Yesterday, Henry and I travelled to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he met his counselors at the airport and began two weeks of Marine Biology summer camp. He'd only been home on school vacation for one week, but today, the house seemed way too empty without him.
Getting to this camp was no breeze. We left our house at 5:30am and three airports, four flights and 16 hours later, I arrived back home in Massachusetts.
On Saturday, I did THE BIG PACK. Henry's never been to this camp (or any other camp, for that matter) before and we decided to err on the side of "too much stuff" rather than "just enough stuff." Henry knows how to do laundry, but does he need to do it more than once? Hopefully not.
Half of the camp hours will be spent volunteering at a marine-wildlife hospital and the other half will be spent outdoors in the ocean and on the beaches and marshes. The brochure promised lots of surfing, paddle-boarding and then there's the scuba certification and a few scuba dive expeditions. I knew that Henry would need multiple bathing suits, swim shirts, tshirts and tons of sunscreen.
I also thought long and hard about what toiletries Henry might need. Perhaps I went overboard, but I doubt it.
Preparing a child for a two-week summer camp is hard. You have to think about what they are going to need, what they might want, what they might suddenly realize that they need when the blood is dripping down their leg or when the find themselves covered in mosquito bites after a day in the marshes.
And then there's the regular clothes - the shorts, the shirts, the socks, the underwear. There was a packing list, but the clothes portion just said "casual clothes." It didn't give a suggestion as to how many or what type. I'm thankful that I was packing for a boy and not for a girl. I can only imagine Josie's interpretation of "casual clothes." We'd need a trunk to get all the outfits there.
The campers stay in condos on the beach, which don't come with any sort of linens, so we had to pack sheets, bath towels and a pillow.
While I packed, I made Henry sit with me as I went through each items.
Which is when I realized just how much I do for this child. "Henry - do you know how to make a bed? You do, right? Fitted sheet on the bottom? Flat sheet on the top?" "Don't forget to hang up your towel every time you use it! You're only bringing one towel. You want it to dry out between usings." "Henry - PAY ATTENTION - do you remember how to separate your laundry? Do you know how to use a top-loading washer?" "Make sure you unpack your bag when you arrive - and try to keep things tidy. No one likes to room with a slob." (which is not true, Gordy rooms with a slob and he doesn't seem to mind at all.)
We managed to get everything we needed into two bags: a carry-on with a day's worth of clothes and toiletries and a large duffel bag which we checked on the plane.
The night before the big trip, neither Henry nor I could sleep. He was a mixture of nervous and excitement and I was mostly travel anxious. I was also a tad worried about the camp itself. Everything looks wonderful, but we don't know anyone who has gone to this place and having never visited, we don't know what to expect. Henry also has to surrender all his electronics upon arrival, which means that there's not way for him to get in touch with us if he's miserable or to reassure US that he's having a great time.
I confess that I had to buck myself up after saying good-bye to Henry at the Wilmington airport. I'm one of those sappy parents who really enjoys spending time with her children during the summer and I worry about sending them off into the great unknown. It doesn't help that Henry is my oldest and I'm more sensitive to his new experiences since they are usually my new experiences as well. By the time Josie is 14, she'll probably hitch-hike herself to summer camp and I won't even know she's gone.
I know. As if.