Every year, end of May, same question. “Have you started packing?” I shake my head no but the question is on repeat.
Never mind that I’m knee deep, trying to shovel my way through the end of the school year with exams, grads, parties, work and everything else that needs to be done, now I have to pack six huge duffels so three kids can live with what they’ve got for the summer.
Now that June’s coming to an end, I’ve finally started. Clothes corpses hide the kids’ floors, and there are Walmart bags stuffed full of stuff littering the basement.
My friends keep me updated on the state of their camp pack. They’ve long surpassed Walmart and moved on to Camp Connection, Urban Outfitters, Top Shop. They’ve scanned the grocery aisles for lemonade powder and labeled towels. They’ve washed, ironed, folded, stacked, packed, zipped and for days now, their duffels have been waiting like soldiers at the front door for pickup, which is – have I mentioned this yet? – tomorrow.
Since this is the last day I’ve got to pack three kids for seven – count ’em – seven weeks away, I now have no choice but to star in my own Nike commercial and Just. Do. It.
In case you have the wrong idea about me, I’m no procrastinator. I’m a Type AAA personality who gets off on planning, organizing, purging. So why, in the case of the dreaded camp pack – which is actually fun when my kids help – can’t I focus?
For weeks, I blamed it on being busy until my friend Whitney started posting Mom camp cheer on her Facebook wall:
In contrast to the “most depressing email” I received last August, today I received the happiest. This one is titled ‘Bus Assignments and Luggage Depot’.
The Girl: Can my friend come to the buses with us? Me: Does that mean I have to pretend to cry when you leave?
Her sentiments attracted excited comments. As usual, parents everywhere are waiting for that fantastic second the buses roll from the parking lot so they can high-five. Finally, they’ll be able to breathe, and party, without worrying about packing lunch and picking up carpool, without caring who will walk into the bedroom at night.
Not me. In our house, it’s only the kids who are counting down to freedom while I have regressed into a clingy toddler. I’ll be sitting with a kid in the car and out of nowhere, I’ll get splattered by grief and I’ll grab a hand and say, “I’m missing you already. While you’re still here.” Blech, my poor teens. I even sound sucky to myself.
I know this feeling, though. I’ve been here before. This cloud of sadness that’s making me go gaga over every smile and eye roll has a purpose. I’m just gearing myself up for when parenting overdrive (June) will screech to a halt before narrowly missing the brick wall that is July – when out of nowhere, when I’m out of breath from doing, doing, doing, I’ll find myself on emotional empty.
As blubbery as I’ve become, I haven’t hit bottom. That happens when the bus pulls away, and try as I might to look cool, my lips contort. While parents erupt in cheers, I’ll hiccup like a fool behind my shades because I know that first week, I’ll pop my head into the kids’ rooms to tell them some small thing and I’ll be met with eerily clean silence, while their voices haunt the house.
Don’t feel too sorry for me. After a week or so of not needing to do for others, once I step back into my body and my marriage, summer will bloom and the Pinot will flow (stay tuned). But first, I’ll have to get used to the flat line, that elimination of beautiful white noise.
Now I know why I left packing right up until the very last day. It’s because I hate like hell hugging my kids goodbye.