We’ve been driving for more than three hours. I am frantic to locate a bathroom and then find a cup of coffee anywhere on this endlessly curving country road. All I see are cows. And don’t even get me started about the traffic. Would someone please explain where everyone is going on this rainy Sunday morning when they should be snugly tucked in their beds? We, of course, had to leave at the uncivilized hour of six a.m. That’s because some of our grandkids are staff kids and we will be their only official visitors today. As far as their cousins are concerned; for once, I just wanted to get there before the Grossmans, our next door neighbors. Susan and Harry Grossman are just so perfect because they are always the first to show up in camp and the very last to leave. Already, our reputation as devoted grandparents has been tarnished since we missed our granddaughter’s softball championship game. Now we probably would be drummed out of the family altogether if we dared to come late for that interminable summer rite, Summer Camp Visiting Day.
The grass is wet and marshy and I still don’t see any sign of a bathroom when we finally arrive. Some widely grinning counselors motion us into a parking spot. Of course, the space is steeped in mud and is located at the farthest end of a huge field, our reward for showing up early. I realize that I should never have worn my new sandals but I wanted to look like a cool grandma. Now I look like a dumb, wet one. The teens gleefully waving us in are probably thinking how they will spend their tip money after this long day is over. Either that or they are on massive sugar overload. Otherwise, why would they be standing out here, smiling in this damp drizzle? They take absolutely no notice of the weather as they stand in their sodden camp T-shirt, cheerfully handing out dripping camp schedules. “They look like Aliens,” I mutter to my husband. “No, those guys in front of us do,” and he points at the couples directly in front of us.
Straight ahead of us are robot-like clusters of parents and relatives balancing beach chairs, blankets and huge coolers no doubt filled with enough supplies to feed the hungry. Hungry campers, that is. It doesn’t seem to matter that camp costs thousands of dollars and that the kids have only been gone for two weeks. The poor things still crave some homemade treats and bags of nosh that they probably never even heard of up here in the sticks. Can they even pronounce, “Bomba” in Nowheresville, PA? Truthfully, we are no different from the rest of the crowd. We, too, tote heavy shopping bags filled with baskets of food and gifts carefully chosen and labeled for each grandchild. The personal requests have been arriving daily via text message since they left for camp.
“Bobbie, I really miss you and Zaydie sooo much. Could you bring me nosh when you come? And I have nothing left to read…and it’s freezing…I need a new sweatshirt.” The list goes on.
Sports magazines for our tomboy. Fashion ones for our beauty queen. Stationery in the hope that someone will actually write a real letter and send it by snail mail. Fattening nosh, this time for everyone. I certainly learned my lesson after last summer’s fiasco. How was I to know not to take my granddaughter seriously when she mentioned that she was on a diet and was eating only healthy food? Should I have guessed that healthy is a relative term which includes dark chocolate and whatever else her siblings and cousins were stuffing into their mouths? Her stricken face as she opened her fruit salad still haunts me some nights.
We trudge to the camp entrance following the crowd. Staff members whiz by on golf carts narrowly missing us as we stagger under our load of supplies. The road is rocky and full of puddles, a treacherous obstacle path. Finally, finally, they are in sight. Standing on the road, peering through the front gate, in a straight, wide line…there are the children. They scan our faces, hungrily looking for their own families. The younger campers whose parents haven’t arrived yet look bereft. The older ones jostle each other and joke, but they too, look anxious. Sympathetically, I assure them that there was traffic, lots of traffic. Their parents will be along in “just a minute.” They continue to search the road, ignoring me.
Suddenly, our grandchildren see us and break into a run. How did six adolescents grow taller in just two weeks? They look so beautiful, so tan and healthy. Didn’t it rain in camp for the last five days like it had at home?
“There you are,” they scream. “Why so late”? They envelop us in hugs, talking excitedly all at once.
“I’m in the play.”
“I passed the deep-water test.”
My counselor Chanie was your student three years ago. Was she smart?”
“Come see my bunk.”
“No, Mine first.”
“We had a skunk spray our towels yesterday. Sooo gross.”
“Harry and Susan are late. Did you see them?”
Everyone speaks at once, vying for our attention. We follow and smile, shlepping our heavy bags and crossing the lawn. All around us are parents and grandparents and friends beaming at chattering children. In a few minutes, I know that our grandkids will eagerly rejoin their friends and walk up and sown the campus greeting other visitors, forgetting that we even exist. But for now, we are theirs and we bask in their attention as they revel in ours. I smile at my exhausted husband and whisper, “I guess it was worth the long trip after all. Now could you please, please, find me a bathroom?”
By Estelle Glass