Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Correspondence With My Campers

Writing letters to kids at sleep-away camp is a strange experience. What in the world do I have to tell them? Nothing's happening. And even if something IS happening, like you're summering on a yacht in Sardinia (sadly, for me, not so much), you're not supposed to tell them anything that will make them homesick or jealous. The idea is to write boring letters, so the kids don't think they're missing anything and they're glad to be in camp. "We hung some pictures today. I went to the market. I took Louisa to the park." Yawn.

Especially surreal are those first few letters that we diligent parents send before the kids leave, so that they'll have a letter waiting for them on the first day. There you are, writing to your kids who are sitting right next to you. "Dear Child, How's camp? Are you on the top bunk or the bottom? Who are your counselors? What activities did you get?" etc. Then you have to sneak off to the mailbox without said kids noticing that you're posting a them.

I've been writing almost every day--either a letter, or an email, which are printed out and distributed (the kids can't email back). There is so little to write about, that I've taken to writing poems. I think of myself as the epistolary-poet-mom version of Dr. Seuss (or the secretary from Moonlighting):

In the city all is well 
There isn't really much to tell 
Loulou and Eli played in the park 
She went to sleep before it was dark 
Dad and I are about to eat 
We're having rice and veggies and meat
I can't wait to read the letters you'll write 
And I think about you every night. 
Your first Shabbat in camp has come 
I hope it's filled with rest and fun

The letters back from camp are like golden nuggets from the world beyond. I'm telling you, even those photos on the camp web site don't measure up to a few words from the kid herself.
Dear Mom,
Teva [nature] was so FUN! We decorated pots and planted beans. We sat in a circle and put one of the bunnies inside. He climbed into MY lap first! He's 2 months old. Tomorrow, in Teva, we're going on a hike in the woods. We're gonna learn about poison ivy. I'll FINALLY know what it looks like! 
Love, Ruby  

If you get a letter like that, you breathe easy. If you get a sad letter, you worry. But if you get no letters at all, you're in camp correspondence purgatory. I know this acutely right now because to date I have received four letters from Ruby, and only one from Bella. The one letter I received from Bella was the required pre-addressed postcard sent on the first day:

Dear Mom, Dad and LouLou,
It is the first day of camp and I am sitting and waiting to have a marp walk. [infirmary visit, i.e. lice check] There are 15 girls in my bunk. [change in ink color] I had to stop writing the letter a while ago and now we have to rush to finish these because they have to send them. (we are in the middle of unpacking.) 
Love, Bella
I have received nada since then. It's been over a week. So, basically, I have no information about my kid. Now, I know what you're thinking. She's only been away for a week. No letters means she's having a great time, stop worrying, yada, yada. But this child is a writer. Last summer she wrote to me almost every day, usually long letters with drama in them. I know something's up, and in fact I contacted one of my spies at camp (her aunt), who told me that Bella says she already wrote three letters. Either the postal service is failing epically, or Bella has been writing the wrong address (very possible considering we just moved--I wrote it down for her, but that doesn't mean she's looked).

So, the waiting continues. I'm not exactly biting my nails. I mean, she looks okay (another spy):

But I'd love to hear from her. The camp gods are punishing me, I think, for sending her away. They are making me feel what real separation is like.

Meanwhile, Ruby is proving to be a loyal correspondent. She even wrote me a poem:

1 comment:

  1. Ok, of course I spoke (wrote) too soon: a letter from Bella arrived in today's post. Exhale.


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