ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

TOO MUCH HEAVEN?

Six months ago, when we started talking about taking the family camping this week, it sounded like a great idea.

No phones. No faxes. No computers.

No schedules to meet, no deadlines to beat, no public relationships to facilitate.

Just peace and quiet in the great outdoors, with a lake, a few trees and the people I love most in the world. Back in February, that sounded like Heaven.

But as the date for our family camping trip has drawn closer, I've been wondering if the Bee Gees were right, and there's such a thing as "too much Heaven."

"OK, now I'm just speaking hypothetically here," I said to Anita last week. "But what if we get up there, and after three or four days we decide we've had enough camping and we want to come home? I mean, that wouldn't be such a bad thing, would it? Three or four days of camping - that would be good, wouldn't it?"

Anita didn't say anything, but her icy glare told me everything I needed to know. We're going camping. All week. Five nights. Six days. We who are about to camp salute you.

There's probably a good reason why I'm a little nervous about this. We didn't do a lot of camping as a family when I was growing up. No, I take that back. We didn't do ANY camping. My Dad traveled so much during the week, the last thing he wanted to do on the weekend was pack up the Impala and head off again. My Mom's idea of camping was Best Western. My two older sisters weren't interested in anything that didn't require make-up, hair spray and a Jantzen sweater. Our entire inventory of camping gear consisted of one (count it - one) green and yellow sleeping bag, a flashlight and a World War II surplus canteen. If we had gone camping with the Donner-Reed party, we would have been dinner.

Anita's family, on the other hand, is big on camping. For example, when her grandmother died, her grandfather moved out of the house and into his camper and has only spent a handful of nights under non-mobile roofs since. Her parents are every bit as comfortable camping as they are at home (of course, the fact that they tow the Taj Mahal of trailers behind their truck probably has something to do with it). They love to camp, and they're good at it. They have the equipment and the experience, and if anything should go wrong, Dad Padilla has the know-how to fix anything, anywhere. And if he can't fix it, he'll make a new one out of wire, wood and duct tape.

So we're going camping. Thankfully, Anita's parents are joining us, so we'll be safe - and we'll have that trailer to escape to when we get tired of roughing it in our tent. We've packed enough food and goodies to elevate the cholesterol level of Luxembourg. And we'll have a good time, I know it. All that stuff I've been wanting to do with my kids but have had to put off until we have time . . . well, we'll have time. Boy, will we have time. Six days, to be precise.

It's just that . . . holy cow . . . six days!

Anita thinks I'm addicted to stress and that I'm subconsciously afraid of so much tranquility - you know, that "too much Heaven" thing. Personally, I think it's bears that I'm afraid of. And snakes. And Lyme disease, whatever that is. But if I AM addicted to stress, camping should be like rehab, and I'm about to go through six days of withdrawal.

We who are about to camp salute you.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.