Well, it’s here–yesterday the House Leroy and I drove The Boy a little over 100 miles up into the mountains for Brass Camp. This is something we all agreed would be a Good Thing. The Boy reported that his band teacher told him the week would provide the equivalent of a year’s worth of music lessons. He was excited at the thought of a whole week spent in a summer camp. I was happy to give him an opportunity to hone his skills. The House Leroy was happy to get out of the house and get to drive the mountain roads through the kind of scenery that provokes “I wish I could live here…” comments.
So as of yesterday morning we were all in agreement–Camp was happening. We were Happy. Life was Good. The drive up was beautiful. The hills were green, and covered with spring flowers. The evergreens were tall and straight. Traces of snow lingered at the summit of the Blue Mountains. We swept down into the valley on the other side, past farms, cattle, and spring-full marshes, and then into the Wallowa Mountains. Towns were tiny and old, built of stone, brick, and gingerbready wood. The sky was blue.
The rot started to set in when we stopped for lunch at the last town before we hit Wallowa Lake, where Brass Camp was happening. We sat in the restaurant and I looked at The Boy and realized that in all too short a time we would pull into the campground. We would remove The Boy, his suitcase, his tuba, and his quilts from the car. And then the House Leroy and I would drive away. Far, far away. Leaving The Boy behind.
Even as I felt heart rate increase and my breath tighten I knew I could not reveal any of this to The Boy. And so I sat, and gagged on my quesadilla, and snuck looks at him out of the corner of my eye, and a part of me wished we’d never heard of Brass Camp.
We got back into the car and drove the all-too-few miles to the lake. We drove past cabins and camps and then the lake existed only in our rear-view mirror, and I felt a guilty little lift–maybe we wouldn’t be able to find it, and Brass Camp didn’t have to happen for us after all! To my intense irritation, the House Leroy persisted, and found the camp. The Boy and I went into the main lodge and got him signed in. His counselor took him to his cabin.
I followed, and then we walked back to the car together. We are at the age where hugs are sometimes welcome, and sometimes not. I have learned to say things like, “Good bye, son. I love you. I would hug you, but I’m afraid you might be embarrassed,” in the hope that he’ll feel loved, and not strangled. I said my line, and my son enveloped me in a hug of his own. And then he turned and walked away through the evergreens and across the clearing.
Toward camp. Toward a week spent learning to do something well that I can’t do at all. Toward new friends. Toward an immediate future that doesn’t include me. And it was all happening because I had set it up, spent days tracking down a loaner tuba, encouraged him, promoted the idea, paid for it, damn it. The mother in me wanted to call the whole thing off, sacrifice the deposit, and just load The Boy into the car and go fishtailing out of that campground, back through the lovely old towns and the verdant mountains, back to our nice, safe, house.
Where he would spend the next week going about his life–tutoring some of the Step-Ahead kids in writing and math, going to football conditioning each night, playing games, and having summer. It would be lovely. Especially for me, the woman who likes things the way they are now, with our family safe and happy and together.
To be honest, I hate it when The Boy’s gone. I don’t sleep well. My stomach knots up. I burn up my energy in worry that I know is pointless, instead of using it in all the creative projects I plan beforehand. But all that’s my stuff. As my friend Barbara says, we have to recognize that our children are outward bound–and as good parents we have to honor and facilitate their journeys.
And so The Boy is at Brass Camp, and I am home, trying not to think of the miles that separate us, but to think instead of him at camp, experiencing something new and exciting, meeting new friends, honing new skills, venturing a little way out of the safe, comfortable life that I have made for us into the unknown–because I have made it possible.
I don’t like it, but it’s the right thing to do. So what am I doing? I’m going to work on one of those creative projects this afternoon. And I’m counting down the days. Today doesn’t count because it’s half over. Saturday doesn’t count because that’s when we pick him up. Only four more days.