Something Good About to Happen

I have had this uncanny sense that I’m about to experience some miracle.

Is it the onset of summer? A time of less work? I have been freelancing, leading workshops, substitute teaching, tutoring and working my ass off. Okay, I wish I worked my ass off, just a little — not that my ass is too big — but well, you know, metaphorically.

And then, there’s the work of family life — the endless meals and maintenance that my three teenagers and disabled spouse require.

But two of my darlings will be in summer camp and one will be on a school trip to Botswana soon. And my husband will be on a fishing trip in Canada. So, maybe it’s just that — soon, for a couple of weeks, I will have less responsibility. I will be free. I can watch what I want on TV. I won’t have to work so hard.

Maybe, it’s the longer days and the light. The birds are definitely chirping when I wake in the morning.

Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.
Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.

I can ride my bike everywhere and I am always happy on my bike.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel lighter in spirit. I just know that something good is about to happen. And I wonder what it is.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Happy Campers

I tagged along yesterday as an older and wiser camper took my daughter on a tour of her new sleep away camp. We visited the arts and crafts cabin, petted an old horse in the stable and walked to the archery range.

But the most happening stop on the tour was at the stage set. The crew was painting, building, finding props for the production of Charlotte’s Web. Or maybe it was The Ugly Duckling. I was only half listening to the tour guide, hypnotized as I was by the young women working.

The campers and counselors were totally in the zone, like bees building a hive. Each doing their own thing, but doing it for a greater good. Work can be like this — like parallel play; like, we are doing our own thing, but we are side by side. And it all comes together in the end.

When I taught drama to kids, I tried to teach them that the lead role in a show was a small piece in a much bigger puzzle. The real world and work of theater is about collaboration. There are box office managers, set designers, costumers, musicians, lighting engineers, a variety of skilled craftspeople.

Theater is about craft — not about celebrity. It is about being in community and building something even brighter than the brightest star. Theater is about snapping the jigsaw pieces together to create the production.

As our tour guide and my daughter drifted ahead, I dawdled. I wondered if parenting, which often feels like my work alone, is a collaborative project, like a theater production. And maybe this is why I like sending my kids to camp. Yes, they are the brightest stars in my personal production. But they are, like all of us, workers on a set in a production even larger than I understand. They are co-creators of a new show. And I have to let them go.

As parents and as campers, we play our bit parts. We help build the set.


Trains Are Better Than Planes

This board is from the Museum of Modern Art exhibit on typography.

Here’s why I prefer train travel to plane travel with kids.

No security line.

The conductors’ uniforms. The Amtrak conductors just look official and yet like normal people.

I like that you don’t have to wear a seat belt.

I like that you can see the terrain you’re traversing.

I like that there are smart older folks, volunteers from the National Parks Department, giving juicy lectures in the food car about the history of the Hudson River and the region. (Can you imagine anyone getting in the food galley of a plane for a lecture on the region’s history by plane?) Here are some facts from today’s lecture:

  • Did you know that National Geographic called this Northeast Corridor rail line from NYC to Montreal one of the Top 10 Most Scenic Train Rides in the country?
  • Did you know Bald Eagles are no longer endangered?
  • Did you know that this rail line was created in 1851?
  • Did you know Franklin Roosevelt had a secret ramp in Grand Central Station to board the train and presidents still use that secret passage today?

I like that you can move around the car (not the cabin).

I like that there’s never a time when you are forbidden from using electronic devices.

I like that you can plug your computer in.

Leg room.

I like that just before you reach your station, you’re encouraged to stand up and move towards the exit. (Unlike on a plane, where you’re told to stay seated until the plane has come to a complete halt.)

I am thinking about this because this week I flew to and from Chicago with the kids. I would not want to take a train with them to Chicago.

I’m writing this as we travel on Amtrak to the Adirondacks for summer camp. Six hours on the train is perfect.

What do you prefer? Train? Car? Plane?

The Other Fellow First

I wasn’t supposed to go to the outdoor chapel service at Camp Dudley today, Sunday. I was supposed to wait at least a week to see my camper briefly after chapel. It’s a rule at Camp Dudley, the oldest boys’ camp in the country. Even if you’re a local family, which we sort of are, since my husband Chris’s family has summered down the road from Dudley for more than 50 years. The rule is parents are not supposed to come the first Sunday.

But I couldn’t wait a week.

I sat in the back of the service as the Rev. sermonized about the difference between having greatness and being great. He said having greatness was related to the Camp Dudley motto, “The other fellow first.” Being great, you could be a sore loser; but having greatness meant you could teach someone how to grow. I think that’s what he said.

I couldn’t concentrate. I was distracted by the breeze, by the birdsong, by the Cedar trees creaking.

I stared down at the rows of young men clad in blue blazers, searching out the back of my boy’s head. I should know my boy among the 200 or so boys. I should know him by the back of his head, I thought, the swirl of his Alfalfa cowlick. But I did not see him. He was already indistinguishable from the other brown-haired boys.

So I sang half-heartedly along to the earnest young guitarist, leading us in, “Blowing in the Wind.”

I noticed Chris, who cries easily, was tearing up at that song. Chris is proud of his ease with tears. He’s sensitive, my husband, and this sensitivity seems to be exacerbated by his Parkinson’s lately. “Please don’t dare cry when you see him,” I said.

“The same for you,” he said. I nodded.

My son and I had agreed if we were to meet one of his four Sundays at camp after chapel, we’d meet by the hymnal nook, a wooden enclosure for the red-bound books. I was walking there when this young man approached me. For a moment, I didn’t recognize that the young man was my son.

Already, he was tanner, taller, thinner. He’s a long, cool drink of water my son is, I thought. I somehow had imagined my 9-year-old Hayden, not my 13-year-old Hayden.

“Hi Mom,” he said. His voice sounded, I swear to God, deeper. Croakier. ‘He has only been gone since Tuesday. What have you done with my boy?’ I wanted to find the camp director and shake him. I felt panicked. They took my boy; they made him a man! No wonder I’ve put off sending my only son to this damn camp. They take your kid away. And I loved that kid.

I admit it. I wanted clingy; I got cool.

His lips barely moving, like a ventriloquist, he leaned beside my ear and whispered, “I love you, Mom.” Then he looked at me kind of strange as if he barely recognized me too, but really did love me.

He hardly paid any attention to Chris, so there were no tears.

Hayden started to walk away from me.

“Wait, wait. I heard you’re playing a lot of basketball?” I asked him. His Aunt Shoshi works at the camp and she’d reported this to me.

“Yes, yes, it’s fun. It’s great. I had a long talk with Shoshi. You can talk to her.” As if she’d do in his absence. He gave me another hug, a bony, young man kind of hug. Not the kind of hug that pulls on your skirt or wraps its arms around you and never lets you go. No, just a hug, like an I’ve-gotta-get-going hug.

He said, “I love you,” again. Then he walked away from me down the hill. And he never once looked back. But I could tell that he knew I was watching him walk away. He was putting on a brave show, I thought.

As we walked to the car Chris asked, “Do you think he was embarrassed by us?”

“Oh, definitely,” I said, laughing. “And he’s not using sunscreen.”

But it was more than his embarrassment, his tan, his hugging me awkwardly. Seeing him at chapel today was some kind of a rite of passage for him, for me, for us. Our son is growing up. He is on the cusp. And he is on his own. And actually, that has greatness in it, although it’s not great.

Kids at Camp=Freedom

Every time I travel for work (or pleasure) I’ve left my darlings with my darling husband (DH). My DH has PD (Parkinson’s Disease) and so I’ve never felt a clear conscience about traveling. I worry. I have worries that they’ll be late to school — they are. I have worries that the house will be a mess when I return — it is. I have worries that they’ll stay up too late — they do.

So the idea of sending the kids to camp — of having people in charge of my kids who are not chronically ill or chronically worried — is a huge sigh of relief.

And it’s not like I’m sending them off to work the fields. These places are situated on beautiful lakes, with Arts n Crafts, horses, swimming, camp-outs, possibly S’Mores!

I have one child to drop off tomorrow. With the first two, I have felt like I’m shedding clothing on a hot day. Or dropping ballast from my hot-air balloon. Just briefly, I am traveling lighter. I am less worried, and yet, slightly untethered. The kids are my compass, their needs are always pointing my way.

They’ll only be gone a few weeks. In that time, I intend to stay late at work, work on my novel, , work out, , throw a party, paint the dining room, get my financial house in order, get to a museum, If I can sneak in some Arts n Crafts time myself, I’ll be happy.