As we piled into our SUV and started down the dusty road I began to panic. My mind was whirling out of control. I stared straight ahead and tried to act normal. It took me about 10 minutes to even realize the hubs was trying to talk to me. I was locked inside myself going a million miles an hour.
We had just dropped off our baby girl at sleep away camp for the very first time. I had done my homework. I had read the Camper Handbook cover to cover at least 5 times. I had met with the Director for about an hour. I even hiked through the woods and surveyed the grounds, the cabins, the craft room, the cafeteria, and the bathhouse. (All while still wearing my suit and heels from work.) I had taken every necessary precaution.
I had packed pre-stamped pre-addressed envelopes for her to write home. I packed a brand new flashlight and extra batteries. I even dropped off a stack of letters at the office to ensure that she would have mail to open every day. We were nothing if not prepared.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the thoughts, the questions, the anxiety that overtook me the moment I shut the car door. I was immediately bursting with questions and fears. Most were incoherent nonsensical unfinished thoughts that never quite made it into words. Some were just images of horrible things happening. These are only a fraction of the things going through my mind. These are the thoughts that DID make themselves into words:
- She didn’t really even say “Goodbye”
- Should we turn around and get another hug?
- I forgot to take a picture with her.
- Is it weird if I cry?
- Is it weird that I didn’t cry?
- How old could that counselor possibly have been? She looked 16.
- Can a 16 year old girl take care of my child for a week?
- Has she noticed we’ve left yet?
- Is she running through the parking lot?
- Did she fall in the lake?
- I hope that counselor knows she doesn’t swim very good.
- Is she too young for camp? Six days is a REALLY long time.
- What am I going to do all week without her?
- It’s close to dinner time we should stop and get the boys some pizza. I need to feed my feelings.
- Wow, eating in a restaurant is really much easier with only two children.
- I wonder if she’s eaten dinner yet? She normally eats 30 minutes ago.
- Is she hungry?
- Is she cold?
- Did I pack her warm enough clothes?
- Why did I just eat that much pizza? I feel sick.
- Does she have enough stuffed animals?
- Who is helping her make her bed up?
- I wish they had let me help her get settled into her cabin.
- Wow, bedtime sure is a lot easier with just two kids.
- I hope they are watching her extra close- it’s getting dark and kids slip away in the dark.
- There was no fence down by the lake.
- Who is brushing her hair?
- Will anyone brush her hair?
- Oh Lord she’s going to come back home with dreadlocks.
- Did they let her take the top bunk?
- I hope she doesn’t roll off the bed in the middle of the night.
- Does the counselor sleep in front of the door?
- What if she gets lost in the woods in the dark?
- Is she asleep yet?
- Did she cry for me?
- What if she doesn’t miss me?
- I wonder if I could pull up the satellite images on GoogleEarth and see her.
- Why didn’t I get her counselor’s cell phone number?
- Oh man…..this is going to be the longest week of my life.
And this was only night one!! It’s easy to get myself caught up in the anxiety, the fear, the crazy. Ultimately I know she is being well taken care of- otherwise I never would have let her go. I also know that she is having a blast. Sleep away camp has been a dream of hers for some time and this is the last picture I snapped before we drove away.
You see that face? That’s not a face that is scared or cold or lonely. That, my friends, is a face embarking upon a new adventure. I am just grateful I am able to quiet my demons long enough to allow her to experience all the beautiful things in life. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a bottle of red calling my name.