Still, though Woodland Park is just a few minutes up Highway 24, it takes over an hour to get to the camp itself. We have to go eight miles on the unpaved part of Rampart Range Road. Our little ’98 Ford Escort doesn’t exactly have the most up-to-date suspension system, and we feel every bit of washboard on that dirt road. Most of the time, I’m going ten or twelve miles an hour. (I do a mental calculation: eight miles at ten miles an hour will take…) I picture our car parts coming apart with every vibration and wonder, “Are we hitting the resonant frequency of anything in this car?”
I pull over frequently to let the other cars pass. When they do, they leave us in the (literal) dust, and we roll up the windows until the dust settles. We’re not even going fast enough to kick up dust.
Soon after we turn into camp and pass the “Welcome to Eagle Lake!” sign, three pirates greet us. I stop and roll down the windows so the sailors can chat with my boys. Already, I love this place. “I guess it’s a sailor theme this year,” I say.
I drive on, but soon we hear shouts! To our left, a sailor flees. Behind him are two armed pirates in pursuit. The one is yelling desperately, the others, savagely. I am so happy I laugh out loud.
At the parking lot, dozens of camp staff members surround us on our left and on our right. Dressed as pirates and sailors, they honor us with hearty cheers. I feel like a long-lost ship captain returning to port after years of exploring the farthest seas.
My two oldest boys walk through the camp check-in stations. I let them do all the talking as I stand back, proud of the will power I’m exerting. How enchanting I must be, giving them all this autonomy while they check in. I will not be a pathetic, hovering mother babying her ten- and thirteen-year-old sons on their first day of camp.
At the last check-in station, camp staff gives each of my boys a map of the grounds. “Do I need to go with them any more?” I ask.
“Nope!” the smiling young women tell me. They look college-aged, vibrant with life and the life of Christ. “They just have to be at the front lawn by 3:30.”
“Okay!” I say brightly. Then I turn to Derek and Titus. “See you guys! Have a great time!”
“Bye, Mom!” says Derek.
“Bye!” says Titus, and they walk up the hill together to their cabins.
I turn and descend the stairs. I think my heart descends a bit, too. I try not to look back.
But, almost at the parking lot, I do look back. One of my boys is standing there, looking around, looking uncertain. Because of the hill, I can only see his head. Why hasn’t he reached his cabin yet? I linger there, looking up, waiting to see where he will go. He doesn’t see me. A minute passes, maybe two.
My will power breaks. I jog back up the stairs and up the trail to the boys.
They’re not happy to see me. Both of them have a “we’re fine, what are you doing here?” look on their faces. I think I broke the enchantment that Eagle Lake so brilliantly infused into their camp.
“Titus, where’s your cabin?”
“I’m in Comanche,” he says, annoyed.
“No, yours is Chippewa.” (This is a safe place; why did I have to correct him?) “And you, Derek? Did you find your cabin?” I’m not speaking brightly anymore.
“Yes, it’s right over there. We both have maps.” His speech is clipped. His stance is tense.
I stay and continue in this vein. Why is it taking you so long to find your cabins? You only have half an hour. Do you know where you need to be at 3:30? (Yes.) Where’s that? (The front lawn.) Do you know where that is? Point it out to me.
This is how I leave my boys for their week away from home. I do not show trust in them. My last words to them are nagging.
I drive home on the dirt board, the washboard rattling the car and my already rattled spirit. This time, I don’t bother to roll up the windows when other cars pass. It saves me the trouble of throwing dust on my own head.
Again, I feel my inadequacy as a mom.
I have plans, though, for when Derek and Titus return. I’ll apologize for the nagging way I left them. I’ll tell them I’ve had and will keep having shortcomings as a mom, and will they rely, as I must, on God’s grace? I’ll tell them I am proud of their maturity and growing independence.
And maybe, one of these days, their mom will grow up.
For The High Calling book club:
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
by Guy Kawasaki
Laura Boggess leads our June 6 discussion here.
Also linking with Laura Boggess and L.L. Barkat for their Mondays: