Last year, we sent Petunia to her first summer sleep-away camp: 7 days, 6 nights at a Girl Scout camp in the Vermont wilderness with a focus on horseback riding. We'd heard about the camp from a good friend of hers who loved it, and, after discussing it with the friend's mom, we felt it was a good fit for Petunia. So, we stocked up: half-chaps, riding boots, a mess kit, and what felt like a gazillion dollars later, we loaded the car and dropped her ... at a tent. Seriously, the camp involved platforms topped with canvas tents that did not close, perched on the side of a cliff. Since Petunia has a serious falling-out-of-bed issue, this posed some deep questions for us, such as: when she falls out of bed, hits the platform, and tumbles clean out of the tent, exactly how far down the hill will she roll before she wakes up? And, of course, she did fall out, just the other direction, and she didn't wake up -- just slept on the floor.
The more important pool we should've spread around the internet question we should've asked is how she'd be protected from encephalitis mosquitoes in a tent that doesn't really close at a time of year when it rains almost every day. And in retrospect, I should've returned to the camp with a mosquito net, Africa-style, because the girl came home with 56 bites despite coating herself with Deep Woods Off regularly. That's right: a whole lot of Deet yielded 56 welts, huge ones, as she's particularly sensitive to bug bites. I itched just looking at her for weeks on end, because that's how long it took for some of the marks to disappear. To Petunia's credit, she was a great sport about it, but she did ask to go to a camp next year that involved walls, windows, and doors.
So, we recently dropped Petunia at Sleep-away Camp 2: 6 days, 5 nights at a co-ed former 4-H camp in the Vermont wilderness. 11 girls and 1 counselor in a filthy dirty cabin the size of my bathroom with a side of spiders much bigger than last year's mosquitos. Fighting back tears and giving me a huge hug at the car, Petunia simply asked: "Mom, do you think I could go to a camp that's a little less rustic next year?"
The part of me that grew up in rural West Virginia thinks that the dirt and the bugs and the overcrowding -- well, that's just summer sleep-away camp. And this camp has an actual chlorinated pool, beyond the walled-and-windowed-and-doored cabin, so it does seem like a step up.
But the other part of me -- the bicoastal, especially NorCal part of me -- feels her pain. She wants the time away at a place where she knows no one (that's important to her, which boggles my mind because I couldn't have done that). She just wants it to be some modicum of clean and with fewer bugs. Is that too much to ask?
Maybe it is, but her next sleepaway camp, in a few weeks, involves staying in a college dorm and playing tennis. There are even bathrooms inside. It'll feel like true luxury to her, I bet.
I plan to write Part Two of this post when Petunia returns. I'll count the bug bites ... maybe do a year to year chart or graph? Or launch a predictor app for next year? I'm itchy already.