Jess has gone to Carolina (by way of the ATL to visit some friends) to get Buddy from camp. Trudes and Daria and I are holding down the home front–she full of dirt and happiness from day camp in the nature preserve that we can cut through from our neighborhood to her school, I kind of tired from everyday teaching this last week and a half of summer teaching–too much grading and too little time (makes sense to blog right now, no?), and Daria just waiting for the next game of tug of war. Jess gets him on Saturday, and Trudy and I are planning a Welcome Home Cake for when they walk in the door on Sunday afternoon.
I took him two weeks ago. We stayed a few days with my sister and brother-in-law who serendipitously last year moved to the small town a top a mountain that his camp is on. We hiked, ate good food, relaxed in that gorgeous part of the country. I do think that my body feels most at home in western North Carolina. I’ve never lived there, but visited frequently in college and after, and now each summer to take or pick Arden, and eventually Trudy, up from camp. The mountains just make me feel peaceful.
But, it’s not just the gorgeous place and region of the world that makes me happy that Arden loves it so much there, but it’s camp. Camp is magic. I went to what Jess and I jokingly call “rich white girl” camp for six weeks in Tennessee for 8 summers of my childhood, and I returned twice to be a counselor, and oh my gosh, I loved it. Sure, I’m an athletic type, and there was swimming and canoeing and sailing and tennis and horseback riding and also arts and crafts and singing, but that’s not the reason that I dreamed about going all year long and wept as I left every August.
There’s something about the on your own, but really not, the figure it out with peers without parents to run to, the live without most of the usual comforts (y’all no AC in Tennessee in June, July, and August is not a joke), the friendships that are mediated by you and who you are and what you believe and how you feel, away from the usual pressures of school. Sure, kids bring some of that stuff, but the “we’re in the woods”-ness of it all doesn’t give a shit if you’re the most popular at home (I never was, so it truly felt like an escape.). I remember my at home peers (very few of whom I’m still in touch with) wondering aloud to me why my parents would “send you away” for so long. I just smiled and knew that all of the friends (so many of whom I’m still in regular touch with) would be waiting to pick up where we’d left off. And, just last summer, a relation belittled our choice to send Arden to camp. And an acquaintance in town over heard Jess joking that we couldn’t have another kid because, well, kids are expensive what with camp and guitar and soccer (that’s true, and it’s also only the very surface reason that we aren’t having a third child), and used that moment to elevate her own parenthood–couldn’t we think of SOME way to be with our kids that doesn’t involve money? (spoiler alert: we can)
Certainly, it is a huge — huge — privilege to be able to send a child to sleep away camp for any amount of time, much less for two weeks in a state that is 12 hours away by car. But, I’ll tell you what, while we were at my sister’s, I kept catching Arden just grinning. When we finished making his lower bunk (he prefers the lower bunk next to the window he told me), he sat on his bed and looked at me. “I just love Mountain Camp. Every thing is always so great here.” We see the pictures of him on the camp’s website, and he’s just full of joy. He’s in his element. I recognized that happiness. I knew it as a child. And, yep, I miss him like crazy. And, yep, I wish he’d write me just one freaking letter. But, I know that his lack of writing is a sign of his joy. Of his elation at life. Of his growing independence.
If I’m honest, I’m kind of jealous. To be 10 and at summer camp where you wish the world would freeze and you could hold your wonder at it all in the palm of your hand. Camp, y’all.