Friday, July 19, 2013

Camp prep is more than a packing list

From today's Briefing:

The Damm house has been planning for summer camp since, well, last summer.
We’re the sort who like to dream aloud about adventures — a great cure for occasional doldrums. And I’m the sort who overcomes worry about worst-case scenarios by plotting for multiple contingencies.
Cooper, a longtime Scout, is skilled at taking care of himself away from home. Perhaps not with the same hygienic standards I’d prefer, but nothing that gets in the way of survival. Give him a list, and he’ll gather and pack everything on his own.
Katie, though, has never been away from family for more than a night or two. Prepping her for a week away has required strategic planning.
Early in the process, she learned how to wash, condition and brush her long hair without assistance. After she mastered these skills, she focused on fixing her hair. Her go-to ’do is a low ponytail, slightly askew.
She has also mastered wiggling into and taking off a one-piece swimsuit — when wet. Any girl will agree that’s no easy feat.
Throughout spring, she brainstormed outfit ideas for theme nights — a sequined T-shirt and feather boa for movie mania night, a turquoise T-shirt covered in shells for under-the-sea night, an assemblage of green gear for luck o’ the Irish night.
Ensembles were individually packed in gallon-size plastic bags and placed in her trunk in calendar order.
We’ve devised strategies for homesickness. Her plan for staving off crying spells:
1. Take deep breaths.
2. Hug my stuffed animal.
3. Look at photos of family members.
4. Write letters to Mom.
5. Think of all the fun I’m missing if I’m crying instead of playing.
Finally, after seasons of anticipation, we arrived at camp Sunday afternoon.
Katie claimed the top bunk in her cabin — huge on her priority list — and gentlemanly Cooper bounded up the wooden ladder to make her bed.
We walked with her to the pool, where she passed a requisite swimming test. She wouldn’t allow us to walk back with her, insisting that she find her cabin without help.
We hung back a few yards, stopping when she stopped, which was often on account of all the pinecones on the ground, just begging to be scooped up and added to her collection.
Katie meandered right by her cabin, prompting Cooper to run ahead and steer her in the right direction.
After she changed out of her wet swimsuit — no help required — we visited the camp store, so she could investigate snack options and plot purchases for the week.
Then it was time to say goodbye.
“You don’t need to walk me to my cabin,” my 8-year-old said. “We can say goodbye here.”
We hugged. I took a photo. She skipped away. I stood still to watch her cross the wooden bridge leading back to her cabin. I waved in case she turned her head in my direction.
No tears from Katie. No tears from me. I hadn’t planned on that.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at
Katie on Sunday, driving in to Pine Cove Towers

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