The tradition of camping in my backyard began simply enough. We had one tent in our garage that fit two people. I wanted to build it and my father — after what I have to imagine was some deeply baleful pleading — consented to help out. The thing snapped together and, along with it, my plan to sleep outside. I convinced my parents, who had no particular reason to resist, to let me nest for the night in on a grass-patch of my backyard that was flat and covered by a long row of trees. I’d sleep within feet of the swimming pool.
It was not as though my desire to sleep outside stemmed from some sort of curiosity about camping. I had been camping with various YMCA father-daughter groups and alongside my brother’s Boy Scouts troop. I liked it, but knew the difference between that and sleeping in the yard. Still, for a kid, even the smallest sort of adventure is an adventure. And every adventure has its benefits.