July 30, 2000
We delivered Lynn to summer camp today. It’s a Lutheran camp near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, about an hour southwest of where we live. This is her seventh year, her last year in junior camp. She’ll be there a week, sharing cabin space with five other girls, among them her closest friend, Kim, with whom she also shares an identical school schedule, a passion for *NSYNC, and, we concluded today, some DNA, since it’s becoming harder and harder to tell where one girl ends and the other begins.
I never went to a summer camp. It just wasn’t done in the culture I grew up in. I also never went to Vacation Bible School, since my everyday Catholic school experience made that unnecessary. A friend told me that his many summers as camper and then counselor at a kosher camp had done more to forge his Jewish identity than any temple membership or after school youth group ever had. So I decided early on that both VBS and a church-run camp would be non-negotiable activities for Lynn. It turned out that I needn’t have planned to be so uncompromising. If she couldn’t go to camp, she would be inconsolable.
So she spent all of yesterday packing. At fifteen she already has the organizational skills I didn’t develop until after she was born. She made a list of the clothes and other items she wanted to take, and then created a table with the days across the top and the various activities down the side. In each block she indicated what she would need. She pre-addressed and stamped envelopes for the several letters she wants to write to friends at other camps, and she folded a suitable number of loose leaf sheets into each envelope. (It’s quite possible that all the rising ninth grade parents in Susquehanna Township are home alone this week. Maybe we should have a party.)
I said that she spent all day yesterday doing this. That’s not quite accurate. She had it done by noon, and thus had a full 24 hours to pass before we actually got underway.
Lynn lives her life in the future. She anticipated the start of middle school with much excitement – she’d have a locker, and move from room to room. Then she was eager for eighth grade, so she’d be in the oldest age group. Then she couldn’t wait for Confirmation, and the formal reception we gave her and then the teen dance party she and Kim engineered together.
Now she talks constantly about getting her driver’s license (at least two years away, the summer after tenth grade, when she’ll be just shy of 17). She’s already picked out her dream car – a silver Jetta with a sun roof, black leather seats, and a six-CD changer. (Dream on, child.)
During this same week in 1985 I was as restless as she is now. She wouldn’t be born for another eight weeks, but I was tired of waiting. I’d made her room ready. I’d hung the wallpaper myself – a simple rosebud and vine design on three walls with a complementary stripe on the other. The crib was in place, already dressed in eyelet, with a handmade teddy bear (not, however, the one which would become the bear of choice) in the corner into whose arms I’d placed the sonogram photo.
The temperature went to 90 degrees that last week of July and stayed there for about a month. And so I was also tired of pregnancy. After that first swift, hard kick, nothing new happened, and all I did during August was perspire and get bigger. She had a face, she had a name, and even the birth announcements had already been printed. All I had to do was add the date. I was tired of preparing. I wanted my little project out in the open, where I could work on it.
It seems now that I lived her whole life in fast forward. I read the baby books – next month she’ll do this, after that something else. I couldn’t wait for her first smile, her first words, her first steps, her first papers from kindergarten. Her first day of high school looms, and she’s restless for that, but I’m not.
I want her to stay the way she is. I said that when she was four, when she was ten. “I want to find a magic pill,” I told her each year on her birthday, “to keep you just the way you are.” “But Mommy,” she would answer, “I have to grow.” And each year I would say I was glad I hadn’t found it, because I liked the girl she’d become just as much as the girl she’d been.
I’ve always found myself reflected in the lyrics of my generation’s troubadours. The times they are a-changin’. I can’t get no satisfaction. Now we know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Come on baby, light my fire. Take another little piece of my heart. All too soon I’ll be singing some Joni Mitchell:
Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now.
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town.
And [I tell her], take your time it won’t be long now
‘Til you drag your feet to slow the circles down.