After attending a gorgeous Willis Family Farm wedding — which, by the way, made my personal wedding “Top 5” ranking — (congrats to the beautiful newlyweds, Beth and Jake), and after staying at the fabulous Tyner Pond Farm where we got to herd pigs (yes, details forthcoming), we left Sam in Indiana to visit with friends and hightailed it home to deliver Gus, Mary Claire, and George to Camp Lake Stephens in Oxford, MS for a hotter-than-Hades week of adventure. (Trust me. It was THAT hot. I’m pretty sure they’re swimming in the river Styx this week.)
I miss them.
Oh, sure, Chris and I talked about how much partying and reveling in the kid-free silence we were going to do. (And I think he actually meant it.) But I can’t stop thinking about them, can’t stop worrying about them, can’t stop obsessively checking the camp pictures to spot their red-cheeked, dirty, little faces.
These three love camp. They LOVE it. But this is a new camp in a new state with new friends. Fabulous new friends, but new friends, nonetheless. When they ventured to Spring Hill in Indiana, they knew lots of kids. Here? Not so much.
So on the glass-half-full side, there are great opportunities to make lots of new buddies and to create fabulous memories. And on the glass-half-empty side, they could be sitting lakeside, alone, aching with homesickness and general despair, picking at their scabs, and scratching their chigger bites until they bleed.
Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County, Indiana, was always a liberating growth experience for me. I went with old friends, made new friends, overcame some Jason/Friday the 13th-related fears (well, mostly. I still — every once in a while — envision that horrifying, heart-stopping final scene when he jumps out from the depths of the lake to take the last soldier down. I think that’s known as “being scarred for life…”), and pretended I was sick so I wouldn’t have to eat tuna from a can on camp-out night. I remember the exhilaration of having crushes on my counselors and the few silent tears I shed at night when I thought about my mom at home alone — with just my sister to keep her company. How in the world did they survive without me?
When we said our goodbyes on Monday, all three of the kiddos seemed a bit nervous, a little apprehensive. George was the first camper to arrive in his cabin. He reluctantly let me take his picture, said nothing as we made his bed, hugged me briefly before we departed. The goodbye was much too short, not nearly dramatic enough. A true Anderson goodbye, after all, can last for days. Chris knows to give me the 2-hour warning before it’s time to depart from an extended family gathering.
Mary Claire was the first girl in her cabin, too. Her sweet counselor, Audrey, showed her the ropes. MC seemed happy, content — with just a touch of anxiety. She’s not a fan of mean girls. Fingers crossed that there are no mean girls in her cabin. Toes crossed that she’s not the mean girl in her cabin.
Gus… well, he was Gus. He settled in, jumped on the slack line, and promptly gave a good, loud, guttural, “Jesus!” when he tumbled into the grass. Yes, this is a Christian camp. Yes, we’ve talked to him ad nauseum about that pesky “taking the Lord’s name in vain” habit he’s acquired. We’re fully expecting to get a call from the camp director sadly informing us that he dropped a “GDMF’er” while riding down the zip line. He never stops surprising us, that one. He inherited his Mama’s sailor mouth and even less of a filter than I possess.
I texted Sam while he was being transported to his friend’s house in Zionsville. I said, “Have fun. Be polite. Remember to say thank you.”
His text response?
I haven’t heard from him since.
We gave him $100 to get through the week. I’m afraid he bought himself a new pair of lacrosse cleats the second we pulled away and is spending the remainder of the week foraging for food.
I’ve talked before about these little goodbyes. About how challenging it is to loosen my iron grip so these kiddos can test out their own wobbly colt legs. I know they need to. I know they have to. I know they want to. And in all honesty, I want it for them.
And I also want to look at online camp pictures and see them smiling — with their arms draped around new-found friends. I’d also like to see them in different outfits from day to day — to acknowledge that they’ve actually changed clothes at least once. I want to make sure they’re not getting sunburned, or being eaten alive by mosquitoes, or being attacked by ticks, or being chased by crazy Mississippi coyotes.
When we dropped them off, it was 102 degrees. You know what that means? Heat exhaustion.
Or as Chris points out, it might simply mean hot, sweaty, kid fun and a couple of large bodies of water to jump into for cooling purposes. Yes. I like that scenario much better.