Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Notes From Camp

She finished 4th grade, finished another soccer season, performed in the end-of-the-year piano recital. She's nine going on ten going on seventeen and we're technically required to call her a fifth-grader now. She has braces. She was awarded the "Fantastic Friend" award by her teacher at school, and "Best Technical Skills" award by her soccer coach, whatever that means. She's had an iPod touch for a year or so, for music and a camera and silly games, and she lobbied us for months to enable the texting feature, which we finally did this week on a trial basis with much trepidation and after multiple conversations about Responsibility and Trust and The Internet is Forever, so now she and her friend can use all the emoji while they text about which headband they'll wear the following day.

Also, she's at camp.

Camp, as in sleepaway, as in we dropped her off on Sunday and haven't spoken a word to her since. I didn't think this would be a big deal for me, since I've definitely been away from her for much longer periods of time (I pick her up tomorrow), and I know she's with three of her bestest friends, and I loved camp myself at exactly her age. But the complete lack of communication has thrown me -- can't I get a 60-second phone call: "Everything good? You're having fun? I love you!" -- and the house is so very quiet without her in it.

Not that the absence is all bad. Because in spite of the fact that she can still pass time by coloring, possibly still believes in fairies and Santa, and spent a big chunk of her first day of summer vacation playing an invented game with Jemma involving scooters, maple seeds, a sidewalk-chalk-drawn map on the driveway, and bad guys, she's moving into the teen-ish years more quickly than I can believe. The last week of school, she had an honest-to-goodness fit about her hair, which looked exactly the same as it has looked every other day of the last year, and declared it "square" and ripped her headband out and threw it on the ground. For the first time this school year, she actually got a little worked up about tests ("Quiz me on the state capitals one last time, Mom!") and she started faux-complaining about a boy or two in her class. I brought her to one of Ben's lacrosse games and after the game was over the two of them had a few moments of painful awkwardness, complete with strange voices and total lack of eye contact, before they remembered that they're friends who have known one another since they were born and went on talking and laughing as usual. She's moody and talks back and stomps off and is 100 percent a tween.

Before she left on Sunday, Jason and I tucked a few notes into the clothes she had packed in her duffel bag for her to find later. It was Father's Day, and as I was hiding a little blue note among her t-shirts, I  was remembering the way my dad used to do the same thing for me each year. I don't remember what a single one of his notes said -- I wish I had one still now -- but I can easily envision his spidery, all-caps handwriting and the little smiley face he always drew.

On Sunday, I had talked to him on the phone earlier that day, and he told Annie to have a great time at camp, and I wish I had remembered to talk about the notes with him when I wished him happy Father's Day. I always loved finding them, always felt loved and treasured when I thought about my dad remembering to tuck them in. As Annie grows up and away from us (grades and boys and camp and texts), more and more I think our role is to step back and watch her learn (and try, and fail, and try again) while we coach and encourage from the sidelines. I kind of can't believe I'm the person tucking the notes into the camp duffel, but I'm hoping she remembers it on a day next week or next year when she "hates" us, and maybe again in 20 or 30 years, when she's doing it for her kids.

And I can't wait to go get her tomorrow.