving attitude for any sarcasm you might level at her, which makes her a very interesting (and entertaining) little person to hang out with.
5 loves me.
I love all of my nieces, of course. But 5 is particularly enamored of me, which does have a certain appeal as an auntie. I was informed, on day 3 of my vacation, that it 5 “always want to be holding you or [brother 4]’s hand.”
So, yeah. That’s very cute.
In addition to being some of my favorite kids ever and being unbelievably precocious, my nieces are a very active bunch. Thus, camping (and the ensuing hiking) is fun with them. They have a lot of energy and their wonderment at nature’s oddities (abundant in Yellowstone, especially) are a lot of fun to be around.
The funniest, coolest thing, as declared by my nieces?
We saw a number of mud pots across the week I was with my family in the parks, and they were the biggest of hits.
When brother 4 joked that the white mud pot looked tasty, that was unbelievably funny.
I will admit, the mud pots are cool. There’s something about – well, bubbling mud – that satisfies a primordial part of the human brain.
But there is something about bubbling mud that satisfies every part of the child brain, apparently.
Peals of giggles followed us around and down the trail from the bubblin’ mud as my nieces reminisced on the mud pots, their inherent hilarity, and the amusement of jokes made about the mud pots.
This was amusing to surrounding strangers as well as our nuclear group.
Allow me to use that as a smooth segue to talk about strangers in national parks.
Strangers in a normal setting are just that: strangers. Even if you don’t actively make an impression on each other, you are ships in the night. Acknowledgement is typically minimal.
Something about national parks – or vacations in general, I suppose – makes us all more aware of each other, and more amenable to the existence of people we don’t know.
In line for a pit toilet (at the end of the well-regarded mud pot hike), there was a certain … rapport. There was a tired cheerfulness. My mother participated in pit toilet banter with the woman behind us, which is a unique sentence.
I have no real meaningful line to draw out of this observation, it’s just an observation. It’s kind of an nice thing.
I guess the point of this week’s post is one we all know, anyway, but that’s nice anyway: the people you go places with are the ones that make it meaningful.
And also, bubbling mud is really funny.