Before leaving Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinios, where my husband was stationed for his last three years of active duty, we met a couple with a young family who we enjoyed spending time with. They lived in a suburb of Chicago, Ill.
After Eric left the service and we moved to Avoca, we stayed in contact with them and met them once a year for a camping trip. Most of the time we met somewhere in Wisconsin, as it was between our two towns.
It was kind of a country mouse and city mouse thing, but we all enjoyed the trips.
We had the three kids, who were 2, 4 and 9 when Eric left the service, and Jeff and Cheryl Liszka had two girls, Jessica and Cassie. I think Jessie is the same age as Matt, Cassie two years younger. My daughter Maggie was quite a bit older than the rest of the kids, but had fun fussing over the little girls and ordering around her little brothers.
One time, several years into our annual trip habit, we went to a campground in Black River Falls, Wis. Cassie, the youngest kid of the whole batch, was three or four. It was evening, getting close to bedtime, when Cheryl took Cassie to the port-a-potty, located just a short distance from our tents and campfire.
Off they went, with Cassie carrying the electric lantern. After Cheryl helped Cassie use the facilities, she had Cassie wait right outside the door while she did the same.
The rest of us were gathered around the campfire chatting when a blood-curdling scream came ripping across the night. Before the rest of us could even react, Jeff had hurdled the fire and was dashing through the woods. We all followed suit, and discovered Cassie waving the lantern around frantically, screeching, while Cheryl jumped around her.
“Jeff, help me,” Cheryl yelled, but all of us stood there in bafflement. There was no threat, no wounds, nothing scary.
Apparently, Cassie had been waiting outside with the lantern and a moth had done what moths do, and dive-bombed her light. She basically sucked in air and let it out in one long, continuous scream and started waving the lantern at the moth. Cheryl, hearing the screech, had run out of the port-a-potty to save her baby from whatever threat was there. As she flung open the door and headed toward Cassie, she was still pulling up her shorts. The moth, after being assaulted by a swinging lantern, headed for safety.
“It’s in my pants,” Cheryl yelled. “It flew in my pants!”
Poor Jeff wasn’t sure what to do next. Cassie was still screeching, Cheryl was dancing, and Jessie looked like she was ready to burst into tears because the scream had scared her.
My boys, being my boys, had already started giggling, and Maggie and I were already heading toward Cassie to calm her down. But Cassie only wanted her mom. Maggie got Jessica in on the action and Cassie was willing to accept her sister’s hugs. Eric corralled the boys and dragged them away so Cheryl could have some privacy, and Jeff helped her remove the offending moth, who probably flew away quite dazed from the whole experience.
Cheryl cuddled Cassie for a while, and we eventually got all the little kids settled down and sleeping. Then the rest of us started smiling, and trying to hold it in so we would’t offend Cheryl. Pretty soon guffaws were breaking free and she gave us a look.
“Oh, just let it go,” she said and we all lost it, breaking into laughter that lasted half the night.
To this day, more than a decade later, I can look at Eric and say, “Moth!” and he will start chuckling.
Good times, Liszka family. Good times.
I remember telling Eric, “The first year we can’t make our schedules work and don’t camp, we’ll never get back to doing it and we’ll never see them again.”
Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened, but we must have gotten five years of trips in first.