I am going to camp on Saturday! Nine hours in a van filled with noisy kids. Seven days as a cabin co-counselor for 8 and 9 year old girls. Heat. Mosquitos. Uncomfortable beds. The smell of sweaty teenage boys permeating everything. Can I just say . . . I CAN’T WAIT! Kacey has wanted me to go to camp every year since she was 12 and this year apparently Jupiter has aligned with Mars and I am South Carolina-bound! Kevin, I might add, is not as excited as his sister. There is something innately uncool to a 15-year-old “guy” (‘cause he’s not a “boy” anymore) about his mom going to camp with him. I will try not to embarrass him more than a couple of times every day.
So, a few weeks ago, Kacey bought me, what she referred to as “the coolest Mother’s Day Gift of all time!” - a camp survival kit: Red sweatshirt, red mini-hairdryer, red water bottle, red electric fan, red rain poncho . . . you get the idea. Now, the gift itself could definitely not be considered the coolest of all time, it is the sentiment behind it that makes it cool. Maybe I should tell the whole story. It all started the summer before we left Jackson . . .
Kacey was a wee little thing. Seven to be exact, and she was going to camp for the first time. (Not PBC, but one a bit closer to home.) She was uber-excited. Talked about it every day. See, Kacey has never known a stranger. Every time we walked out the front door she would make a new friend. (Not counting her imaginary friends, but that is a VERY different story suitable for another blog day.) So camp was right up her alley. New friends, swimming, activities, singing. So, being the “cool mom” that I am, I got her all matching stuff for camp. I bought pink and yellow towels to match her pink sheets and the yellow blanket with pink buttons sewn on the top side that I made for her. We bought a pink rubbermaid container to use in place of a suitcase.
And then there were the practical things. I taught her how to do her own hair, ponytail style. We worked on it for days and days so she could get it just right and be the cutest little angel at camp. I also rolled her clothes so they wouldn’t wrinkle, and marked them according to each day. Shorts and tops rolled together with clean undies on the outside (so they could be easily gotten the night before because she would be showering each night before bed, per my instructions, thus keeping her sheets and her pj’s clean all week). Anyway, her clothes were rolled into 6 little rolls, one for each day of the camp week and secured with matching socks and scrunchies to complete her ensembles. It was going to be a perfect week.
Sunday afternoon came, and we drove to camp and got her registered. At 112 degrees fahrenheit with 99% humidity, I opted not to stay the afternoon, but to let her go on and do her own thing. As I told her we were leaving, a look of panic swept over her face. “You’re not going to stay???” No, honey, mommy is going home, but I will be back to pick you up on Friday evening. (Minor detail. What we have here is a failure to communicate. I ASSUMED she knew I wasn’t staying the week. She assumed I would be playing Tonto to her Lone Ranger in the bunk below her.) As I got in the car and backed up, I caught my baby’s face in the rear view mirror . . . crying. CRYING??? My baby doesn’t cry. Oh, what kind of mother am I???? But in my heart I KNEW she was going to love camp. I blew her a kiss and I was off. I sent her goofy letters all week. Some written backwards that she would have to read in the mirror. Some in multiple envelopes with only one word per page. I even sent her ice in a baggie so she could “stay cool”.
Friday evening did not arrive any too soon. I drove up the gravel road, envisioning my daughter running to meet me (wearing the cute little navy and green polka-dot fish outfit that was labeled for Friday with her hair neatly ponytailed). Instead, she was nowhere to be found. I checked the pavilion, the dining hall, the tennis court . . . but no. So I went to her cabin to begin loading her things into the car. And they were just as I suspected. Neat. Clean. Pink rubbermaid box tightly closed . . . with all her clothes still inside neatly folded and scrunchy-wrapped! I stuck my head out of the cabin door just in time to catch a glimpse of somebody’s nasty little child wearing . . . wearing the same clothes that Kacey was wearing when I dropped her off on Sunday!!! Only this child had matted hair and a grubby face and she was wearing a cap that she had made in the craft shack. She could have served as the poster child for "Save the Children". Her first words to me were not, "I missed you, Mommy!" nor were they "Boy am I glad to see you!" . . . they were simply, “Can I stay another week?!”
Needless to say, she loved camp. I knew she would. She continued to love it 12 or 13 more times. I think by the second year she even showered and changed clothes a time or two. Now it’s my turn. I haven’t been to camp since my counselor years during college, and Kacey has made it come full circle for me. Instead of the pink towels and sheets and rolled up scrunchies, I have an “all red camp survival kit” - the coolest Mother's Day gift of all time. And the coolest daughter a mom could hope for. (Oh, and Kacey, I bought myself a red suitcase to complete the ensemble. I knew you'd be proud.)