You Know Summer is Over When...

...Lucy throws a shoe and a few other things at you and says, "I hate you again, Mom, just like I did earlier. You are the worst." I just continued making cookies, which is a better reaction than the time about 30 minutes earlier when she also hated me. She has been a shrill, angry wreck since we got home from El Paso: the victim of too much fun and not enough sleep, and maybe some nerves about first grade thrown in to season the furious stew.

Surely tomorrow will be better. Or least someone else's problem for 8 hours or so.

Happy Camper

We picked her up from camp on Friday afternoon, and when I first saw her, she glowed. Not with happiness to see us, but with news and stories and songs to share. She was bubbling over. Turns out, she is good at camp. The way one is good at a sport or a hobby. I was, too. In fact, it was one of the first things I felt really good at in my life, so I was thrilled to discover she has a similar talent.

Camp is a place where you leave real life behind and make a new kid-run society, one that, for the most part, prizes qualities like enthusiasm, cooperation, curiosity, adaptability, kindness and silliness. You (not your parents or your background) define yourself. Emotional bonds and experiences are distilled so that one week feels like three months. Camp memories and friendships endure. My words fail me here, but if you're a camper, you know.

And now she's a camper. Liz said, "Kate, she's a Rocky River girl." Indeed.


(via Liz) Lucy, trying to bully/negotiate class changes: "NO ONE is knitting." Willow, to her credit, held firm and did knitting. Lucy said it was okay if they weren't in all their classes together, because, you know, they're cousins and see each other a lot.

Willow, after the counselor in the Red Wagon asked if anyone knew what a "caper" was (caper is camp speak for chore):"I know! It's kind of like a little pickle." Which, well, it is.

Lucy, to Liz today three times in a row: "This is the best place in the whole world." Which, well, it is.

Your Story Starts Here

I made her bed in the Red Wagon. I put the framed photos of us on the shelves. I applied the last bit of sunscreen to her already too-tanned self. I gave her a laminated Kissing Hand to remind her of me. I gave her the last hug/kiss/high-five of the week. I left her in the care of dear Liz and the best organization I know of for bringing up amazing girls. And I did all this without crying. Until I went to Circle B, the first cabin I stayed in at Rocky River. The cabin is amazingly redone and different — Liz said she wanted it to be like Pippy Longstocking's house, and it's a pretty fantasy of uneven shingles and cedar siding and sideways bunks. Yet somehow it's even more like itself. Over the fireplace library in Circle B Down, Liz made fabric confection that is embroidered "Your story starts here."

That's when I started crying. Because Lucy's story does start here. At least, the one she writes for herself.

P.S. She's a Cowpoke.

Amateur Hour

Tomorrow is Lu's first day of Camp. Capital C camp, Rocky River Ranch, sacred space, most formative place of my youth. You know, no big. She is excited and nervous. I am excited and nervous. We acted out the little melodrama of our shared nerves over another vigorous argument about whether or not vampires are real (damn you, Twilight and your hold on the zeitgeist).

She is asleep with a head of garlic under her pillow. As I gave it to her, I said, "Vampires are just in stories, and as we've discussed, they are not real. But people in stories with vampires think garlic keeps them away, so if it helps you use your imagination to feel better, then here's some garlic." Oh, and I climbed onto her bed (breaking the weight limit by about 80 pounds) to lie with her for a while (breaking every bedtime rule we've ever had).

Amateur hour. That's what Sugawa calls it when I show my weakness as a parent. So be it. When you are packing a suitcase for your child that SHE COULD FIT IN HERSELF, you are struck by her tininess, her unreadiness to go have a five-day-long life experience apart from the person who pushed her into being. And you are willing to sink below the pro-am level to soothe her the night before this happens.

I have had some pretty frantic correspondence with Liz, who always makes me feel better, and is the only person who can rescue my tiny girl from vampires, floods, homesickness and other scary stuff at camp. It's going to be okay, I think.

Little Sick Bird

Lucy has strep throat. I went to retrieve her today at Dougherty Arts Camp and found her in a little heap sucking her thumb, a collage clutched in her hand instead of Duck. She wanted to sit on my lap in the exam room at the doctor's office because she was cold. The doctor was running late, so we had plenty of time to sing songs about birds: Three Little Birds, Blackbird, Little Bird, Up in the Air Junior Birdmen (not strictly about birds, but hey).

Sickness sucks, but it does slow life down in a pretty special way. And a blueberry-peach-mango-yogurt-ice-cream smoothie certainly enhances the moment.