He would've stayed longer, but the camp books up in the dead of winter, and R. and I weren't going to pony up for more than the minimum stay, before we determined whether our cab-hailing, museum-frequenting kid did well in the wild.
Or the water. (The thing that first caught my eye about this place was the fact that the kids swam twice a day, every day.)
We wanted something out in the country, where he could swim and tramp through the woods—an old timey, totally unplugged camp experience, the kind of place where "indoors" means a covered porch.
He was five, we couldn't very well send him to the woods of Northern New England armed with some stationery, a can of bug spray, and two dozen pairs of underpants with his name scrawled inside the waistbands.
This meant taking a bus some twenty miles west of the city.
"It's a reverse commute," R. and I assured ourselves. "There are three adults on the bus. He'll be fine."
Making the bus meant leaving the house with a lot of gear, as well as a camp nurse approved lunch, no later than 7:10 a.m.
In a few short days after school ended, the Grape had become accustomed to sleeping until almost nine. I had to drag his sleeping body out of the bunk every morning.
It was a lot like trying to haul a fifty pound suitcase from an overhead bin, while standing on a ladder.
We would run, frantic, through the park and up the street and past the laundromat, exactly like the folks in the Mo Willems picture book Knuffle Bunny, only with a greater degree of urgency, because if we missed the bus, I'd be in for hours of driving, and part of the point of this exercise was to secure a block of time to finish my third novel.
|Note the utter lack of urgency on the part of the Grape on his way to the bus.|
I'm proud to report we never missed that bus.
But all this did happen:
He almost capsized under the weight of his backpack the first day.
When the dad who caught him mid-fall suggested I hang a counterweight on his front, I decided to nix the sweatshirt and sweatpants.
The first two afternoons, he came home with both his pants and underwear on backwards.
One of the moms at the bus stop told me that was very good. She explained that her kid wore his wet bathing suit all day, because he didn't want to change clothes. This particular child was signed up for eight weeks. I saw a lot of Desitin in their future.
On the third day, the Grape wore his swimsuit home, having lost three full changes of clothes, who knows where.
My repeated inquiries as to the location of his clothes and other swimsuit were met with an indignant, "It's not a cubby. It's a crate!" As if that was somehow the crux of the matter.
I think that was the same day he earned an award in tennis, and I didn't believe him, because his school P.E. teachers claim he possesses zero hand-eye coordination.
Moments after he convinced me of its probable existence, the Grape discovered the tennis award had gone missing on the afternoon bus.
He nearly lost his mind.
I had to call the camp and have the person in charge assure the Grape that he would be reunited with his
I know, I know. They need to learn to deal with disappointment, but maybe not at the same moment I'm about to receive foreign house guests.
While I had the director of the little kids' section on the phone, I asked if the camp might launch a search for the Grape's three sets of lost clothes.
"No problem," she said.
They sent him home on day four bearing two huge plastic bags, full of the belongings of other children in his group (an assortment including a wet towel, a thermos, and a pair of brand new shoes).
We continued in this fashion for the duration of the camp session. Exasperating? Mildly.
Ultimately the little hassles didn't matter, because the Grape had the time of his life.
The camp issued a shirt to be worn the first day. The Grape wanted to wear it every morning, because he was so thrilled and proud to be going to camp. Who wouldn't be? The place was a slice of kid heaven. He learned to swim (HURRAY!). He made new friends. He went boating. He climbed a rock wall. He even caught a fish.
|The Grape with his "lucky" rod and a perch (?). I suspect the campers have been catching and releasing the same fish for years.|
So I washed the shirt every night, and promised to sign him up for next year, even though the 7:15 to 4:30 absence every day had started to feel really long (to me—he was fine).
He'll be a year older. By then I'm hopeful he'll remember that the flap belongs on the front of the underwear.
And if he doesn't, who cares?