Friday, July 8, 2011

camping conclusion: a fairytale ending

The day finally arrived. I was going to pick my daughter up from camp...and I was thrilled! A goofy grin started spreading across my face as Malia and I drove closer and closer to our destination and I could hardly contain my excitement!

We arrived at the camp and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was finally going to be reunited with my sweet little girl. The first thing I did was quickly buy Joelle a camp t-shirt to surprise her with and then we headed off in search of her.

With my heart in my throat, I shaded my eyes from the sun and looked around in all directions, anxiously waiting to catch a glimpse of my girl. And then, through the crowd, I spotted her. Wearing the same cute yellow t-shirt she was wearing when I dropped her off several days earlier. She was smiling and laughing. Her beautiful hair was flowing down her face to her shoulders, in sweet little waves and my heart gave a flutter.

She was so beautiful.

As I was breathing in the sight of her, she looked up and saw me. Our eyes met and words were not needed. We stood still for just a second as we reunited with just our sight. And then, in unison, we both broke into a slow run to close the gap between us. Everything else faded into the background - the green trees, the blue cloudless sky, the other campers and staff in their bright yellow camp t-shirts - and the only thing that mattered was that in mere seconds I was going to get what I had been waiting for all week...to have my daughter in my arms again.

It only took a few heart-beats for us to reach each other, and in one fluent motion Joelle said, "Mommy!" and leaped into my outstretched arms, wrapped her soft arms around me and buried her face into my neck. We were smiling and crying at the same time. And once again I felt complete.

After staying like that for quite some time, savoring the familiar smell of each other, I let her down to the ground so she could greet her little sister who had almost missed her desperately. I showed her the t-shirt I wanted to surprise her with and she jumped up and down with happy gratitude at her take-home souvenir of her first camp experience.

As we waited for the closing chapel to begin, Joelle did not leave my side. We walked around the camp yard hand-in-hand-in-hand (the three of us) and felt like we were the only ones there. Nothing else mattered. As the bell rang to signal the start of the closing chapel, we found our seats together. I put my arm around Joelle's shoulders and she rested her head on mine. A perfect fit.

As the chapel came to a close and we were walking to the van, Joelle skipped alongside of me saying "I had a great time at camp, Mommy...but I'm glad you're here now." We all piled into the van to head home and drove off into the sunset....Happily Ever After!

Just like all the fairytales. Kinda gives you warm fuzzies doesn't it?

But the thing about fairytales...is that they're make-believe. So is the story of my reunion with Joelle. It went more-so like this:

The day finally arrived. I was going to pick my daughter up from camp...and I was thrilled! A goofy grin started spreading across my face as Malia and I drove closer and closer to our destination and I could hardly contain my excitement!

We arrived at the camp and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was finally going to be reunited with my sweet little girl. The first thing I did was quickly buy Joelle a camp t-shirt to surprise her with and then we headed off in search of her.

With my heart in my throat, I shaded my eyes from the sun and looked around in all directions, anxiously waiting to catch a glimpse of my girl. And then, I spotted her. Crouched outside of her cabin door rifling through her packed duffel bag. Wearing the same cute yellow t-shirt she was wearing when I dropped her off several days earlier. She was smiling and laughing. Her beautiful hair was flowing down her face to her shoulders, in sweet little waves and my heart gave a flutter.

She was so beautiful.

I quickened my step to get closer to her, waiting for the moment when she would notice us coming. I didn't have to wait long. She looked up and just as quickly looked back down to her bag. I wasn't sure if she had actually noticed that it was us or not. We got even closer. I heard one of her cabin-mates say, "Someone's mom is here." The friend who had invited Joelle to come in the first place said "That's Joelle's mom." At the sound of her name, Joelle lifted her head again and I thought now I would get my reunion moment that I had been dreaming about.

"Hi Mom," she said ever-so-casually (as if we had only gone a couple of hours without seeing each other instead of 4 long days!) and turned her attention back to her duffel bag yet again. "I'm looking for my pen."

"Oh, I have a pen you can use" said a new friend. "Thanks," said Joelle, turning to receive the offered writing utensil, not paying me any attention whatsoever.

"Uh...can I have a hug?" I asked. I was feeling a bit deflated already, I'm not gonna lie. But I was happy that at least she was very comfortable and relaxed. She did then bless me with a strong hug - however short - and I relished the feel of it, even though I had to sort of force it out of her! She did then also give her sister a squeeze and it was sweet to see them finally reunite too.

"Oh - I bought you a camp t-shirt, sweetie." I said as I handed her the item. "Oh, thanks" she said, barely even looking at it.

After that, we did have a bit of time before the closing chapel so I asked Joelle what she wanted to do. Instead of walking through the camp yard hand-in-hand-in-hand...she said "I'm going to play...come on Malia!" and off they scampered, leaving me behind with the luggage.

Shortly after, when the bell rang to signal the start of the closing chapel, I heard Joelle say "Chapel's starting Malia, let's go" and they ran into the building, once again leaving me behind.

As the chapel came to a close and I was signing her out, the girls were asking me if we could get something from the tuck shop for the drive home. I had not been prepared for the tuck shop, since during the week it was only open for a short time in the afternoons, not the evenings - and I therefore did not have any cash on me whatsoever. I wanted to be able to get them a small treat for the ride home, but the option just wasn't there.

So Joelle happily skipped alongside me to the van anyway plunked herself down on the ground, crossed her arms and pouted, "Then I'm not going anywhere." I basically had to drag her to the van and we drove off of the camp premises with her in tears.

Sigh...

I bet you're not feeling the warm fuzzies as much now, are ya? Yeah, me neither. But such is life. And that's exactly what I had been missing all week right? Normal life with her back at home. Well, I've got that now (whining, sibling fighting, attitude and all)...and it's as if she was never gone.

I did love watching her in her new environment though; especially during chapel. Her and Malia sat in the front row and I stayed closer to the back with the rest of the parents. It was such a joy to watch Joelle in that atmosphere. The camp directer started with asking the kids questions (like "So, did you have fun this week?" and "Did you like the food?") and Joelle responded with as much energy and enthusiasm as the rest of the kids - with her arms raised high above her head clapping excitedly and shouting out her own loud cheers. She participated whole-heartedly in the actions to the singing and went confidently on stage with her two counsellors and some of her cabin-mates for a short presentation of something that they discovered during the week.

She was definitely at home there.

And I may not have gotten the reunion that I was envisioning...but I did get back the big piece of my heart that had been missing since Sunday.






Joelle - I am SO very proud of you for stepping outside of your comfort zone (in such a B-I-G way) and trying something so new. You took it on and you absolutely conquered it! The joy I witnessed in your face and the friendships I saw you had made were an absolute treasure for this Mama to see. I'm happy you had your first camp experience and I hope you have many, many more!

6 comments:

Pamela said...

Having your kids grow up kinda sucks. I remember the days when I thought they couldn't do anything without me and then little by little they started to do more and more things on their own. I know that is the whole point of parenting-to prepare them to be independent- but realizing that they can go off on their own AND be successful does make me long for the days when I knew where they were all the time, who they were with, and what they were doing. *sigh* That stage comes to an end too quickly.

I'm glad that Joelle had a great time and I'm glad you survived too. Joelle is lucky to have you worrying and caring so deeply for her.

andrea said...

they do such a great job at camp to make kids feel welcome, important and accepted. so happy that she got to experience this. tho it wasn't the reunion you envisioned, I can assure you, she was thrill to see you and thrilled to home again!
Have a great weekend together!

Gin said...

Well, at least you know you have the right kid with you!! I'm glad she enjoyed the week and was participating with so much enthusiasm. That's the part that really excites me - that maturity in her.

Jody said...

This was a funny post Andrea! I totally thought your first part was real! I am so glad she had fun, and so glad you could have your girl back. I understand your pain, Holly used to cry and pitch a fit every time I picked her up from daycare because she wanted to stay there...

Andrea said...

K, so you almost had me in tears with the first "reunion". Then I read the real reunion and I couldn't help but laugh out loud. More because I felt silly for almost crying at the fake one. LOL!! I'm so happy that she had such a great time and that she's now home safe and sound.

TammyIsBlessed said...

That was hilarious! ;)