My little soul mate

Last Thursday we dropped Grace off at camp.  My heart was still soggy from the night before, but I put on my sunglasses and got in the car and off we headed.  As we drove the familiar roads on Cape Cod, turned into the driveway with the archery range and sun-bleached grassy front fields, I was flooded with memories.  The smiling, white-clad Junior Counselors looked so young, and I choked up inside.  I was trying to reconcile the fact that I was just them with the knowledge that that was more than half my lifetime ago.

After a check-in at the infirmary (we passed the lice test, yay!) off we went to Cabin 50.

Cabin 50 is directly across from Cabin 54, the place where I first laid eyes on Jessica and commenced a lifetime friendship.  I’m not sure Julia and Grace were as moved by this detail as Jess and I were, but we both noted the proximity of the place where it all began, and smiled, eyes glistening.  We helped the girls unpack, Grace on the top bunk and Julia on the bottom.  Then they put on suits and we headed up to the pool, with the other new Juniors, for their swimming test.

The daughter of another dear friend of mine from camp was also in the girls’ cabin.  Three of them!  My head swims looking at this picture, remembering when we were 10 and when we were 16 and when we were 21, of all the experiences we shared in this very same place.  And we all have girls, and hopefully they are embarking on a similar road, together.  I had tears in my eyes the whole time we were there.

There was no good time to leave so we did so, somewhat abruptly, at the pool.  They were waiting for their test and we were the only parents still there.  I can’t get the way Grace looked at me out of my head: her eyes were filled with wild surprise, nearing panic, and sadness swamped her entire face.  I hugged her and kissed her and walked away.  Their JCs and counselors swarmed around the crying girls, their white backs blocking them.  So we couldn’t see, as we walked, if they were still crying, but we sure were.  I don’t like the way I left her, but I’m not sure if any moment would have been better.  At least this way, my friend said, they had something to focus on immediately, a task to dive into, both literally and figuratively.

I was utterly shocked by how sad I was, all day long.  It pains me to admit that – what mother didn’t expect to miss her child? – but it’s true.  I knew I’d miss her, but I didn’t really think through the visceral, physical missing: the tears that wouldn’t stop, the ache in my chest, the way I winced every time I glanced back at her empty booster seat.  I know this kind of independence is precisely what I want for my child, and it’s impossible to overstate how completely I trust this camp to take care of her.  I know she will have a wonderful time.  But still.  Her face, the tears, the abandonment: they rise up in my head, over and over.  I guess this is her first experience of Pema’s timeless wisdom about being thrust out of the nest.

I emailed a close friend later that day, expressing the way sorrow had startled me, sharing how much I missed my daughter.  She responded immediately with this: “Not surprising. She’s your soulmate in many ways.”  These lines stunned me with their truth.  This isn’t the first time this friend has knocked me back with her insight and support.  My soul yearns for its little partner.  Of course it does.

And still, I believe absolutely that this experience will be excellent for her.  I hope she makes sturdy, possibly lifetime friendships, I hope she tries new activities, I hope she develops confidence in her own ability to be in the world without me, and I hope she internalizes the camp motto, emblazoned above the outdoor theater:

11 thoughts on “My little soul mate”

  1. This is the first year we didn’t make the trek to CCSC in many years. I so remember the first good-bye, and being glued to my computer just before 5pm, frantically clicking the link to the day’s photos, looking for his hat, his shirts, his smile. By age 13 he wouldn’t even allow me to enter his cabin, “the man cave”! Whether you realize now or now, and I know you do, this is all SO good. They grow up so quickly, but it might be nice for you to know that at 14 he still loves to hop on my bed with me for some communal read time…or just to talk.

  2. Oh my. Getting teary at my desk as I read this. First of all, the three of you look exactly the same to the point where if you were wearing white collared ccsc shirts I might think you were counselors! Second, I agree about the leaving. I said good-bye to Sophie as she was in line going into the dining hall, my sister behind me saying good-bye to her youngest, and off we went back towards the Big House. Very unceremonious which led us to wonder, did we do this right? I don’t think there is a right or wrong way. Such a completely new experience for us and the kids. Our parents put us on a plane to Logan and waved goodbye to us in the terminal as we walked on to the jetway.

    So nice that the girls have each other in cabin 50. And rest assured, every time you look at the clock and wonder what your daughter is doing at that particular time (@ morning assembly as I write this), know that most of us are doing the same thing! 🙂

  3. Crying again! Who knew this would be so tough! And Kathie- I laughed at your comment- I so find myself looking at the clock and saying, ” Now she’s at breakfast. Now she’s at rest hour. ” And on and on through the day,

  4. What a gorgeous post and what a gift you have given to your daughter! I love the photo at the end of the post! We can and we DO!

  5. Leave it to me to bring things up a little more to surface, but your daughter is stunningly beautiful.

    Your writing stirred some things within me too that i am looking forward to exploring. Thank you so much for your insights into (somewhat) regular days……Not that leaving your daughter for the first time is regular, but , in the grand scheme, it might be…..another one of the firsts……..

  6. When you get to be my age with a first born nearing 30, and the youngest, all of 24 off exploring the northwest territories helping youth find out more about themselves and the process of community .. you read this poignant piece and wonder at the heart on the outside… that everybody can see and that NEVER goes away… even after they’re grown… and you marvel at the resilience of our human spirit, of our ability to let risk take us in gusts and leave us still, standing richer , fuller and even more vulnerable than before.
    Take heart ! It doesn’t get any easier but it does continue and the love that grows stronger reminding us that THAT is the Only reason to keep going!

  7. Holy, I’m crying too. I was gone for 12 hours today and will be for the next two days and just that makes my heart ache. It’s the most vulnerable feeling in the world, this love… xoxo

  8. “My soul yearns for its little partner. Of course it does.”

    Ok, that did me in.

    I have a little partner too and that just shot straight through. We love them so so deeply it can catch you off gaurd sometimes.

  9. I just spend the weekend in Becket Mass at Chimney Corners Camp with my daughter Emma aged 11. It’s her fourth Summer going there. I was a camper there too but only for one Summer and I so wanted Emma to have the experience of going to the same place every Summer and forming connections. I hope she will be taking her daughter there someday and seeing old friends with their daughters!

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