With one notable exception, everyone on the planet is reveling in the fact that we are nearing the end of the school year which, in turn, indicates the start of summer. That exception would be me. Aside from the annoying heat, humidity and need to don a bathing suit, I can now no longer ignore the “what is Jessie going to do all summer” issue which has been plaguing me for months.
My parents (who were brilliant, by the way) sent my brothers and me off to overnight camp for eight weeks every summer. Even more brilliant, the camps we attended were just across the lake from one another – and were, in fact, marketed as brother/sister camps. This made everything so much easier: my parents had the summer off (score!), visiting day was coordinated to necessitate just one nearly five-hour drive to the far end of Maine (score!) and someone other than them entertained us from sun-up til sundown for, again, eight weeks all while my parents enjoyed a childless summer with the freedom to do whatever they damn well pleased. Sounds pretty perfect, right? Well, I believe it was as evidenced by the gigantic number of friends of mine who have been happily executing the same plan for their little darlings for many summers now.
Having loved my own camp experience, I immediately embraced Harrison’s request, in third grade, to go to overnight camp that summer. Rich was a bit more reluctant. Some kids are campers, some are not. My father was a wild little kid who grew up in an apartment in the Bronx. The story goes that he was driving my grandparents so crazy that they shipped him off, er, sent him to overnight camp at the tender age of four. Yes, four. He remained at that camp until he was twenty at which point he closed up shop and mere days later, married my mother. He went on to assume (correctly) that his children (that would be me and my brothers) would follow suit and love going to camp. We were “campers”. Rich, on the other hand, grew up with a family beach house which was, for a whole host of reasons, more appealing to him and his siblings than going away all summer so, alas, he fell into the “not a camper” category. To his credit, he supported our sending Harrison away that summer and quieted his concerns when we put him on the bus to camp and realized that neither he, nor we, knew a soul. So, with a healthy amount of anxiety and neuroses (ours) we waved goodbye with plans to collect him in two weeks. And then, ten days into his stay we received a call from the camp director informing us that he wanted to stay for an additional two weeks. Well, okay then: we have ourselves a camper. The following six summers he returned for eight weeks. It was awesome. (For him that is…we, um missed him terribly?)
Jessie, on the other hand, falls comfortably into the “not a camper” category which sucks for, well, everyone… but mostly me. (Don’t judge me.) For a whole host of reasons, she was never a particularly good candidate for overnight camp and even the huge selection of day camps have proven to be a challenge, even more so now, in the wake of her transition. In fairness to her, I really do appreciate her not wanting to go to camps she has attended in the past – if for no other reason than her trepidation over returning to an environment where she was (well) known as George. Fully comfortable and embraced by her school community, she is, it seems, more than tentative over having to “come out” yet again. That’s fair.
One can look at this on so many different levels, and trust me, I have. Does this mean she is just so comfortable in her new life that she doesn’t want to upset the apple cart? Or conversely, is she not all that comfortable and hesitant to “go wider”? Is there something else unrelated to the transgender issue which is driving her intense pushback? What is it? File this under: yet another situation which is so damned complicated and impossible to explain as to make me want to rip every hair out of my head.
I am sure you are all full of well-meaning suggestions, but before you go there; let me share with you where I am in my quest for a summer activity. I have explored the following, all of which I have had to eliminate for one reason or another:
- Nearby private school(s) which doubles as a Summer Camp(s): Swimming twice a day which sounds good, right? Wrong. The second swim necessitates a change of clothing from wet suit to dry clothes and back. Problem: The “girl with a penis” issue has proven too complicated for most camps to handle.
- Nearby rustic, in-the-woods camp: Swimming once a day, at the end of the day: sounds perfect as she can go to camp in her bathing suit. Problem: Said camp is on a lake which she finds utterly disgusting. Have to agree with her on that one.
- Gymnastics classes: Potentially great idea: different weekly classes, air-conditioned, close by and short-term commitments. Problem: Um, she now refuses to go to the classes I had signed her up for (which, incidentally, cost a small fortune) – the same classes that she once loved. Not giving that place another dime unless this child makes a blood promise to me which I am quite sure she will not.
- Art studios: She loves to create in many different mediums and happens to be a talented artist. Really, she is…that is not a biased opinion. (I support this proclamation with a reminder of her artist’s temperament!) Problem: Not air-conditioned. Hotter than hell. Not happening.
- Overnight Camp: In a perfect world… Problem: Duh, too many issues to list.
So it looks like it is going to be Camp Julie this summer. (O.M.G.) (And, oh crap) At first blush you might be thinking: “Not so bad – hang out at the beach (neither one of us is a fan of sand) or the pool (sounds good until you remember that until all the kids get out of camp at 4 pm, the pool is populated by “mommies with babies” and I’ve long ago stopped being a mommy – “mom”, or occasional other names prevail in these parts – or had children that could be considered babies.) or take fun day trips (again, for a variety of reasons, this is unlikely to happen).” Anyone who has ever known another person as well as I know Jessie will back me up on this – sometimes you just know.
I have even fantasized about taking off with her for a few weeks to visit my brother and his family on the opposite coast. Okay, truth: I fantasize about taking off for a few weeks alone to visit my brother and his family on the opposite coast. Doesn’t much matter, because neither scenario will play out. And if you are even considering chastising me for the “woe is me” attitude, let me strongly recommend against that. It has been a rough and tumble year (well, several years, actually) and I am going to allow myself to indulge in some self-pity for a moment.
Just as there are kids who are campers and kids who are not, there are moms (and dads, and people in general) who were put on this earth to successfully entertain their child all day long all summer long. I do not happen to be one of those people. And, although Jessie is blissfully happy in anticipation of this endless summer of nothing, I cannot say the same. I may indeed follow through on my threat and pull each of my curls out…one by one.
Mini update: A certain fabulous 14-year-old (shout out to JSW…which, she will note, is coming before one to her brother: AJW) has told me that, when she is around she would love to hang out at the pool in the summer with Jessie. That makes me happy. It also makes me happy to know that JSW was among the first people at school that Jessie shared her “secret” with because she (Jessie) knew that she (JSW) would have her back. And she has. I heart that girl…