Smartmom and Hepcat were silent driving away from Camp Fuller after dropping the Oh So Feisty One in her bunk. Smartmom could tell that Hepcat was sad even if he didn’t say a thing. She’s learned to read all of the signals given off by her pathologically understated man.
They’d had such fun driving up to Rhode Island: a real road trip adventure. As the family made its way up hellish I-95, Smartmom read aloud from “Trinity,” the 400-page best-selling young adult book about a high school girl with a major crush on a vampire.
They stayed at the Hamilton Village Inn in North Kingstown, RI and had a fun dinner at the Steamview, an old-fashioned, family-style restaurant decorated with antique toy steam engines.
Smartmom and OSFO were packing for most of the week prior to camp — a major bonding experience full of rolled eyes and flash-flood fights. OSFO, who objected to the inadequate way that Smartmom folds clothing, re-folded her clothing and packed the entire trunk herself; neat as a pin.
Driving away from OSFO’s camp, Smartmom had a pit in her stomach. This was only OSFO’s second summer at a sleepaway and Smartmom knew that her girl was nervous.
Last summer’s all-girls Quaker camp had decidedly left-wing leanings dating back to the 1930s. It was wilderness-oriented farm-camp that was more than a little rustic (i.e. composting outhouses called Kybo’s, no windows or doors in the bunks, mosquito netting required).
Smartmom thought it would be a good back-to-basics experience; very empowering for a 10-year-old girl brought up in brownstone Brooklyn.
OSFO didn’t exactly hate the camp, but it was a little too crunchy granola for her. Smartmom thinks she was more than a little homesick and she really didn’t like the outhouses.
Smartmom was relieved when OSFO showed interest in another sleepaway camp. This time, she was an educated consumer. Windows and doors on the bunks. Check. Real toilets. Check. Traditional camp activities like a mountain-climbing wall and skate-boarding. Check.
Perhaps most important, she was going to camp with a good friend, which made all the difference to OSFO.
Still, in the weeks before camp, OSFO was feeling anxious.
“Maybe I’m not a camp type of person,” she told Smartmom one night when she should have been sleeping. “If this one doesn’t work out, that’s it. No more camp for me.”
Smartmom consoled her with tales of her own camp experience. Like OSFO, Smartmom hated her own starter camp and wrote miserable letters home.
It didn’t help that all the counselors decided to go to Woodstock leaving the campers to fend for themselves for a day or two (or so she remembers; it was 1969 after all).
But the next year, Smartmom went to her beloved — and now defunct — Ethical Culture School Camp, a camp she remembers fondly to this day.
To Smartmom’s relief, OSFO seemed to take to Camp Fuller immediately. She was the second arriving camper and got to choose the bed she wanted. Later, when her friend arrived, she took the bed right next to OSFO’s. Hepcat carried her heavy trunk into the bunk and Smartmom made her bed, arranged her Ugly Dolls and placed her toiletries, her contraband gummy worms, and her stationery on her shelf.
There were no tears or clinging hugs. OSFO seemed comfortable in her bunk, especially once her friend was there. She did look a tad nervous when her counselor announced that there would be a swimming test within the hour to determine who needed to take swimming lessons. She assured OSFO that the test was really easy, but OSFO looked dismayed.
Still, that didn’t bring on any tears or requests for her parents to stick around. In fact, OSFO seemed eager for Smartmom and Hepcat to leave. They both gave her a long hug.
“I love you,” Hepcat shouted out as he got into the car.
Hepcat paused before starting the engine. Smartmom could tell that he was feeling blue. He and OSFO had had such fun on their Rhode Island road trip; he’d even started giving her some pre-pre-driving lessons.
“Which pedal is the accelerator, which is the brake?” she asked at one point. “What does a yellow signal mean?”
The two of them have a lot in common. Like Hepcat, OSFO is very handy, very creative, and very good with a glue gun and a drill. She loves her dad’s kooky sense of humor and they share all kinds of in jokes and a private vocabulary.
Two weeks without the OSFO was bad enough, but to make matters worse, Smartmom was about to depart for Block Island for a week of writing.
No wonder it was such a silent, depressing drive away from OSFO’s new camp toward Smartmom’s ferry. They desperately need some quality time together without the kids. But it wasn’t meant to be.
“Are you OK?” Smartmom asked Hepcat as they waited for her ferry in Point Judith.
“I’m gonna miss OSFO and miss you,” he said sweetly. Smartmom noticed he said OSFO’s name first, but it didn’t bother her. Not too much. Hepcat snuck a peek at his watch
“I better go,” he said.
“The traffic may bad you better head home now,” she told him. They lingered in a long, comfortable hug. She heard the horn of her high-speed ferry.
“Love you,” she said. And now there were tears in her eyes.