I used to spend a lot of time in the nurse’s office, not just at school, but at summer camp, too. (I guess you could say I was non-discriminating). My parents thought it would be a good idea for me to attend a local day camp. I thought it was a better idea to shadow Nurse Nelly for seven weeks and help her distribute ice packs.
I hated camp–or more specifically sports… or perhaps more specifically than that, tennis. Something about tennis just pushed my 9-year-old self over the edge and into Nurse Nelly’s office where I developed an uncanny aversion for wet band-aids. Do kids not understand that band-aids get wet in the pool? Do they immediately need to be changed and why at a camp that size would they not have waterproof ones?
I don’t remember much else from that summer, other than being on Nurse Nelly’s frequent flyer plan and costing my parents a small fortune at the camp store. I also remember feeling very justified in my purchases. Surely I must deserve something for all my “suffering”, like a stuffed bear with the name of the camp I professed to hate so much or another Charleston Chew (and so began my acute affinity for impulse shopping and generalized fear of the dentist).
So you can imagine my surprise when my younger daughter announced that she was intent on attending (and here she inserted the name of a sleep away camp located in the Poconos, that on first glance appeared more like a spa in the Berkshires for 8 to 15 year olds).
Suffice to say, I was in the business of laundering socks and not money so whatever persuasive discourse that followed was readily forgotten and I went about my evening, pouring wine I would eagerly drink, cooking food not even the feral cat would touch, conjuring scenes from The Parent Trap that would likely sift into the nightmares I was bound to have later about all those wet band-aids…
To add insult to injury, this spa/camp was (Oh, Nurse Nelly!) a tennis camp. But it wasn’t just tennis. “They have canoeing and archery and arts and crafts and horseback riding and the cabins…” Don’t get her started on the cabins. Forty-five minutes of my life I will never have the strength or mental stamina to fully recover from (think: everything short of a blueprint). “They even have on demand hot water.” As opposed to dial up?
But I didn’t say anything… at least until the catalyst for this sudden sleepaway stakeholding became glaringly apparent: “Parker’s going.”
Ah, and there it was. Parker, the show child. Parker in her pink Patagonia. Parker of the perfect pigtails. Parker of the (some children don’t deserve to have a) puppy. “The whole summer. She’s going the whole summer…all seven weeks but she can’t bring her puppy. Isn’t that sad?”
“Devastating,” I said, quietly thanking Brinna and Roy for delivering this irritating little public service announcement. What’s next? A pony? I thought but truthfully all I was feeling was guilt–guilt that I couldn’t provide her with a Patagonia or a puppy or a pony. Even though I knew it was garbage, even though I knew that sending Parker for seven weeks of sunshine was as much of a gift to her as it was to Brinna and Roy, who, fittingly enough, were currently spa-ing in the Berkshires.
“Do you even like arts and crafts?” I asked, thankful now that I had opted for a case (and not bottle) of the Pinot. And archery? Bows and arrows? Seriously? Didn’t we have enough problems? It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye–or their patience and mine was running out because she wouldn’t let up and for a child who complained about sleeping at her grandparents, she sure was driving it home on the whole getting out of Dodge and away from mom and dad thing. The grass is always greener (or pinker, in Parker’s case).
We finally settled on one week at a local camp. If all else fails, she can lanyard a rope and climb out a window or hijack a canoe or, safer yet, just wait in the nurse’s office and hand out ice packs. She’s nervous. I’m nervous. The pony’s on backorder but I’m pretty sure they have hot water. It might be à la carte, but isn’t that what camp’s supposed to be about? Standing in a freezing cold shower? Waiting your turn on the horse?
Isn’t it supposed to like, grow hair on your chest and make you question the meaning of life or at the very least, tennis? Maybe that’s menopause. Nevermind. Jon tells me it’s a right of passage, like learning to drive or a life skill, like manipulating school nurses. Maybe it’s less about everything being perfect and pink and frustration free and more about trying new things, sleeping under the stars, helping your parents dodge debilitating debt in the process.
There are worse things I suppose, like poking someone’s eye out or discovering you have a long lost twin and tricking your parents by switching places with them, or developing lifelong aversions to things like wet band-aids and dental work or, in Parker’s case, the absence of a pony. Pigtails. Jesus, Mary and Nelly, it’s so overrated.
Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.