Keeping in touch with campers is much easier than it was when we were kids. No more waiting for a handwritten letter– the camp has a website that allows you to log on everyday and see pictures of your child participating in various activities. While your child must rely on snail mail to communicate with you, parents can email their kids daily. The messages are printed off and handed out along with regular mail at rest time.
Looking at the pictures is addictive. Sure, it’s reassuring to see that your child is having fun and to know what activities he is doing, but it’s even more entertaining to check out the other kids and see if you can tell where they’re from and who’s hanging out with who.
When we dropped Drew off at camp, I sniffled a little as we drove away. Two hours later, when we stopped for gas and I reached in the back of my car to get some aspirin, I discovered that Drew’s toiletries had not made it into his trunk. He was stuck in the wilderness with no shampoo, and worst of all, no toothbrush or toothpaste.
As soon as I got home I emailed him:
I guess you’ve figured out by now that we forgot to put your toothbrush in your trunk. Please do not experiment to see if you can grow green fuzzy mold on your teeth. You can buy a toothbrush at the camp store. That will make me happy. We are home and it is raining and I am making your brothers clean out their closets so you are not missing a thing here. Love you lots,
After we got home, there were already pictures up on the camp website. Drew was easy to spot. As I had feared, he was one of the smallest boys there, and his white-blonde hair was almost blinding. He was wearing his favorite crimson shirt as he held a big tarantula.
The second day the boys went on a campout. Drew was still wearing his crimson shirt. I saw him sitting by a campfire, chowing down on a hot dog, and hiking with his backpack. I fumed. Many of the kids resembled one another, with blondish-brown hair and big front teeth, but Drew has a unique look. By my count he’d gone 48 hours in the same shirt. I wondered if the other mothers perusing the website were noticing. I knew they were.
I wrote Drew again:
Boy, it looks like you have been very busy. That tarantula you were holding looked VERY scary. PLEASE do not pack it in your suitcase and bring it home. That would scare the pants off me!! The campout looked fun also. Did you get to eat s’mores after dinner?
I noticed you’ve been wearing your favorite shirt a LOT. It is probably starting to smell, so why don’t you put it in your laundry bag and put on a clean shirt? We packed your favorite camouflage shirt. I bet your cabin mates would like to see it. I hope you bought a new toothbrush, too.
Today I made your brothers pull weeds until they cried, so you’re not missing anything.
The third day he rode horses. Actually, it looked like he was trying to make out with the horse. I wasn’t really paying attention because all I could see was that he was wearing the damn shirt again. Who cared if the counselors could do CPR– weren’t they trained to make sure their charges exercised basic hygiene? If he wasn’t changing his shirt, I hated to think about his underwear.
On day four Drew learned to kayak in the morning. I brightened when I saw that picture, as it meant that at least his skin was coming in contact with water, and the crimson shirt was no longer touching his body. On the next page of photos, however, I saw that later in the day Drew had put on his clothes and taken up archery.
I sighed. The other mothers were going to think that I was the worst mom ever.
On the fifth day the website had a closeup of Drew kneeling on a portrait he had drawn, smiling broadly up at the camera. Again, the crimson shirt. Maybe the camp had lost his belongings.
I inspected the picture closely. His teeth were taking on a definite yellowish tinge. I didn’t think he was brushing his teeth properly, if at all.
At that point I resigned myself to the fact that I was raising a boy who, left to his own devices, tended to wallow in filth. I would be picking him up in twelve hours, and I’d start training him to stay clean immediately.
When we got to camp, Drew was waiting for me, wearing his camouflage shirt. I was excited to see him, and so thrilled to see his new wardrobe that I nearly smothered him with kisses before I realized that there were a lot of little boys standing around and my behavior was way uncool.
As I put him down, a woman walked by with her chunky camper. “I recognize that little guy,” she said, pointing to Drew. “It’s the boy in the red shirt!”
She looked at me. “I saw all his pictures on the website,” she said. “He looked like he had an interesting week,” she said. Was that her way of implying that he had a stinky camping experience, I wondered?
Drew gave me a box to hold. “It’s got all my really important things from camp in it,” he said. I peeked in it and saw his archery target, the letters he’d gotten from us, his colored pencils and notebook, several beaded necklaces, and our emails, which were neatly folded. He’d doodled on the back of them.
Eventually we loaded Drew’s things and said goodbye. As we turned onto the highway, I asked him what his favorite part of camp was.
“I really liked riding horses,” he said. “And guess what? I didn’t brush my teeth or change my clothes the whole time I was there. Except this morning my counselor made me wear this shirt.”
“Really?” I commented. “So what did you think when you got my emails telling you to buy a toothbrush and to change your shirt?”
Drew looked confused.
“I didn’t get any emails,” he said. “I didn’t even see a computer.”
“They printed out the messages and handed them to you at rest time,” I told him. “I know you got them. I saw them in your box.” I reached in the box and pulled out the folded notes.
“I didn’t know these were emails,” Drew said. “I thought they were handing out paper for us to draw on.”
So as it turns out, my petite little camper never unfolded the emails we sent, and went through the week blissfully unaware that his mother was freaking out over his filth from three states away.
It’s all for the best, though. When people ask him what he liked best about camp, he says he loved not brushing his teeth.
You know that furry feeling you get on your teeth when you haven’t brushed them in a while? That’s the stuff great camping memories are made of.