Annie the Protector
After receiving her tent, Colleen waited patiently for summer. Actually, I may have misused the word “patiently” in that sentence. I’ll let you be the judge. Here’s how I would describe the six months between Christmas and the events in this story:
- December 25th: (Colleen) “Can I put up the tent Daddy?” — (Me) “No.”
- December 26th: “Can I put up the tent Daddy?” — “No.”
- December 27th: “Can I put up the tent Daddy?” — “No.”
- February 12th: “Can I put up the tent Daddy?” — “No.”
- February 13th: “Can I put up the tent Daddy?” — ”No.”
- July 10th: “Can I put up the tent Daddy?” — “No.”
- July 11th: ”Can I put up the tent Daddy?” — “Yes!”
After saying, “yes”, the limitation I placed on the tent’s installation was that I needed to mow the lawn first. I hadn’t been feeling well, and pushing my 800 pound commercial lawn mower around in the heat didn’t seem like fun. Still, I was willing to risk vomiting on my Toro for the sake of some girl scout sleepover fun.
With the lawn mowed and the dog poop scooped, the girls set about their tenting adventure. They actually managed to set it up with only minimal help from Daddy. I must say, I was impressed with their progress. All I needed to do was help them decipher the odd elastic poles. Once I showed them how they worked, they did the rest. They decided against the rain cover, partially because of the forecast of clear skies, but mostly because it finally looked like a tent and doing any more work seemed to be the opposite of fun. Oh, and for the record, they’re not saluting me in the picture, though I think that’s a rule I could live with. Colleen is actually shielding the sun from her eyes.
With the tent set up, I naturally started to regale the kids with stories of New Jersey bears. We do have bears in New Jersey, and they can be a problem, but we rarely see them where we live. Naturally, we have a different kind of bear trouble.
With the tent set up and the kids zipped up within it, we let the dogs out. Guinness immedietly noticed that there was something strange in the yard and proceeded to bark furiously at it from the top of the stairs. After mustering his courage to investigate closer, he discovered that the scary new yard monster had, in fact, consumed the children! He then did what any brave Newf would do; he set out to bark his way in.
After pulling Guinness off of the tent (twice), we unzipped the door to show him how it worked. Suddenly forgetting his previous vendetta against the yard monster, Guinness jumped inside and proceeded to spread out and relax in the cool shade. Annie soon followed, and suddenly the tent was knee-deep in dog. It would seem that a Coleman four-person tent will only provide shelter for one person and two Newfs, and that’s only if your primary concern is the comfort of the dogs.
After the dogs got bored and came back into the air-conditioned house, the girls set about making their home for the night comfortable. They collected sleeping bags, pillows, stuffed babies, flashlights, glow sticks and other various items necessary for a night of roughing it in the back yard. When darkness fell, they retired to their new lair to experience the great outdoors.
Lauren, having had plenty of camping adventures as a young Girl Scout, felt that their tenting adventure was missing something. She went to the cabinet, retrieved a previously unused Christmas present, and delivered unto the girls the antithisis of modern electronic entertainment: The Ouija Board.
For an hour, the girls sat out there with the Ouija Board between them, frustrated because it clearly wasn’t working right. Lauren, ever the good-hearted mother, set out to school the girls in proper old-school camping terror.
Where the ridiculous toy refused to function before, it now seemed to summon the spirit of a long-departed Native American Lenape girl named Wolf. This specter had been a part of the SGF7 clan, had first married at the age of 12, and had produced four children through her seven marriages. Oddly, none of this sounded suspicious to anyone present.
An hour later Colleen was sitting in the kitchen, hysterically crying about the ghost in the tent and how she was too scared to sleep there. Casting a raised eyebrow to the ghostly instigator, I asked Collie if the Ouija Board worked when they were alone.
“And when did it start working?”
“When Mommy came in to help us”
“And what do you make of that?”
“Did Mommy move it?”, Colleen asked me with big eyes and a pleading voice.
“I don’t know, why don’t you ask her?”
“Did you move it Mommy?”
Mommy would neither confirm nor deny that she had any part in the manipulation of the infernal device. Collie wanted to believe in the power of logic, but the lure of supernatural boogiemen was too strong for her to discount. I took pity on the poor girl and gave her a way out of her dilemma.
“You know Collie”, I told her, “there is no shame in wanting to sleep in the house. It is more comfortable in a bed after all.”
That was all she needed to hear. Given the option of her air-conditioned room, she chose it over her demon-infested tent where the vortex of evil waited to consume her. She gathered up Fimbo and her pillow, scampered up the stairs and jumped into her bed. The fact that she left her sister alone in the tent to face whatever demons may come didn’t seem to concern her. When I went out to check on Meghan and to ask if she would be all right alone in the tent, i found her to be asleep, which I took as a yes.
Lauren decided that she would do the right thing and go sleep with Meghan. I’m not sure how that was more of a right thing than letting her other daughter believe that the tent was haunted, but I can admittedly be fuzzy on such moral dichotomies. At any rate, Lauren was all set to go sleep in the tent with Meghan. It was a great plan until Lauren fell asleep in her chair. Hey, if you had to deal with me all day, you’d be tired too.
So at this point, Meghan was alone in the tent, Colleen was safe in her bed, and Lauren was asleep in her chair. That left me, and it just seemed creepy for a 46 year-old dad to sleep in a tent with his 11-year old daughter. Hell, she barely lets me in her room anymore.
I decided that I would stay up late and check on her every now and again. I tend to be a bit of a night owl anyway, so I managed to stay up until 4:00 A.M. For the entire time Meghan was out there alone, Annie remained on the top of the deck stairs, watching over the tent. I didn’t have to tell her to do this, she decided to assume the sentry post on her own.
I’m a bit of a security freak. I don’t like to leave doors or windows open, and I’ll lock any door I walk through. Lauren still tells people the story about how I locked her out when she was nine months pregnant. I guess what really set her off was the fact that I asked to see some I.D. when she knocked on the door. At any rate, I had left the sliding door open for the kids so that they could come inside if zombies attacked during the night. That alone kept me up, but I also had to check on Meghan every half hour or so. You know, in case of zombies. Every time I walked out, Annie sat and watched from her perch on the stairs, and looked at me as if to say, It’s OK – I’ve got this watch.
I sat with Annie and told her that she was a good girl, and that I was glad she was out here watching over my Meghan. I told her that she was doing a great job, and that she could stay out all night long if she wished. She listened quietly, all the while keeping an eye on the tent. She had a job to do, and there was no time for nonsense.
Normally, if I pet Annie and walk away, she will get up and follow me. I’m sure she thinks that if I pet her once, that I surely mean to pet her forever. I imagine that she’d be constantly disappointed with this viewpoint, but I think Annie is an eternal optimist. Annie also usually gets up and walks inside when I go to bed. Not this night though. This night I patted her on the head, said “Watch my Meghan, good girl”, and went back inside. When I got back inside I turned, expecting Annie to be right beside me so I could close the door behind her. Annie sat at her post all night, quietly watching the tent.
Meghan slept outside all night, blissfully unaware that Annie was watching over her, protecting her from zombies, bears, and the ghosts of clan SGF7.