Sunday, August 13, 2006

Camp Week

There's two big trunks in my dining room, filled with towels and toothpaste, hairbrushes and raincoats, flashlights and sunscreen, and ziploc bags, each with a clean shirt, shorts, socks, and undies. One bag for each day at camp, plus one. If this year is anything like last year, at least half the bags will never be opened.

This will be the second year at camp for my kids. Last year they had a good enough time, although my son was more homesick than my daughter. For the first few weeks back home, he was adamant he would not go back this year.

Of course, after my daughter faceplanted on a tree when she went sledding one winter, she vowed never to sled again. That didn't last long either.

By November, he was already talking about what he was going to do this year.

We grow and we learn.

But of course, there's always questions.

"What if they don't like me? What if I don't make any friends?"

This wasn't coming from my kids. This was from STBEW.* The camp had put a call out this spring, looking for volunteers to help staff the camp. I showed the letter to her, and she decided to see if they could use her help. They could.

I love my kids. Having a week without them is a bit difficult. A week without STBEW around? Not so difficult.

I laughed. I thought she was kidding. She wasn't.

"You'll be fine," I said. "You're quite capable, and very likeable."

"No I'm not."

"Yes, you are," I replied. "If you weren't so damned likeable, you wouldn't have gotten away with half the shit you pulled."

Well, I have to give her credit for voicing her fears.

When I was a kid, my parents had no fear. None. At least, that's what I thought. That's what they showed me. Everything was done with confidence. I thought adults knew everything, and could do anything.

When I was about 12 or 13, I was watching my Dad in his workshop. He was building an attachment to the laundry chute. He cut a piece of wood to the wrong size. "Well, that just proves your Old Man ain't perfect," he said.

That was news to me.

It wasn't until much later that I discovered the truth. Discovered may not be the right word. I realized the truth. My parents grew up in the teeth of the Depression, in southwestern Pennsylvania. For many years of her childhood, my mother's toilet was a stream that ran behind the shack where she lived. Her bathtub and kitchen sink were slightly upstream. My dad went to school in Pittsburgh with a false last name, because in those days being Polish wasn't the best thing to be in that town.

They worked very hard, and with almost no guidance, were able to build a very comfortable upper-middle-class life for themselves. There was a lot to be admired there. However, one thing was given short shrift: emotions. Especially, the one that dominated my mother's life: fear.

Mom was afraid of everything. But she never talked about it, never admitted it, never dealt with it. It was so prevalent in everything that happened, that I never even noticed it. Like some low-level mechanical hum in an office building, after a while it's only really noticed when it's gone.

Even her love was filled with fear. So much so, that it has taken me quite a while to untangle the two emotions. And it's taking me some time to work through it.

So, I pay attention to my fears. I do my best to examine what it is that frightens me in situations. If there's a good reason to be afraid in a situation, then maybe it's not the right place for me to be.

I still have fears. I let my kids know this. But I also show them that I don't let my fears run my life. I work at doing things that need to be done, even if I'm afraid of doing them.

STBEW left for camp this morning. The kids go tomorrow. They'll have fun. My son spent his week last year in a bit of fear. I don't think it will be as prevalent for him this year.

I hope my ex-wife's first year at camp goes well for her.


*STBEW=Soon To Be Ex-Wife


Blogger Dark Lady said...

For a very, very long time fear ruled my life.
Today I am better equiped to chose which fears to fight and which to just let go.
I won't allow fear to stop me from doing things I want to do like meet new people but I allow it to prevent me from pumping my own gas.

10:41 AM  
Blogger terry said...

i think a lot of us let fear rule too much of our lives. i know i do. i think it's the biggest battle of my life, actually.

isn't it amazing when you first realize your parents are human?

12:54 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Dark: what a convenient fear to have...

terry: my parents aren't human. these are just the earth creatures that captured me and prevented me from assuming my rightful role as emperor of the planet koozbain.


1:24 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Oh gosh. Once again you have choked me up. I'll comment later...

6:47 PM  
Blogger terry said...

so, you're saying they've denied you your proper place on koozbain?

is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

7:11 PM  
Blogger Clint said...

Either I don't recognize it, or I don't regularly experience it, but I have no problems with fear.

I may worry about things every once in a while, but I've never described that as being fearful.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Okay. My mom also grew up without electricity, in the 50s and 60s. (She had a really cool invention though- an outhouse.)

She's the best mother, honestly, but fearful in many ways. I've spent my adult life to shed her fears. But I can't blame her. She managed to raise two kids on a farm and we both lived. We didn't get mangled by equipment or hit by a transport truck. So maybe her fear served a purpose.

But it still haunts me. Despite my wildness I carry it with me.

Hope STB has a very good week.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Terry: Koozbainian Emperors are well-served. On toast.

Heidi: Outhouses are indeed useful. The soil where they lived was too rocky to dig one.

Clint: good for you. You're where I want to be.

Mentally. I don't want to really be in Oklahoma.


2:06 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...

i was always petrified my parents would send me to camp. unfortunately, i went to girl scout camp a few times and i am still traumatized.

nothing like mean little white girls in green uniforms picking on you for a week

2:33 PM  
Blogger Clint said...

It may also be that I'm defining fear in a very classical way, ie. of the bogeyman.

On a second thought-run, I will acknowledge that I choose not to do things because I fear negative reactions. For example, turning around and telling someone to stop kicking my seat. I've always just assumed that was cowardice, though.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Madame X said...

I am with Colleen!
I was petrified of camp...and I still am!
It's an entire sub culture I am just not comfortable with!

2:39 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Farm kids don't go to camp. I'm not really sure what Y'ALL are talking about....

3:31 PM  

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