Summer can be defined by parking lots. Surely you agree.
Two days ago, I inhaled deeply, breathing in the aroma of the awaiting overnight camp buses as they idled on the sun-baked pavement, mixing exhaust fumes with the familiar elixir of bug repellent, sunscreen and adolescent boys. Summer camp was about to begin. In less than 30 minutes and with army-like precision, counselors and logo-clad camp directors had duffle bags loaded, campers piled onto buses, songs being sung and finally, wheels-a rolling.
To the untrained eye, a few of us looked like our eyes were pooling with tears of sadness. Why correct that lovely image? And for the record, I’m sure some of those parents were genuinely sad.
I was not.
What constitutes the beginning of summer, after all? Is it really as simple as a day on the calendar marked “Summer Solstice?” Scientists define it as the day of the year in the northern hemisphere when the sun is farthest north. But, if you ask me, the true definition of the first day of summer is the moment the engines turn over on those big buses that take hoards of screaming children off to overnight camp. Toast those kids up s’mores and pour mama a gigonzo margarita! Summer vacation has officially begun… for parents.
The two weeks between the end of school and the beginning of summer camp, a job or any other scheduled activities are brutal on a family.
Those unstructured days morph into marathons of slugdom. Hallways and laundry rooms are layered with unpacked lunchboxes, school bags and backpacks. Bedrooms remain dark cavernous black holes of space; too scary to enter, yet necessary to periodically search for missing car keys, origins of strange odors and family pets.
Occasionally teenagers emerge from their lairs unshaven and half dressed and, as a rule, only when company is present. They eat directly out of the fridge or off the plate served to the youngest child just to start a fight. This is standard operating procedure at my house. Please tell me I’m not alone.
The stress of living among these free-ranging kids has clearly gotten the best of me. What little mind I had left seems gone while they’re home. And even when I’m out of the house, away from their sloth, my mind suffers. Witness this true story:
It was a hot day last week. We were having a small gathering at our house for a team celebration and I needed a few last minute items from . I quickly completed my purchases and emerged from the store pushing my cart at a clip while looking for my car. And looking. And looking. Up one aisle in the steamy lot and down the next. Sweat was beginning to bead on my upper lip as tension built up in my chest. Where was the damn car? I pushed the panic button hoping to hear the horn – but nothing sounded. The cart was starting to annoy me – so I ditched it and kept looking. Just as the tears were beginning to well up at the realization that I had completely lost my mind in the middle of the Target parking lot, I remembered that I had parked on the other side of the building.
It’s not that I’m blaming my kids for my remote spot, but with all of them home on summer break I will admit to a visceral need to get far away from everyone and everything.
You see? This is what those two weeks of unscheduled time does to us parents! It unravels us! It is not my fault I lost my car and my mind in the Target parking lot. I blame the vacation gap.
Back at the camp bus departure, there were dads shooting video. Moms wiping away tears and calling out last minute instructions like, “Don’t forget sunscreen!” or “Remember to put cream on your rash.”
And what was I doing as the bus rolled away? I was dancing my own personal conga line straight towards my car. I had no trouble finding it this time.
To those misty-eyed mothers and fathers I might have appeared a bit calloused to the fact that my youngest child was going away from home for eight weeks. But that could not have been farther from the truth. Here is what I know. My son was headed off to a safe, wonderful, fantastically fun and adventuresome place that he loves and adores. He will be happy, healthy and well cared for. Should his summer go as planned – my summer will be just as terrific.
So conga lines and margaritas? You bet! Summer camp is really for the whole family.