Hannah, my granddaughter, is finally starting three weeks of overnight camp at Eagle’s Nest.
She and I spent a week ironing on name labels. With the first wearing, it was obvious that iron-on labels don’t work. We then relabeled all her clothes with a black laundry marker. In between, we took several trips to Target for toilet articles, Malaprop’s for books and a sporting goods store for a bathing suit.
She helped me hunt down a new sign on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Only a few feet into the trail, she found a whole colony of butterflies.
Finally, we packed everything in a huge footlocker that had been sitting in the car trunk from before our Western trip. Why, you may ask? Because an empty foot locker weighs 26 lbs. There was no way she and I were going to lift a full or even empty footlocker into the car.
We also worked on her camp schedule. Unlike most camps where the whole bunk goes to the same activity — first period is art, second period is swimming…. Here the camper chooses what she’s going to do during the day. I encouraged Hannah to pick out activities that she wasn’t going to be able to do otherwise. She chose backpacking at my suggestion. Metalworking and horse riding were also on her list.
I tossed and turned all night, worrying about how I was going to get Hannah’s footlocker to her bunk. I don’t want you to think that she was super excited but she woke up early and was dressed by 6:30 am. After popping her toothbrush and toothpaste into the trunk, we were on our way to camp in Brevard.
We weren’t the only eager family. When we got there, we idled in a line of cars waiting to get in and park. Older campers and staff members wearing gray T-shirts were everywhere, greeting campers and directing us to check in. Best of all, strong, enthusiastic young women and men unloaded Hannah’s footlocker and moved it to her bunk.
We started the check-in process. It reminded me of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant. When Arlo goes off to the induction station, he says that
Where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected, and selected.
Well, she wasn’t injected or infected. First, she got her bunk number. The next line was for me to put money into her canteen fund. I told her clearly that it was for emergency supplies like toothpaste, not for souvenirs.
The health check-up took the longest time. I thought that they would take her temperature to make sure that she wasn’t sick and infecting anyone. Instead, they were most concerned about lice. I took a picture of her being checked but she made me promise not to publish it.
More health concerns as they asked yet again about medication, this on top of a multi page form that her parents and pediatrician had to fill out. She placed her trumpet into the air-conditioned music room. We were now ready to go to her bunk and meet her counselors.
The literature told the families to let go.
To quote the latest email from the camp, “… know that it can be difficult for both of you.” One of the mothers told her daughter “I don’t know if I can let you stay. I’m going to miss you so much.”
I took a couple of pictures of Hannah with her counselors. Then she told me to go. My last words to her were “write home.”
Before I left her cabin, I peeked at the bathroom – two showers, two toilets, and two sinks. Yep, same as my camp cabin, years and years ago.