The First Day

Of the rest of her life.

My wife and I just dropped Julianna off at the bus stop for her first day of camp. If you know me well, you might imagine what a tremendously huge deal that was for me.

I’ve been absent from the blog for a while for all the usual reasons. To catch you up, in a real-quick sort of way, when we last spoke, we were about to embark on our first family vacation to Disney. That trip was the first time on an airplane for both Julianna and Chloe. It was their first time in Disney. The four of us went along with my sister, her husband, and their two kids as well as my parents. I debated writing about the trip in longer form but I feel like that’s pretty cliche. Too long, don’t read (TL;DR): Watching your kids meet the characters they have idolized for years was by far the highlight for me. It wasn’t about going on rides or seeing shows…it was seeing Julianna give the REAL Minnie Mouse an all-consuming hug after sleeping with a Minnie Mouse doll essentially since the day she was born. It was seeing Chloe, who was initially very nervous around the characters, stair in awe as Sophia The First took the time to draw a picture of herself in Chloe’s autograph book right next to a picture Chloe had drawn of herself which lead to Chloe wanting to meet every character. Awesome. The whole thing.

And then, the day after we got home, we went to pick up the puppy. Her name is Rose. She’s a mini chocolate labradoodle who doesn’t shed and isn’t going to be huge. She’s also not chocolate at all…more like a cloudy grey with a few dark patches. This development, in case you wondering, was not on a whim. We had arranged with the breeder months earlier to hold on to Rose for a few extra weeks so we could go to Disney and not leave a puppy alone for a week. Chloe, as expected, can literally not get enough of her. Her biggest complaint is that her lap isn’t big enough yet for Rose to really curl up in it. Julianna, well, that’s a different story…she has dog issues. She seemed very excited about Rose prior to her arrival but its been slightly less than that level of excitement ever since. She has enjoyed Rose from a distance and only recently started physically getting close.

Now, back to the day at hand.

My wife and I just dropped Julianna off at the bus stop for her first day of camp and if you know me well, you can imagine what a giant deal that is for me. This camp is a day camp, very similar to the day camp I started going to when I was around her age. I got on the bus back then, just like she just did, and off we went. I attended day camp for a few summers prior to moving on to overnight camp. Camp in general is probably the single most transformative experience of my life prior to having a family of my own. I have been involved in the camping world in one form or another for the better part of the last 32 years. I started as a camper at day camp, then became a camper at overnight camp. I moved on to be a counselor in training at that same overnight camp, followed by a counselor for a bunch of years and then an administrator and then finally the camp director. I met my wife at this camp and while I’m not the director now, I am just as connected and continue to visit regularly and be involved in alumni event planning. I am one of those annoying camp people you probably know (or you might be). Deal with us.

So today, when Julianna walked on the bus (naturally with another little girl who happens to be the daughter of a man who was my counselor multiple times at overnight camp), I had, as my wife would call it, “a moment.” I had prepared myself for a similar type of departure to the one we got with Kindergarten. She waited on the sidewalk, with her backpack on and as instructed, her bathing suit on under her sporty camp outfit, with the other kids, for the bus. The bus pulled up with that familiar air release door opening noise. Inside, the counselor in charge of the bus, a young woman who I knew, naturally from my overnight camp, when she was a little girl. Comfort. I feel tense…but in a different way than with Kindergarten. With Kindergarten, I had a miserable transition and miserable drop-offs all the time. With camp, I was never homesick. I never had a hard time going for some reason.

I so badly want “camp” to be the greatest experience of her life. I also know, from years of talking to other parents about it, that my camp experience can not be hers. What I enjoyed and what I connected with are my things. She will have her own experiences and so I cautiously stepped back slightly, waving and telling her I loved her and to have a great day and I couldn’t wait to hear all about it.

Camp. Its a pretty silly thing when you really think about it. Organized recess for however many hours a day. Swim in a lake maybe. Play softball or volleyball…it really doesn’t matter. Meet new people. Do some jewelry making. I can’t really explain it. You’ll hear camp people say something like, “if you didn’t go you don’t know.” Its not intended to be a high-nose or confrontational thing. Its just difficult to explain the connection people have.

Leading up to this day, I had to check myself and make sure that I remembered that this was her beginning, not my to-be-continued.

So she got on the bus, tear free, happily…

And that is how her story starts.