Emotionally speaking, no mother is ever ready to release their precious firstborn into the wild world of sleepaway camp, with its wacky songs and kissing games with girls and loose approach to personal hygiene. Three and half weeks is a long time to not see your child after attending to his every need for the past decade. I’m already going to miss his constant pleas for a new phone app and to attend the midnight showing of “Eclipse.” I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle the absence of several dozen laundry cycles in which I find melted Silly Putty smeared all over the inside of the dryer. I may find myself so bereft that I feel the need to clear his room of the weird collections of gum wrappers and gawd-knows-what else he has growing under the bed.
However, with the help of a few bottles of Gruner Veltliner and the finger-paint hugs of his little sister, I think I’ll make it through.
No, what I meant is that we’re literally not ready. After we made the decision to send him (two months after the deadline), I kept waiting for a stack of forms to arrive in the mail. When they didn’t, I emailed the office and was told I needed to download everything from the website. Ohhhhhh. So from then it’s been a whirlwind of getting one paper notarized (thank you to the nice lady at work who carries around a notary stamp in her Hobo bag), another filled out by his pediatrician (who changed offices without me noticing) and deciphering the rest of the stack (does that time we found him playing Wii at three in the morning count as “sleepwalking”?)
And then there is the Packing List.
I had kind of been thinking we’d just throw a few t-shirts and some cutoffs and maybe a pair of long pants in for Shabbat services into El Yenta Man’s old camp trunk (yes, the old school kind with the lock that closes accidentally while you were inside hiding from your mom as a joke and no one heard you pounding from the inside for fifteen minutes and left you with a lifelong aversion to small spaces and the smell of the glue you used to paste up pictures of Yoda to the inside.)
But it turns out camp authorities don’t allow trunks anymore (obviously, you and I aren’t the only ones who managed to lock ourselves in them), so I’ve been on the hunt for a duffle bag large enough to accommodate a suggested wardrobe large enough to clothe a small African village for three years. Seriously, who owns 20 pairs of underwear? 20 t-shirts? Ten pairs of pants for a child who grows out of them by the time we get home from the store? I’m imagining nine more boys with the same amount of stuff packed into one bunk and my colon clenches.
But then I understand: No matter how large I Sharpie his name on the bands of his little Calvin Klein boxer briefs, it’s very likely that by the third day of camp, everyone’s clothing will be thrown into common-use mounds in the middle of the floor. And I’m not coming along to make sure he gathers up his dirty laundry for the once-or-twice laundry service. For almost a month, Silly Putty in the dryer — along with his spot-on Julia Child imitation and his habit of telling long stories with food in his mouth — will be for someone else to appreciate.
Twelve days until we drop him off in the mountains and leave him there. Somehow, in between work and multiple trips to the mall for one more pair sneakers, I’ve got to get ready.