“Well … when I finally stop crying,” I said, “I’ll probably write a sonnet describing my love for you. Then I’ll call and leave you enough messages to fill up your entire voice mailbox. … And then I’ll find a picture of you and gaze lovingly at it, memorizing every strand of hair until it’s time to go to bed. … And then I’ll get up and do it all again the next day.”
Jack gave a little laugh that said he wasn’t sure if I was kidding. Clearly the kid needs to recalibrate his sarcas-o-meter.
Jack left for camp Monday, Colin will head up next week. Every year for six years, the night before the camp departure has consisted of the same exhausting routine: sorting, folding, and labeling clothes, shoes, and jackets, shoving teensy bottles of shampoo, sunscreen, and bug spray and blister packets of allergy pills into little baggies, filling another baggie with pens, paper and stamped postcards, and stowing the whole collection of way more than they’d ever need for the end of the world – much less a week at camp – into a couple of battered suitcases.
The elaborate, last minute nature of this pre-camp ritual is something I owe to being a procrastinating perfectionist, one with a fairly vivid imagination for things that could go wrong for kids at camp. I have visions ranging from wasp attacks, to wildfire, to zombie apocalypses (really, I feel like that should be zombie apocalypsi – you know, like alumni, or hippopotami – but the little puff of smoke from my laptop just now was probably my spell checker spontaneously combusting).
… and more than one of those scenarios actually has happened (although not the one that caused a computer application to self-immolate), for all of those who think I need to rein in my imagination.
Anyway, since the kids are a little bit older, things didn’t go down this year like they usually do. There was no folding or labeling or sorting. Jack found his own suitcase, and sleeping bag and swore he packed enough underwear for a week.
Stress-free weekend for mom? Nope. For anyone who wants to believe camp prep is now a piece of cake, I kept a little tally of the goings-on.
Because I’m a giver.
… And a list maker. Let’s face it: this stuff is going to come in handy one day when I’m lobbying for a better retirement facility from a couple of people who owe their mother a little consideration.
My New Pre-Camp Routine:
- Download and print off the 20-page camper guide with its packing list.
- Then, because nobody has any clean shorts or underwear around here, do laundry (or, er, suggest Mike do laundry).
- Make a list of stuff we need at RiteAid: deodorant, bug spray, sunscreen, little travel-sized toothpaste, flashlight batteries.
- And, no, nobody saved all this crap from last year. I already looked.
- Make the really bad decision to swing by RiteAid one evening we’re all out together as a family.
- Argue about whether RiteAid is the best place to get all the crap on our list.
- Win the argument because I’ve done this packing thing every year for six years now and I’ve tried every grocery store, Target, and the dollar store and RiteAid’s the cheapest and I WILL NOT BE QUESTIONED.
- Ride in sullen silence the rest of the way to RiteAid.
- Spend 20 minutes scanning sunscreen options for one that doesn’t cost a fortune or have Oxyben-something-or-other that I’ve heard will cause cancer and give our sons breasts. Send the family off to find flip-flops.
- Settle on a sunscreen that probably does have the Oxy-whatever-the-thing is we’re supposed to be avoiding, but at least doesn’t have a goofy cartoon character on it front, making it possible a teenage boy will pull it out and apply it every day.
- Work up a lecture on sun exposure at high altitudes and skin cancer while I search for the flip-flop aisle.
- Find family instead in the chip aisle with a cart full of seven thousand things that aren’t flip-flops. Make Boy #1 put back the damn chips. Make Mike put back the other chips. Scowl at Boy #2 who’s attempting to sneak a ginormous bottle of Gatorade into the cart.
- Notice our favorite microbrew is a dollar cheaper here than at the grocery store. Pick up a six-pack. Concede on the chip thing.
- Walk out of RiteAid with a receipt as long as my arm, and more crap than could possibly be necessary for two kids at camp. And beer for mom.
- Just be glad no one is fighting on the way home.
- Steel myself for a night of folding and labeling and packing the battered luggage the kids take to camp.
- Tamp down my skepticism when Boy #1 announces he’s already packed.
- Quiz him on what he’s packed. Argue about whether a sixteen year old needs to write his name on his underwear.
- Stare at the pile of stuff he’s assembled, wondering whether to double check, and finally decide that if he’s missed anything, his brother can bring it up for him when he heads up next week.
Whew. See? A mother’s work is never done. He’ll probably move out someday and I’ll still have gawd-awful long lists to contend with.
Lists full of stuff like writing sonnets and gazing at his picture.
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