Last Sunday I dropped Virginia off at sleep-away camp. I think the most anxiety I felt about actually leaving my 10-year-old behind for a week was when I first signed her up, way back in January. Oh my god, I thought, I know Virginia’s ready for this experience, but am I? No. A week just seemed too long to go without summertime’s daily rituals. When I registered her for camp last winter and looked at my calendar, all I could see was that sad, lonely week in August—no hustle and bustle in the mornings, no lazing at the pool, no cozy reading, TV watching, crafting, or Connect Four. I realized I’d be perfectly happy if Virginia never left home, ever.
I consulted with friends who were parents of veteran sleep-away camp goers. “I’m already so sad about it,” I’d complain. “A week away without my girl—I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.” Every single parent looked at me like I was Benedict Arnold. “Stop it. Quit your pouting. Think about it—it’s a week of freedom,” they’d say. “You can actually go see a movie. In the theatre.” “And dinner!” another parent would pipe in. “You can do both!” I had to admit, dinner and a movie did sound pretty good. And I probably wouldn’t mind a week off from packing a lunch box every day. All right, I decided. Nothing to worry about. Virginia’s going to have a fantastic adventure that week, and you’ll just have to suck it up and behave like a big girl. Don’t be surprised if you even enjoy a taste of freedom for a bit. She’ll be back before you know it. OK, got it.
I’d been so successful in putting the week of sleep-away camp out of my mind that it was only a few days before camp, when I realized it was almost here. Sleep-away camp had sneaked up on me. Before I knew it, Virginia and I were in the car on our way to Woodward, her duffel, sleeping bag, and heart pillow stowed in our trunk. And when I got home after dropping her off, I felt a little lost, a feeling I haven’t quite been able to shake all week. The house is so much emptier without Virginia. I’m getting a ton of work done—almost too much, really. I can sit and work at my computer for hours until Jazz finally has to sidle up to my leg, imploring me with his one eye, that this dog is not just going to walk himself. When I wander downstairs to start dinner, any urgency to cook evaporates. It’s like my single days when I was perfectly happy to make “dinner” out of chips and salsa and use my oven for extra storage. This week is not terrible, though, either. Since I’m not exactly cooking much, Josh and I have enjoyed eating out more. We get to watch Orange Is the New Black well before Virginia’s bed time. And we’re seeing a play in the middle of the week. We haven’t done that in more than a decade.
This strange, new freedom is coming to an end—Josh and I will pick Virginia up early on Saturday. I know that from stalking her camp counselor’s Facebook page that Virginia is having a great time during this week of independence. I can see her joy in her easy smile, photo after photo. And that joy is hers. I’m really happy for her. She’s probably learned a lot about herself, grown up a bit, too. I hope that I will get better at learning to let go, when Virginia wants to do this all over again next summer, but for two weeks instead of one.