My big kid’s been away at camp since Sunday. If the MDA Facebook page is to be believed, and why wouldn’t it be?, the kids are having a blast. I was scrolling through pictures the camp director posted a short while ago, and the first one I saw of my son stopped me dead in my tracks. He’s so big, my boy. He’s taller than his college-aged counselor, and very suddenly, he looks different. Older. More independent. Even more guarded. Mature? Different somehow. My heart is arrythmic right now with this glimpse of a changed him away from me.
Before departure, families were asked to write letters to the kids and specify when they were to be delivered. It’s a fool’s errand to try to write reality-based, real-time-ish missives of love from home, but I tried–fake it til you make it, or something like that anyway. The underlying message was “I love you and I miss you, but I don’t want you to read one word that might make you homesick.” The transcripts follow, and if you think I’m a generic mom, well, you’re WRONG. Obviously you haven’t kept up on the hilarious, but warm autobiography I publish here. I just didn’t want to give the kid one scintilla of a notion that life back in the 414 was anything short of hunkydory. He was to have the best time ever, and not worry about us back home.
Monday, June 13
So you just had your first night of sleep-away camp! You’re such a big kid now, and you never listen to me when I say, “Stop growing!” You’re not supposed to stop growing obviously, and I know camp is only one of many adventures for you as you get older and more mature.
I can’t wait to hear all about your counselor. Is he a pretty cool guy? Do you see Lauren ever? I’m pretty sure you’re the only camper whose cousin is a counselor there too. Last year Lauren became a counselor with you in mind. I know you don’t fully understand why that is a huge deal—and how it shows how much she loves you, but I hope someday you will. Tell Lauren hi from me.
Are there more boys or girls at camp? How ‘bout the campers’ ages? Are the kids little, or more middle-school aged like you? I hope you remember to be a good friend—be polite, keep your head up (and also look where you are going!) and listen to the other kids. Listen like you mean it, and mean it!
Today was E’s last day of school and then he goes to YMCA Day Camp the rest of the week. We may go to Chill on the Hill, but it will depend on the weather and also baseball. Don’t forget we will be in the Dells this weekend for E’s tournament. Grandma and Grandpa will be meeting us there. I’m excited to see them too!
I hope you got to do some fun stuff and maybe even have a little run over to the snack shack. Write it all down so you don’t forget any of it.
We miss you like crazy, but know you are in very good care. The MDA says camp is the best week of the year—do you agree?
Be a good kid, and have fun! Enjoy the moment—I know you know what I mean.
PS—E says “ninnercrommie.” He’s so weird!
We miss you!
I was wondering if there are any giant bugs at camp. You know how I keep calm and collected with giant bugs! Kidding! But I am thrilled you are enjoying the great outdoors.
What was last night’s special activity? I wondered if you guys sat by a campfire and sang songs at night. I don’t have a great singing voice, but I remember loving to sing camp songs when I went to Girl Scout camp. Hopefully you sing along. It’s not at all the same as performing—have fun.
When is motorcycle night? I’ve never been on a Harley—not quite my thing. Maybe it’s yours?
Are you getting any good ideas for stories? In a few weeks you have writing camp at UWM, so maybe you’ll have fresh experiences and material to draw upon.
Tomorrow is my last day of school, and may I just say, YEEEEEE-HAW!!!
I love you, Big Kid! Hope your days and nights are kick-butt!
Wednesday, June 15
Dear Hingle McKringleberry,
By the time you read this I will be done with school! Your summer rolled out a day early—lucky!! We have a lot we’re doing this summer, but it’s nice not to have to set a 5:15 AM alarm.
So what’s the scoop? Do you miss us or are you too busy and excited even to think about us? You better NEVER be too busy to think about your mom, Mister! You’ll probably have grown another 6” during the time you’re at camp. Will we even recognize you for pick up Friday?
Tell me about the best part of your day yesterday. Was it swim or rest? Lunch or snacks? Who’s got the coolest wheelchair? Speaking of wheelchairs, have you learned anything about how they operate? With your interest in designing trains and planes, maybe you can engineer some super smooth wheelchair modifications.
Are there any campers who live near us in Milwaukee? From how far away are kids coming?
I’m very curious to know what you’re thinking about these days. The house is very quiet now that I don’t hear, “Hey Mom” 642 times per day! I also don’t hear “Not yet. . .” and I’m hoping the counselors aren’t either. Please be a conscientious listener and be aware of what is going on around you.
I love you and miss you tons,
PS—Say hi to Lauren from me
I can’t recall how I completed this last camp letter. I ran out of fake news and my left hand ran out of neatness. Now that he’s been gone five days, I know I’d develop a very different bunch of letters. Next year, right? And don’t judge the penmanship either, OK? Some handwriting analyst would have a field day with the inconsistencies found herein.
One of the camp activities was wheelchair basketball, and my son was placed in a wheelchair for the game. I totally GET IT, but you guys, I gasped when I saw the photo. Photographs can but don’t always catch genuine emotion. Was he totally into the experience? Was it fun? Was he freaking out? Did he give the “oh hell no, ain’t no way” in the second before the picture was snapped or was he a gamer? I showed his younger brother photos from the day, and when he got to that picture, little bro looked stunned. Looking at me sideways, oh-so-quietly he asked, “Is he in a wheelchair now?” Every pore of my body felt flushed and I broke out into pinpricks and cold sweat, and before I could respond with a gentle “no, not yet,” I felt the burn of tears. No. Not yet.
I saw the future, and can’t unsee it. I wonder if he saw the future too. I wonder if he’s better or more reasonably prepared to face the future than I am. I hope so. Sometimes my kid can’t plan how to put on both shoes, but can prepare and price out an international travel vacation itinerary. He pens and illustrates elaborate cartoons and can imitate detail like you’ve never seen, but can’t seem to practice piano without being told. My own child is often an enigma to me. What does the future look like to a 12-year-old bigger than everyone but still little boy?