Roll On, Poppy Wagon

Roll On, Poppy Wagon


The water dried. I emerged from the basement. There was a break in the rain and camping was long overdue. One year ago, I bought a camper on a whim with no real idea of how to pull it or set I up by myself. Poppy is her name. It’s a girl and yes, that is completely symbolic. I wanted to give my babes adventure and squeeze the life out of our days together. Who knows when it will all change for us? It moved us in big wonderful ways and we wanted more.

Most often, it seems that the unplanned, last minute adventures come together best for us. With one day’s notice, I asked sister to join and without hesitation she was in. Christmas morning excitement ensued.

Watching the enthusiasm build in my babes as we opened the camper for the first time quickly reminded me of the reasons that this is so important to us. They were eager to help, scrambling for the next chore, contributing to the preparation of the trip, wanting to be involved in all of the details, caring for their beloved Poppy. My little man and I remind each other of the next steps, stumbling through a few of them.

I find myself talking through the details of the process aloud. Perhaps it was imprinted upon me in my younger days, my father and mother often doing the same. I want them to understand why we do things, how things work. I notice myself doing this often and in those moments, my father winks at me from above. It’s like a brief and sacred interaction with him. I can only hope I’m passing along some valuable nuggets – skill, responsibility, problem solving. I want the kids to feel like they have a very important role in making our trips possible. I want to help them shape this experience as privilege versus chore and take pride in the job accomplished. I hold high expectations but offer very intentional praise and gratitude.

A few weeks after we bought Poppy home, Sister landed her own camper. We are a caravan of rolling camp cousins. We fill in the missing pieces for each other, we park together, and we inspire each other. We talk about how proud our father would be – how proud he IS – of this scene. We are certain he’d have a chair pulled up around the fire, sharing stories of his adventures – us hanging on to every word.

Our days are full and rich with a balance of free-flowing unplugged childhood and projects or activities shared as a group…

4 cousins, spanning nearly 14 years, playing together – seamlessly.

Catching the tiniest of toads and frogs, and building habitats to keep them in for a day of fascination and learning.

A beautifully weathered metal bridge spanning over the creek that winds through the campground defines this setting for me.

Hiking through the dock paths lined in tall green reeds creating a labyrinth, braving snakes and spying frogs.

Watching the kids capture the beauty of this country campground on canvas for my Happy Place Wall – a vision in the making. Traces of paint remain on the picnic table. We’ll look for them when we return.


Bracelet making, sketching, nature journals, and branch weaving. Water balloon fights that don’t ever last long.


Slathering the mosquito bites with cream to weaken the itch. Oh, the mosquito bites.

Watching the kids run back to the campsite from the playground and creek, chattering like a pack of crazy flailing Muppets, each with their own style of movement and highlights to share.

Waking in the morning to birds and filtered sunshine, kisses on each side of my cheek, humidity bedhead hairdos. Our morning conversations in the right wing of Poppy are easy, and deep, and infused with snuggles. I can’t think of many better feelings than in that instant. Simplicity.

The evenings bring us all together again, closing the day, shifting into a slower gear.

Hotdogs roasted over the fire, fresh apple pie, and fudge covered brownies – three of the food groups covered.

Progressive ghost stories – each one of us having a turn around the table to elaborate – offer just the right recipe of innocence and toilet humor to make us roar, fighting to muffle our open-mouth laughter, as not to disrupt other campers. Sister and I can laugh.

A niece, front lit with a flashlight, reads spooky stories in the dark. They are delivered with great concentration and articulation, miming every single action along the storyline.


A nearly full, glowing moon is framed by crisp leaf silhouettes overhead, lighting our stage.

The sound of farm trucks and semis passing in the night on the distant county road. The crescendo of their passing brings sister and I back to our days of staying on our grandparents’ farm off the highway, drifting toward sleep in the pink bedroom at the front of the house. Comfort.

On the last morning of stay, we woke to pounding rain over a thunder track – 3 inches in just a few hours. We lost power. Naturally, the only thing to do was lantern lit crafting. After a couple of hours we decided to gather our goodies (food and craft supplies – the necessities) and make a run for Sister’s camper to ride this thing out together. What we missed on the way over was the text message she sent warning us that her camper was in a lake. Ankle deep water surrounded the repurposed barge. Adventure.

With wet shoes kicked off, we got cozy drawing, playing games, and branch weaving, each in our own nook of the camper. We look like a pack of traveling gypsies and I love it. As trash bag refugees, we all went running and squealing across the campground covered in plastic bags, slopping through puddles, headed for the bathrooms when we couldn’t hold it any longer. I’m not going to mention what the earlier bathroom breaks looked like when the downpour was preventing us from making the trip. It was true thrilling adventure for the kids – just getting there. We laughed from the gut as we checked out our get-up in the bathroom mirror. Living.


It’s not all smooth and romantic. It’s hard work. It’s mental energy, and prep, and muscles, and cooperation. And it’s worth every minute of it. Digging deep offers an appreciation for the result that much greater.

I love that we’re learning together, these babes and I. I want them to see me do hard things. I want them to watch me struggle. And I want them to see me thrive.

We waited a long time for this. It’s sweeter than I remember.

Roll on, Poppy Wagon.



  1. Love. What great adventures you have with your family. :-)

  2. Heather M says


  3. Cousin love is the best! Loved reading this and your IG pics :)

  4. harriette says

    I wanted the story to keep going…what a beautiful time, new memories and best thoughts and emotions about your dad. He surely would be more than proud and your children will always know the meaning of love. You are one in a million Jessa♡

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