Goodbye, school! Hello, summer! Your hard work in finding the right camp last spring has come to fruition. You know your child will have a splendid time, but be on the lookout for some underlying anxiety on his part.
The following is a true story.
I look down at my soggy bowl of Cheerios and stir them around in circles, going one way and then the other. Everyone in my family is eating their breakfast — except me. Today is the first day of camp and the thought of eating anything makes me want to gag.
“What’s wrong, dear?” my mother asks.
“I’m not hungry,” I say.
My sister, sitting across from me, is slathering raspberry jelly in thick smears across every corner of her toast. The jelly that doesn’t make it she licks off each finger with a sucking sound.
My mother is diverted for a minute and turns to her. “Careful you don’t get jelly on your camp shirt,” she warns. We’re both dressed in Clorox white T-shirts with the dazzling red letters, announcing to the world the name of the day camp we’ll be attending all summer.
Our little canvas duffels are packed with two bathing suits and two towels. Mine is blue, my sister’s, red, and they’re sitting in the foyer waiting for us to carry them onto the bus, which should be arriving soon. They smell of rubber, an odor especially strong when wet suits and towels return home in the late afternoon.
“You really should try to take two bites,” my father encourages. I shake my head.
“Do you have to go to the bathroom?” my mother asks.
Again I shake my head.
“Are you afraid of starting camp?” my father asks.
I nod, tears starting to trickle down my cheeks.
“You have butterflies in your stomach,” my mother diagnoses. My father smiles in agreement.
My tears stop. Butterflies in my stomach? That’s an odd thought. I wonder how many there are and what colors they might be. Somehow, I don’t want them there.
I’m about two seconds away from throwing up my non-breakfast when my father says, “Your stomach just feels fluttery, as if you have butterflies flying around in there, except you don’t.”
I give him a half-smile. “How’d you know?”
“I’ve had them and sometimes still get them. They only appear when I’m about to start something new that I’m not certain I’ll like.”
He keeps talking and convinces me how much fun I’m going to have at camp. “I wish I could go,” he says wistfully.
I leave the table and wander into the foyer to sit on the padded window seat.
Two gentle toots of the horn announce the bus. My sister leaves the table and runs to join me. We hold our canvas bags by the two handles as we walk, hand in hand, down the front walk and climb onto the bus. The butterflies stay home.