Taking a break from playing catch-up with you fine folks, last weekend was oppressively hot and humid here in the Mitten. Even with our A/C on, it was uncomfortable; but Miss L and I were busy. She was going to her first summer sleepaway camp and there was a lot to do.
I never went to sleepaway camp when I was a kid – I was a fairly anxious child (and teenager…and adult, come to think of it) and the thought of a forced separation from home and family, even to ride horses and swim in a lake, would NOT have been fun for me. It would have been traumatic and I have no doubt that I would have ended up in the infirmary begging to go home. My daughter, though, I am happy to say, is cut from a different cloth, and for days her excitement over the adventure absorbed her every waking thought. She picked out all of her own clothes to pack and stacked them into neat piles, labelled. We scoured Amazon for a battery operated clip fan for her bunk, and a plastic mess kit for her chow. There were flashlights to compare and consider, extra batteries to pack, new goggles and a new swimsuit and cover-up, the purchase of travel size toiletries for her shower bag, and pink shower shoes. No tablets or electronics allowed; once she got over her bogglement over that, she bought two new books and put them into her tote so she wouldn’t be tempted to read them before she left. We went back to add playing cards, a sketchpad, notebook, pencils, and a tiny reading light.
I dropped her off on Sunday; perhaps the hottest day. That morning, I’d written five letters to be delivered to her every day of her camp, secreted away in my bag to drop off at the trading post before I left her; I also made sure she had spending money on account. The camp boiled under a blanket of oppressive heat and battering flat sunshine. The cabins were stifling; I was more anxious than she was, wanting her to get a good bunk, to be near her friends. But the air under the pine trees was cooler and smelled like summer; cicadas droned, and down the hill green with foliage, the lake broke into a million tiny glimmers of light and dragonflies.
Being divorced, my daughter isn’t at my house for a fair portion of her time; I thought the separation of camp would feel like dropping her off at her dad’s house. It has not. I feel a strong sense of waiting, of life suspended until she gets back to me, a feeling that I know will recur in waves throughout her growth to adulthood and independence, through every flight she takes from my nest until at last she flies alone, strong and not looking back.
I know this is an important part of my job as her mother, to prepare her to fly strongly, to meet the challenges of her life with the knowledge that she is capable, she is fine, just fine; I just never anticipated that this process would break my heart a little bit each time, no matter how glad I am to see that beautiful swallow’s flight.
The heat broke with a thunderstorm on Monday night, as I sat on my overgrown patio in my pajamas, grilling corn and a turkey burger, reading “Flat Broke with Two Goats”. I thought about Miss L and whether she would be excited to hear the thunder and feel the first fresh drops laying down the dust in the path between cabins. I check the camp Facebook page and find photographs of her, at the opening night bonfire, in the mess hall, her dimple showing as she pats her horse.
There are a few tomatoes to pick and my basil has gone crazy, so I bought a ball of fresh mozzarella and can eat myself sick on caprese salad. Summer is good and I am proud that my girl is confident and fearless enough to go into the world without one of us holding her hand. But I am counting the hours and stalking Facebook until I can rocket north to pick her up tomorrow night.