Today was special — not for the obvious reasons. After six weeks our son came home from camp. Yes, we were happy to have him home; happy to be in his presence; happy to witness the camaraderie among friends; happy to notice the more grown up version of our child.
So, what made today special? Let me see if I can articulate the range of emotions and what I felt watching Hunter’s fingers adeptly caress the strings on his guitar, more comfortable in his hands then when he left 42 days ago. As he strummed, sharing a couple of new songs he learned, I was overcome with emotion. This beautiful child of mine, freshly scrubbed and relaxed on the family room couch, was easing back into home life. I imagine it’s analogous to an astronaut’s re-entry.
As I unpacked the sandy, stinky, soggy contents of the well-worn duffle, I discovered mail. Mostly, I found our letters to Hunter. I wonder if he read them more than once? The most surprising find was a batch of folded missives scribbled with the day’s adventure; letters Hunter wrote to us; letters penned but never sent. He did write to us…however, in true Hunter fashion, the tales recounted never made it into envelopes, let alone to the post office. I love that he thought about us and wanted to share what he was doing and experiencing. It didn’t matter that the mail never reached our box.
At one point, standing in the kitchen, Hunter tolerating my repeated hugs, I asked, “what are you doing?”
“Standing here being hugged,” was his reply. A smile slowly appeared across my face. He patiently let me hug him (and kiss him) and maybe even secretly enjoy feeling my mothering arms envelope him…at least I’d like to think he didn’t mind.
We noticed that the kid that stepped off the green Tamarack Camps bus this morning is a very different person than the child we greeted one year ago. I am not talking “unrecognizable different.” There was a maturity, a confidence, a self-awareness that we hadn’t seen before.
For those who are reading this and don’t know about the camp experience that I am referencing, a little background. Hunter was privileged to spend six weeks at an outpost camp in northern Ontario, Canada. Two dozen teens hiked, canoed, sang, cooked, cuddled, swam and bonded. They were guided only by their desire to sleep or eat or watch the stars or marvel at the sunset on the great Lake Superior. With no time keeping device, iPhone, flat iron or other “necessary” electronic allowed, these “connected” teens easily and willingly unplugged in exchange for this temporary slice of heaven.
In a brief one-on-one moment this morning as the kids and parents settled into the familiar camp home-coming routine, the director connected with me. Without fanfare or pretense or any ego-driven need to flatter me with compliments, he told me what it was like to have Hunter as part of the camp community. He used adjectives to describe my son that brought tears to my eyes.
Today was filled with perfect moments; special moments that filled my heart with the love that only a mother could know.
WOW. What a wonderful homecoming for all! I get chills reading your blogs! Say hi and welcome home to Hunter!!!
I have about 10 more days until I pick up two boys from that very camp! Mine are younger, and are doing their first full session of 23 days. Last year it was easy, they were gone for only 10 days, and I was working, so their absence was not as noticeable. This year, they are gone for much longer, and I am not working, so it is very, very quiet here. I am hoping for similar results–that the boy on the autism spectrum comes home a little more able to live “in the moment,” and the daydreamer comes back having learned a bit more responsibility. I can hope, can’t I?
Camp does amazing things for kids. I remind myself that I have to behave differently in response to the “new” kid.
I think it does, too. Things they most certainly do not realize.
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