On a weekend that found our youngest with pneumonia and my husband with a concussion, our middle child, Miss S went to Brownie camp for the very first time.
Friday, as I sipped re-warmed tea out of my Yoda mug and ironed labels on size seven sweats, I couldn’t imagine a camp scenario where I wasn’t summoned by a 4am phone call.
On Miss S’ camp forms I’d written four different phone numbers, a note to say she was a picky eater, please don’t force the issue annnnd a special p.s.: if they couldn’t distract or reason with her to call. We wanted to keep the layer of trust, so she’d leap at future camps as enthusiastically as she did this one.
Did I mention this was the very first time a child of mine was sleeping away from us, her parents? And not for one, but two, count ‘em, two whole nights?
Miss S charged into this camp with all the joy of Olaf in summer. She couldn’t wait to sleep on the bottom bunk, couldn’t wait to hike; couldn’t wait to earn camp badges. There was no time for me to be melancholy, weepy or pouty, she was ready and raring to go.
My husband whacked his head on the frame of our van’s trunk Friday afternoon as we were picking the girls up from school. Miss Q’s seatbelt was stuck, it was raining, he had his hood on, and couldn’t see properly as he jumped into the trunk to help her.
We were in the middle of buying Miss S’ indoor hard-soled slippers when he said he didn’t think he was in any shape to go to drop-off. It was evident he needed medical aid, so it was up to me, and the sisters to give a proper fare well to our Miss S.
The road to camp was dark, twisty and wet. It always feels like we’re going miles out of the city, even though it’s only 15 minutes. “These are Bigfoot woods,” our resident back-seat nine-year-old comedian announced.
“Miss Q!” I exclaimed as a lightning bolt froze my soul. In the dark, I couldn’t see Miss S’s face.
Thankfully, and as if by magic, my headlights illuminated a “watch for turtles” sign, that sent everyone peering out their windows for midnight turtles.
Two of the rules of Brownie Camp were:
- Miss S had to pack her backpack by herself so she’d know where everything was. Apparently her monkey, Indigo, got to be her bedtime buddy, not her mother.
- She had to carry everything by herself. Miss S’ backpack was 2/3 her size. Watching her wiggle in and out of it was a lesson in contortion. I wondered what her old chiropractor would say.
Her sisters and I were more verklempt than Miss S. Actually, come to think of it, I was the only one who was verklempt, but in my defence, it was heavily laced with nostalgia.
How could 32 years have passed since I was a Brownie going to camp? Excited for bunk beds, disgusted at the congealed spaghetti, giggling at our leaders’ campfire skits?
My mum was one of my Brownie leaders, so for my first years of camping, the umbilical cord was firmly intact.
Miss S’s first camp found me on the other side of the gate. Her backpack on her back, flashlight at the ready, giant grin on her face.
When I got home, I told my husband that she hadn’t wavered; like her mum she was diving headfirst into adventure, which would probably mean there would be a “what have I done moment” by bedtime. But overall she must be ready for this. My husband replied, “Just like when she’d talked herself into Splash Mountain.”
I’d like to blame the concussion, but that’s my husband.
It goes without saying: I slept with one eye on the telephone all weekend. But the longer it didn’t ring, the more the nagging layer of worry morphed into pride.
She was actually staying! She was actually camping. I hoped it meant she was having a good time.
Driving to camp on Sunday morning, I envisioned two Hollywood endings:
- She ran up the hill, saw me, dropped her pack and ran into my arms sobbing saying she’d never leave me again.
- She ran up the hill, saw me, dropped her pack and ran into my arms saying she had fun, but she’d never leave me again.
Needless to say, there was a third ending, one where Miss S hiked up to the gate with her friends and leaders, backpack on her back, giant grin on her face. She gave me a hug, said she had ice cream and Rice Krispies for breakfast and no, she didn’t miss me.
Ignoring seven-year-old speak, for what I was sure meant I missed you so much, I don’t want to say it in front of everyone, my heart burst with pride at all she’d accomplished.
The most beautiful part is she didn’t have one bad thing to say about the weekend. Even when she started a story with, “My worst night was the first one…” the reason was: she couldn’t get comfortable, and ended up trying to sleep with her feet on her pillow.
Clearly Miss S was among supportive leaders who’d planned a dynamite camp, and allowed Miss S’s confidence to sparkle. But above all: Miss S was truly ready.