If you’re like me, you look at the word “hygge” and think it’s a remix of something Will Smith wrote when he was still Fresh Prince-ish kind of cool and then you have an ear worm that is really not my fault because you should get your head out of the 90s.
If that sounds like really aggressive way to launch a subject, it’s because I’ve got “Na na na na na na na nana” going through my head, so … sorry.
Hygge actually sounds like a whole lotta vowels you probably can’t say properly if you grew up speaking American English, but it’s kind of like HYOO-gah, and it’s a Danish term someone sent me because we’re hosting a Danish exchange student and our kid’s in Denmark on his own exchange and my mom has told everyone who will listen that we’re one-sixteenth Danish or something, so obviously we’re crazy for all things Danish.
Hygge loosely translates as “coziness,” and makes me think about Sunday mornings in college, when we’d wear pajamas until noon, drink coffee, heat up those pop-from-a-cylinder cinnamon rolls, and put off laundry and homework until we’d wrung out the last dregs of the weekend.
Fast-forward a few years and there wasn’t a lot of hygge. What there was was a lot of keeping an ear out for the random little person dumping Legos in the toilet. Later there was the fielding of complaints about how everyone else in the world gets to watch The Walking Dead on Netflix.
If anyone asks me later to sum up parenting in two sentences, that will have been it.
Now, though, we have one kid out of the house, and his replacement is a lot less demanding. The other kid is a hermit in the basement and only comes up for snacks. It’s been easier to get a little hyggeligt around here. At least, if I don’t get in the way first.
But then that’s sometimes the problem.
We had a Labor Day weekend plan for a ten-mile trek through some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery there is, up to a Central Idaho mountain lake, a place Mike and I haven’t visited since before the era of toilet legos and Netflix arguments.
I wanted to see it again, and show our exchange student that we’re not just famous for potatoes. I visualized clear, cold skies and sore legs and a feeling of accomplishment as we rounded the last bend to find the lake spread out before us.
Okay, maybe they wouldn’t be clear skies, per se. With a ginormous wildfire currently turning big swaths of the state into Mordor, it would likely be smoky even where we were.
And we aren’t all in fighting shape either. Mike’s been dealing with knee problems for the better part of a year, and Anna’s hip had been bothering her since she’d started Cross Country practice a few weeks ago. She’s supposed to be taking it a little easy.
But everyone was willing to rally, so on with the plan.
Step one for camping is to stock a cache of crappy camping food: Pop Tarts, chips, trail mix, jerky, cookies, pop. Junk I pretend I never buy unless we’re roughing it.
Step two is to pack for weather. Whatever temperature it is home, it’s usually about twenty-five degrees colder there, and we were in for a little cold snap. Mike dragged all the sleeping bags from the closet and piled them in the living room and I monitored the forecast. I realized “cold” was going to mean “holy moly cold” on this particular weekend. Polar ice cap cold. Surface-of-freaking-Pluto cold.
And there’d be no campfire, either. We’ve had such a dry summer, the powers-that-be were banning open flame of any kind. Even charcoal briquettes. That meant no s’mores, no dutch-oven cooking. No warming ourselves around a cheery fire as the stars came out. When the sun went down, we’d be socked in a teensy trailer, trying to play cards with gloves on.
My enthusiasm for the plan was waning, but I shook myself out of it. We’re no quitters.
As the weekend approached, I kept toggling between the forecast and a webcam set up to show the tiny town and the mountains that normally towered over it. The smoke wasn’t going away and the weather was going from polar-ice-cap-cold to polar-ice-cap-cold plus precipitation, which means snow.
I am not kidding. Freaking snow on Labor Day weekend.
Even then, I was thinking: Stop being a wussy. We’d bought Pop Tarts. A plan is a plan.
It was the thunderstorms that got me. A 60% chance in the mountains. I can play a mean gin rummy in gloves, but I don’t mess around with lightning when I’m that much closer to the sky. I called it.
So long plan.
We hunted around for a bit for another overnight trip that didn’t involve snow or smoke or thunderstorms, and where we thought we had a reasonable hope of an open camping space, but nope. The junk food was pilfered from bags on the counter. The sleeping bags remained in a pile on the floor.
And we pivoted. We took in a day hike in the foothills one afternoon, a long bike ride on another, and visited a nearby State Park we’d never been to, which boasts the tallest free-standing sand dunes in North America, and is someplace we probably should have thought about at a time when we were actively trying to dissuade a couple of little people from clogging our plumbing with toys.
And when someone sent me something about a Danish term I’d never heard before, which vaguely translates into forgetting about deadlines and not letting random acts of weather bum you out, I rather thought that was the perfect way to describe our weekend.
That and “Na na na na na na na nana.”
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