In just a few weeks, both of my kids will be going to sleep away camp for the first time. They’ll be gone for 14 days, which will be the longest we’ve ever been separated. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing, like most parents, but what makes me even more special is that I’m also a paranoid freak with an excellent imagination*. (*PFWEI) To me, a bump in the night is never just a bump in the night. It’s the weird guy from the grocery store, who followed me home and hid in my garage until I finally went to sleep, rifling through my costume jewelry drawer, trying on my Merona earrings and licking my beads with his gross methy meth tongue.
These dinner plate-sized dark circles are not without their reasons, people.
But the boys haven’t even started packing yet and already my mind is filled with serious concerns like: What if they swallow a brain-eating amoeba in the lake? What if there’s an “incident” at the archery range? What if one of their bunkmates smells like patchouli? And, most important, what if I get collared for sneaking around the cabins in my night vision goggles and the arresting officer doesn’t believe that I’m just there to make sure they’ve flossed? Who’s going to bail me out then? My husband? He’d leave me in the hole for a few days just so he wouldn’t have to listen to me blasting Luther Vandross’ Greatest Hits for once. Plus, he’d be happy I was finally doing some weight lifting in the yard.
Of course, I’m trying to keep in mind the reasons we’re sending the boys to camp in the first place. The independence, the autonomy, the joy of sleeping in a non-air conditioned cabin in Texas in July. Not to mention the life-long memories they’ll make during their two weeks. I only went to camp—YMCA Camp Cormorant in Minnesota—for two summers and I still remember most of what happened there.
For example, how could I forget that I told the counselors that I had my period, so I couldn’t participate in my cabin’s synchronized swimming version of “Grease”? In truth, I didn’t have my period. I just thought it was beneath my artistic standards to do multiple leg kicks to “Greased Lightening” in a lake while wearing a swimsuit and a leather jacket while also being attacked by mosquitoes the size of 747s. Alas, my entire plan backfired when I was regulated to running the boombox during the performance and almost got electrocuted when Jennifer S./Rizzo tripped during her solo and splashed water on the extension cord I was holding. Then she hated me the rest of the week because everyone called her “Schizzo.” (Note to self: Tell boys to stay away from all camp boomboxes and clod footed divas named Jennifer.)
I also haven’t forgotten how one summer, every girl in my cabin at Camp Cormorant had a huge crush on a certain teenage counselor. I don’t remember his name, but he had a blonde afro, wore roller skates and did an awesome routine to the “Off The Wall” album on camp dance night. He was like the Norwegian Michael Jackson. “I’m bad, I’m bad, oh yah, you betcha, you know it!” I like to think that he grew up and became a Broadway dancer, but seeing as how it was backwoods Minnesota, he’s probably selling used Kias to people with bad credit now. Such a travesty. He was the hottest thing on wheels in 1980.
Now, were my parents fretting about everything I was doing those weeks at camp? Probably not. They knew I was in good hands and wasn’t a raging idiot who’d get stuck in a pine tree if left unsupervised. (Even if I did tell everyone involved with swim lessons that I had my period so I still, to this day, can’t get across the pool without a boat.) Besides, my parents were too busy watching “Magnum P.I.” and doing macrame projects on their floral velvet couch to call the camp director and ask if I was eating healthy and maximizing my personal development. And even if they had done that, the camp director would have said, “Yah yah, she just lost a molar in the Jolly Rancher eating contest she organized by the dock, so no worries here, don’t cha know! Yah, she’s a weird one!”
I really hope I can follow my parents’ lead when my boys leave in a few weeks. I’d love to just relax, unwind and know that they’re having the time of their lives at sleep away camp. Brain-eating amoebas, Jolly Ranchers, roller skates and all.