Weekend Wanderer: I Left My Kid at Camp

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weekend wanderer

So my kid is at sleepaway camp. 

Yep. I drove through four states to leave my kid with strangers for five days. 

Are you guys having trouble breathing? Because I’m having trouble breathing. Strangers! I left my kid with strangers! 

I thought leaving my dog in a kennel was hard. But this?  

This is a physical pain unlike any I’ve ever felt, and I once flew with Willie while I had two — two! — impacted, infected wisdom teeth. Willie, who is a nervous flyer. Willie, who once instructed a flight attendant to tell the pilots they were “doing it wrong.” 

This probably goes without saying, but Willie isn’t a pilot.  

I just think I should say that out loud. 

That night on the plane — my mouth an agonizing cave of purulent gums, my skin flaming with fever, Willie demanding I explain every bump and clang trembling up from the plane’s bowels — ranks as one of the most painful moments in my life. 

And I’ve had both appendicitis and children. 

But driving away from my daughter in the bright, beachy sun? Leaving her with people I’ve never met? Putting eight hours between us? Give me that night on the plane. Impact and infect every wisdom tooth. As long as I can hold my baby, I’ll happily tell Willie that clang is just the drink cart, that bump is just air currents. 

I mean, yes. I did tell her once during that flight the clangs and bumps definitely meant we were about to crash. You really have to take your in-flight entertainment where you can get it. 

By the time you read this, my daughter will be home. But this is paltry comfort today, when I left her only yesterday. 

Pulling away from that camp and my child, tears falling in a way they haven’t since Indy went to Marion’s bar in Nepal, I did the only thing a parent can do in a moment like that. 

I hit “play” on a cinephile podcast and bought a cacao-date-peanut butter smoothie. 

With almond milk. 

I also bought cookies. 

I began the trek home, accidentally taking the back roads Indy directed me to use many years ago, the first time I drove to this area without him. 

Whether this was Indy offering me comfort from Marion’s bar, or simply my mapping app being a jerk about sending me on the route I intended to take, I don’t know. What I do know is I was comforted, because I had Indy in my head. 

See, getting directions from Indy was always a peculiar task. Driving that route flooded my head with memories of Indy’s wild, berserk — even unorthodox — directions. 

It wasn’t that Indy didn’t know where he was directing you.  

The problem was that Indy knew exactly where he was directing you. He would give you five or six options, each with its own curious element. 

Indy’s directions always, whether they took you five minutes or five hours from home, went something like this: 

“What you want to do is,” Indy would say, “you want to take Route 17 either South or East — ” 

Because to Indy, south and east were the same direction. North and west were different directions than south and east — obviously — but the same direction as each other. 

Good thing Hitchcock didn’t know that. North by You Don’t Need a Northwest Because North and West are the Same Direction just doesn’t have the same ring to it. 

“ — until you get to the fork in the road. At the fork, stop in at the house on the left. There’s a fella there. His name is Jim or George or Bill or whatever — ” 

Said in an impatient way, as though the guy’s name is not pertinent, but Indy knew you were going to ask for it, so Indy will humor you.  

But you’re really annoying him with your irrelevant question. 

That you didn’t even ask. 

“ — and you’re going to pick up a compressor from him. It’s for your refrigerator — ” 

Which you didn’t even know your refrigerator needed, but OK — you’ll stop in at the stranger’s house at the fork on Route 17 South or East and get the compressor you didn’t know you needed. 

“ — and you’ll pay him with this — ” 

Here, Indy would hand you a gift card to Ollie’s or Trader Joe’s or Sears and you would really hope that Jim or George or Bill or whatever either doesn’t know Sears is closed or doesn’t have an ax that he likes to get all Texas Chainsaw Massacre with. 

“ — and when you get home, you’ll hook it up to your fridge. You’ll have to pick up some duct tape, a two-inch screwdriver, and a 7,000 BTU radiator. You’re gonna take the screwdriver — ” 

Then Indy would give you instructions for using the tape, screwdriver, and radiator to connect the compressor to the refrigerator. These instructions would, in both complexity and ingenuity, approximate the procedure NASA invented for connecting the different air filters in and on Apollo 13

And silently, you’d decide you weren’t going to stop off at the last house on the left of the fork in the road because you don’t understand where, exactly, the 7,000 BTU radiator gets attached to your refrigerator because you didn’t go to MIT so you’re really never going to hook up that compressor. 

Which is why your refrigerator dies a few years later. 

And you’d wonder how Indy even knew to set up this transaction because you asked him for directions just now, this minute.  

That was Indy.  

“She’s fine,” my husband said, realizing I rolled out of bed at four this morning, worry marring my sleep. 

But I’ll believe that on Friday, when I have her back. Friday, when I’ll pretend we’re not shipping her off to college in 13 short months. 

Friday, when I take Route 17 North home. 

Or west. 

Or whatever. 

As long as I have my girl. 

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