We recently attended an Information Night for the summer camp that my boys have attended every July. We have been to this event for nine consecutive years. This year, as my oldest son stood at the front of the room and was introduced as a Junior Counsellor, I was thinking to myself, “Why didn’t he shave or at least tuck his shirt in?!” And then one the camp directors smiled and added to his introduction, “I remember Connor when he first came to this event as a shy little 8-year old boy”.
Pass the tissues.
Suddenly the stubble and shirt tails were inconsequential as I teared and wistfully recalled that evening back in the spring of 2004.
We’d decided to grant our first-born the very significant rite of passage to sleepover camp. The right camp having been chosen, we were planning to attend the camp information night they held in our town. We waited with eager anticipation for that date that had been circled on our wall calendar for months. The actual camp night was preceded by a home visit by the camp directors. They come to meet first-time campers and their families one-on-one to make sure boys are emotionally ready for sleepover camp and deal with the barrage of questions inherent to first-time camper moms. I polished and vacuumed the rarely used living room and dining room as well as every other room on the first floor through which their home visit might take them. Suddenly, the male camp director husband was climbing the stairs with the boys as they dashed to show them their bunk bedded bedroom. “Where are you going?” I sputtered running ahead and gathering bits of dirty socks and sippy cups that may have been overlooked in my tidying frenzy, trying to divert his path. “Best way to know a boy is to see what his room looks like!” he cheerily advised me, and off they went.
As everyone, including my three-year old daughter, showed off their prized possessions and ultra messy rooms, the camp directors shared their camp stories and photo albums, adding to everyone’s excitement. We were all declared as “camp ready”.
Later that evening, the whole family piled into the car and headed to the church hall of Parkdale United Church in Ottawa and we listened attentively to all the wonderful camp activities our son would soon be enjoying out from under the watchful eyes of his parents. Then, I dutifully checked off every item on the camp packing list and obediently adhered to the clothing and equipment requirements, making sure every single item, including each and every sock, was labeled. Little did I know then, that camp clothes gone missing are actually a blessing.
As the first day of camp arrived, I was spared a mother’s heartache of waving good bye to a departing busload of young boys as that is a service provided only to the many boys departing for camp from Toronto. I am remembering instead the trepidation on the long car ride to camp and suffering unto my son the great indignity of helping him unpack, make his camp bed, organize his camp clothes into an efficient, organized system that would naturally be abandoned the minute I drove away. The pulling over and shedding of tears would have to wait until my car was well out of sight of my son waving goodbye.
Except that he wasn’t waving goodbye. He’d quickly dashed off with his new camper friends and his camp counselor doing what boys do at boys’ sleepover camp.
Suddenly the church hall lights went on, the familiar slide show came to an end, and the bright lights shocked my senses bringing an abrupt end to my reminiscence. Next year will be his younger brother’s turn to stand up in from of this room full of young boys, in our tenth anniversary of camp information nights.
Better stock up on tissues.