This past weekend I celebrated my birthday with my family.
Patrick drove back into town with his girlfriend Allie and Michael returned home on Saturday from his second stint as counselor at Camp Rec, and I was bubbling over at the mere thought of having our family together again.
Honestly, that was my best birthday present.
Us. Being all together again.
I haven’t shared it much here, but this has been an interesting summer for me. Interesting because Patrick stayed in San Luis Obispo taking summer classes and Michael has been gone so often that it’s ended up truly being
our first summer the boys haven’t been home much.
Which means that these glorious, warm days of summer have been tinged with introspection and growing pains as I grapple with my soon-to-be empty nest. Suddenly, it’s all become so real. The clean, empty bedrooms, the sudden quietness. And while these days have been good preparation for Jim and I, there have been times when I’ve felt like my heart was being squeezed.
So I was pretty excited about this past weekend. Our plan was that we -- Patrick, Allie, Jim and I--would go downtown and be there when the buses arrived from Camp Rec. Then once Michael was done, we would go to dinner. And secretly, I couldn’t wait to watch all the counselors and campers get off the bus together. I’ve learned from Michael’s previous camp experiences that watching the reunion of campers with their families is sheer joy, not to mention the chance to see Michael with his own camper, a fifteen year old boy named Sully.
Unfortunately sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to take pictures. So I didn’t get a picture of Michael and Sully getting off the bus.
The first time I glimpsed Michael’s camper Sully, he had his teddy bear hanging around his neck and he was carrying a photo album that he kept putting into his mouth. Shortly after this they disappeared in the crowd.
When we found them again, I noticed that one of Sully’s pictures had fallen to the ground and Michael picked it up and put it back into his album. Then he gave Sully a drink out of a sippy cup.
Michael had texted me earlier about Sully; he told me that Sully was basically non-verbal. He only knew three words, “Mommy”, “Baby” and “Come on.” And during his time at camp he needed to be pushed in a stroller because of his slow gait.
When he’s at home he requires 24 hour care so during his week at Camp Rec he was assigned to two counselors, Michael and another Jesuit High School graduate named Brian who wore a baseball cap backwards and was extremely outgoing.
It was a 100 degree day and the sun was beating down on everyone…
but all around us there was happy chaos as campers waited next to their counselors for their family members to arrive. There were lots of hugs and kisses by everyone.
While we were standing around waiting for Sully’s mother to arrive a cheerful camper named Chad came over to show Patrick and Allie his picture. He pointed to his picture and Patrick and Allie where looking at it when he happened to see my camera.
He immediately gestured for me to take a photo of him and Allie. And she jumped right into the photo with him.
A few moments later I saw Sully’s mother walk up and immediately put her cheek next to Sully’s and she began to whisper softly to him. And to kiss his cheek. She was beaming at him. They were both so happy to see each other and I was so moved by this scene, the way she was talking to him with such tenderness, I forgot to take pictures.
As we watched from the shade, she spoke with Michael and Brian, and seemed eager to hear about Sully’s experience. She looked so relieved and grateful that he had done so well.
I asked Michael later if Sully had struggled at all being away from his family and he said only once the first night.
Michael said he looked sad and he kept saying “Mommy.”
“What did you do?” I asked him.
“We tried to comfort him…after that he was fine.”
Once the boys put the stroller and suitcase into her car, Sully’s mother asked to take a few photos of Sully with his counselors. She smiled and chatted with Michael and Brian until Sully began to pull her toward the car. He was ready for home.
Michael had heard that when Sully’s parents were told that he was accepted as a camper they cried because they were so relieved. Michael said he requires constant care and attention and he can’t imagine having a child that requires so much work. The more I heard about Sully the more compassion I felt for his mother.
Watching her interact with Sully made me think about how selfless the experience of mothering can be. I could relate to how elated she was for Sully, that he’d had a good experience. And that he’d been surrounded by kind people who treated him well. Who made him feel special.
In the end, isn’t that what we all want for our kids?
Once Sully was in the car I saw Michael go over to say good-bye.
I watched him smile and nod at Sully in the same playful way I used to when I would be strapping Michael into his car seat. Funny how I thought of that.
Then he bent inside and gave him one last hug.
After Sully’s Mom drove away I was aware of feeling so incredibly grateful.
It’s hard to explain, but all of a sudden I looked around and all I saw were blessings… I could tell Jim felt the same way.
“Hey Mom, is this going on your blog?”
*you can read more about Camp Recreation by clicking HERE.
in the meantime, I’m sharing this post at this lovely place: