Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder

A week ago I dropped my child off at camp. She had been very excited about this camp for several months. The day before she was scheduled to leave, however, fear and doubt set in. She didn't know any of the other campers. She didn't know any of the teachers or counselors. She had never been to the university where it was being held before. The anticipation of the classes she'd be taking had fueled her enthusiasm for months, but in those twenty-four hours leading up to the actual drop-off more practical issues seeped their way into her consciousness.

She'd been to camps before, but she'd always gone with someone else. It wasn't the prospect of being away from us that concerned her - it was the prospect of being alone.

We drove to the university last week and got her set up in her dorm room. She had three roommates, one of whom had been there last year. The four of them went off exploring while the parents sat in the small room, waiting for opening ceremonies. Throughout said ceremony, she was on the verge of tears. I put my arm around her and she didn't shrug away from my embrace - which has been her MO of late. I pulled her close and she cried. Now she, not unlike her mom, is not a beautiful, single teardrop sort of crier. She is a full-face crier; red tear-stained face, eyes filled with panic.

This was what her face looked like when we left her with her counselor. I hugged her tight one last time, looking at her counselor over her shoulder as I did, trying to convey my message in a glance: "Please take care of her. Please keep her safe. Please make her happy."

As a teacher of young children, I had been on the receiving end of quite a few of those looks. In that same capacity, I knew that those kids were usually having a great time before their parents were out of the parking lot. I knew this. I said it aloud many many times on the ride home. My husband is a saint, actually, for not throwing me out of the car. It's possible that I was just a smidge annoying. I mentioned that I'm a full-face crier, too, right? Oh, yeah. There was nothing pretty about the ride home or the night that followed. My heart hurt. Not just my sentimental heart, either. I was having a visceral reaction to the memory of walking away while my baby was in tears.

It was a rough week for me.

They don't allow the campers to make phone calls - as is the rule at most camps - so that was the visual I carried with me. Thursday I got a note from her and a post card from her counselor and I breathed a little easier - but they might've just said she was happy to make me feel better. I breathed a little easier, but I remained wary.

When we arrived at camp yesterday for their Camp Review, other children were greeting their parents. I craned my neck looking for my daughter - people - parents and campers alike - were entering the auditorium in a steady stream - but where was my baby? The director took the stage. The Review was about to begin - still no sign of Liv. I may or may not have been silently weeping at this point. You'll never know, on accounta it was silent. And I'm very good at masking my emotions. Lady Gaga's poker face has nothing on ma-ma-ma-mine. Tom knew, though, or at least had a suspicion, because I nudged him and said, "They lost her and were just too afraid to call me and let me know." He gave that the reaction it deserved. His week had been rough, too. Living with a mama bear who's been separated from her (crying!) cub is, I imagine, somewhat less than delightful.

And then she poked her head in. She was wearing zombie makeup. She searched the room and I waved, real cool-like. She returned my wave and kept searching. I wasn't who she'd been looking for. The punch in the gut of that realization was quickly forgotten, though, when I realized what it meant. She had friends. She was having fun. Wait. She was wearing zombie makeup?

The review began and we watched a chamber orchestra perform, followed by some improv, then a dance troop (S-S-S-S-A-A-A-A-F-F-F-F-E-E-E-E-T-T-T-T-Y-Y-Y-Y- Safety - Dance!) then a dramatic scene reading. I squirmed in my seat, unable to get comfortable. This may have been the natural result of spending a week not breathing with a sore heart. We want zombies! We want zombies! (That's what I wanted to chant, but I didn't because I have a lot of restraint.) Finally - zombies came on to the stage and fell into excellent fallen zombie poses. Someone hit play on the boom box. It's close to midnight - and something evil's lurking in the dark... the zombies, including my little zombie - my beautiful little zombie - fell into a step for step perfect (in this mama bears completely unbiased opinion) rendition of the Thriller dance. Who would've thought it would be zombies that brought me back to life?

On the way back to her dorm to pack up she chattered incessantly about her classes and her friends. She'd had a ball. She couldn't wait to come back next year. She wanted to go to college here - this campus was the best place EVER! She missed us, and her dog, and her rat, and her bed - but she didn't want to leave her friends or her classes or her dorm. She didn't take a break in conversation as she hit the button on the traffic light for a walk signal. We are suburban folk. A week ago she'd known nothing of waiting for signals to cross the street... She casually pointed out the buildings where her classes were, using the shortened nicknames of a seasoned student for most of them.

This was not the crying child I'd left behind five short days earlier.

This was a confident, happy, excited young lady.

I barely recognize her, but I think I'm gonna like her a lot.


Unknown said...

The child is growing into a young woman. Scary, isn't it?

Unknown said...

Aww, Tammy, I got a tear reading this, little Liv is growing up, how dare she!!
What a great week she had, and a cool opportunity too. Tell me more about what she was doing and where.
Congrats on a happy camper:).

Cheryl said...

...Here we are at Camp Granadder

All the emotions of the spectrum. You must be exhausted! I'm so glad she had a great time and grew some confidence in the process. She's not allowed to grow up yet though.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Oh, what a great story, well told! It's a little bit amazing to see them transform themselves like that, isn't it! And I've come to think that confidence is one of the greatest qualities of them all.

Badass Geek said...

Camp was a life-changing experience for me, too. Except it made me paranoid and distrustful.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Wow, camp at on a college campus is fabulous!!!! so glad Liv had a great time and made friends. I bet she rocked as a Zombie!!

Glad your baby is home safe and sound.

Happy 4th,

BONNIE K said...

What a nice ending. It's funny how so many of us think the worst and don't allow the possibility for good things happening. Look at all that damage you did to your poor heart, while she was having a great time!

SparkleFarkel said...

I think Allan Sherman would like this happily-ever-after camp twist! I know I did. (Still to come: all that camp laundry. LOL!)

Mandy said...

Wow! Without judging me for a complete yuppie-valley girl, I can't help but say that your story is "Totally Aweseome!" I mean it. Wow!

And can I also say that I hate you for getting two songs stuck in my head tonight before bedtime..... shame on you! "Greetings from camp...." I want to snuggle with Downy now, thank you very much. In addition to smearing my eyes with black makeup so I can get down with my thriller bad zombie self. And you know I can Tammy. You know I can! :)

Pam said...

Oh my goodness! What a week you had. I'm so glad that it all went well. This gives me hope for when I drop Katie off at college in August. Thank goodness there is no rule against phone calls and texting. I'm sure my heart will be hurting when we drive away, though.

Vivienne @ the V Spot said...

This is awesome! I knew it was where you were going with it, but I was kind of holding my breath just the same. Good job little Zombie!

Carma Sez said...

that is awesome that she had a happy time; not awesome that you had a stressful week.

My "little one" will be going away for two weeks soon - many states away from here-- you know I'll have an ulcer by the time we meet up with him. And like your return greeting, we'll need to prepare ourselves for the quick "head nod" and maybe a "sup"

Claudya Martinez said...

Aww, I'm proud of both of you. And Tom gets a gold star, too.

Gibby said...

The first half of this post had my heart crying, because my girls have given me my fair share of that sort of heartache, and I'm guessing it's not over.

But the second awesome is that!!! Good for Liv! And what a great experience for her!