I never went to sleepaway camp.
Although I was desperate to be independent, the idea of all those bugs and sleeping bags and bugs and lousy food and bugs and outdoor showers and bugs and dirt roads and ...
Oh, did I mention bugs?
Not for me, really.
Boarding school, on the other hand, was my idea of a dream come true. I pictured a sprawling manor house (Pemberley or Hartfield or Manderley — before the fire, of course). Other bookish girls like myself. Kilts and jackets. Secret passages. A moor.
But, I digress.
When my now teenage daughter was twelve she went away to camp for the first time. Twenty-one days about two hours away, down in Connecticut. It was a riding camp, naturally. All horses, all the time. She wrote a handful of letters, but wasn't allowed to call us, and it may have been the longest three weeks of my life. Definitely tougher for me than for her.
When we finally arrived to pick her up, she had made fast friends, ridden at least twice every day, and she even won the blue ribbon (first place, baby!) at the final horse show. Of course, there were some things she hadn't done — like use sunscreen or shower. ("We swam in the lake, though," she assured me. "Once.") She was brown as a nut and smelled a little ... shall we say ... eau de horsey. I was too happy to see her to reprimand. But, I did make her shower before we all got into the car for lunch in Hartford with her grandmama.
The next year, she went back to the same fragrant place, but after that she moved to a different camp in Vermont with even more horses and even less supervision. (Less supervision; more stress for mom. Can you say "Pinot grigio, take me away?") But seriously, each three-week separation was easier for me and I rationalized that it was good training because — sooner or later — she would be grown and off to college. Then we purchased a horse ("finally," my daughter would say). So, we stopped sending her to camp. We assumed that was a given. (Hello? A pony costs like way more, way way more, like ten times more than camp does, trust me.) She was surprised though. She had assumed she would continue going to camp and that we would ship the horse along as well.
Um ... that would be no.
These days, my daughter actually works at a horse camp, a daycamp at her stable. She coaches younger riders, supervises their "barn chores," horseshoe crafts, lunch, water balloon fights, and more.
She comes home exhausted, hot, tired and ... oh, there's that smell again. That distinctive perfume that barn mothers everywhere recognize. We have to. It's in our laundry and our cars, our daughters' bedrooms, and all over their expensive North Face jackets.
But, I'll take it. My daughter is here each evening (when she's not out with her friends, that is). She's not in Connecticut. She's not in Vermont. She's here.
And, after a nice — long — shower, she smells just fine.
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