The Summer Camp Blues

I made them take this picture. It was the LAST thing they wanted to do. They had just arrived at camp and were ready for us to leave. But by damn I was getting a picture whether they liked it or not. It was one of those moments when I had to give my husband a “look” and he knew that was his cue to yell at the children. Just do this for your mother, please!

We were dropping them off at camp for a two-week stay. They were fired up. We were fired up. Everyone was excited and the goodbyes were short. I prayed they’d figure out what to do with the self-addressed stamped envelopes that I included in their luggage. Hopefully, we’d hear from them before the two weeks was up.

Then about five days later I was confused to see letters in the mailbox addressed to me and my husband in my own handwriting. Wait a minute…they had written us after all! I was so excited to open up their letters! And then this is what I read:

I was heartbroken. This was not what I wanted to be reading. He had been so excited all summer about going to camp! Not to mention (but I’m gonna) that we had spent a fortune sending him to this fantastic camp that he wanted to leave after being there for only one day. I stood there in my kitchen feeling helpless, my heart hurting at the thought of my little boy crying all alone in his bunk. I needed to give my boy a hug. I needed to hug him and tell him he was okay and to hang in there and that it would get better. But I couldn’t so I moved on to the letter from our oldest.

Clearly, older brother was having a much better time. He was surfing and shooting guns and loving camp life. That made me feel a little better at least.

We got a few more letters. Each one seemed to be less homesick than the one before. Derek and I decided to pass the time with friends in Napa Valley, drinking lots a fantastic wine. Even with our state’s horrible drought, Napa was still beautiful. Dry, but beautiful. Every meal we ate was better than the one before and one night we had the pleasure of staying in a refurbished farmhouse in the middle of a vineyard. It didn’t suck. If there was some way that I could still be there, I would. We quickly decided to create a new tradition: every summer we’d drop off the kids at camp and head straight to wine county. Done and done!

our amazing view one beautiful morning in wine country

While we were in Napa, my friend told me a story about she and her sister when they went to summer camp for a month as kids. My friend loved every second of it, but her sister struggled with homesickness the whole time. She wrote letters home to her parents saying things like, “If you loved me you’d come get me!” When it was finally time for pick up day, her sister ran across the camp into their mother’s arm like a slow-motion reunion scene from a sappy movie.

It might have been the bottles (not glasses, but bottles) of wine we had consumed, but the story was just what I needed to hear. My friend was cracking up telling it and I was cracking up listening. She asked if I thought I’d get the same dramatic, slow motion run from either of my boys when we went to pick them up. I laughed and said that I doubted it and that they would probably play it cool.

Then it was time to pick them up from camp. We saw older brother first. He played it VERY cool, but couldn’t hide the huge smile on his face when he saw us. We didn’t see little brother at first. Then, while I was still hugging Bentley, I felt a body blow from the back. There was nothing slow motion about it. Palmer saw us and ran as fast as he could into a full-blown, take you down, tackle. Yeah, he really missed us.

Turns out we will probably have a little more cash in our pockets next summer. Later that afternoon on the drive home Palmer was quick to tell us that he liked camp alright, but doesn’t really want to go back because they only feed you three times a day. Bentley said he liked it but didn’t care that much about going back because the kids in his cabin were jerks. So there you go.

Now to figure out what to do with the children every summer while we head to wine country…

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