Horseback riding. Archery. Swimming.
Ah, the fun of summer camp. Last year, I took one too many longing looks at the slick brochures and flashy websites when I was looking at camp options for my boys.
And before you could say, "forced family time," I'd signed my whole family up for summer "family camp." But I forgot about a few things.
Bunk beds. Cafeteria food. Community bathroom.
Just minor details, I thought, before I slapped that deposit through paypal. As far as summer vacations go, it was cheap, even paying for the twelve people in our cabin. So I was saving my family money, and making memories in the process, right?
But upon reflection, my family deserves my thanks, and some letters from camp:
Dear sweet husband,
I know you'd rather be at the beach right now. But bless you for indulging my childish whim of taking us all to camp. Once you said uncle embraced the idea, I know you had visions of us sitting around a campfire, roasting hotdogs, so I was sorry to burst your bubble by revealing that the camp was vegetarian.
But now you see why I asked you to buy that mini-fridge last week. And loaded up on deli meat at the grocery. I was thinking of you. And really though, who wants to go their whole life without trying the "delicious, sausage-like flavor" of a breakfast meat substitute called prosage?
But I for one appreciated it when you strolled through camp on that last night, hands swinging with bags of fast food, the smell of hamburgers wafting to me as you climbed the stairs and deposited your spoils on the porch like a hunter with prey, all while the rest of camp was grilling vegetarian burgers. That's true love.
Your wife the carnivore
We could have sent you on a cruise for your birthday. Nah, I thought. I knew you'd want to spend time snuggling with all of your grandchildren in a cabin, sleeping on a bunk bed with wet bathing suits hanging next to your pillow. And nothing makes for a close family like sharing showers and toilets - that's the message I got when you talked about growing up with your three sisters and one bathroom. So you really can go back in time. You're welcome.
Your daughter the giver
Thank you so much for bringing my niece and nephew to family camp. This aunt sure missed them, and I knew that us all sleeping in one cabin would be a fabulous idea, despite them being a baby and a toddler.
Your sister the heavy sleeper, with earplugs
I'm glad you were okay with the rest of us tagging along on your camp adventure this summer. Watching you fly into the air off the inner tube from the comfort and safety of the speedboat made the bunks, fake meat, rain, and close quarters totally worth it. And when you handed me that snake, I knew we'd really bonded as mother and sons.
But after I finished flipping and flopping every night in that bunk bed, looking across the room at your adventure and exhaustion laden faces, arms draped toward the floor, I saw why I drafted us all for this adventure.
I know that in a few years, you will no longer fight over who gets to hold my hand. Your hands will wring over younger, and less nostalgic, versions of me or the opposite of me. You may not chase me into the rain, pick the bunk next to mine, or let me teach you things like how to shoot a bow and arrow. You may not climb onto my bed and ask me to play cards, all the while knowing that my poor play is the gift you disguise accepting.
That's okay. This will be our time, even if it's spiraling wash water, slipping through my fingers as I cup my hands to drink and remember its flavor. I will grasp for you even as gravity pulls you from me.
I see you growing into men right before my eyes. But for the summer, we were just campers. And I'll never forget it.
Melissa Hogan loves living in the country in Tennessee and doesn't mind a spider or snake here or there. She is passionate about rare disease issues and playing guitar.
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