Today we counted underwear, t-shirts, socks, towels, sheets, pants etc. Tomorrow I will begin the process of putting her name on all of it. I am lucky enough to have iron on labels and sharpies. I can still remember my grandmother sewing each one on (by hand) for me. We will put all of it into two duffel bags and add in pre-addressed and stamped stationary, sunblock and books. I will hide a few love notes and zip them up for good.
A week from now we will board a plane and then take her to a bus stop. I will watch my baby climb on board for her first bus ride, to her first summer at sleep away camp. At that moment, as I watch her wave and try to smile through her tears, a piece of me will be inextricably lost forever. I will say goodbye to her, knowing she will come back different. Older, wiser, more independent and dirtier for sure. She will learn more about herself in those 29 days than she has likely learned in the first nine and a half years of her life. She will form lifetime friendships, a love for the outdoors and become a camper. She will make her own decisions without looking at me for the nod of approval, she will do her own hair and pick her own activities and choose her own friends without my influence. She will fall down and get hurt and someone else will comfort her and wipe away her tears. She will be homesick and someone else will hold her hand.
I know all of this to be true because 30 years ago, I was her. I went on the same life changing journey. Even though I had no idea at the time, now I know the indelible mark it left on me changed me as a person. The six summers I spent there taught me things about myself that stay with me today. There are things only other kids who were there with you can possibly understand. I remember as a freshman in college being able to pick out the other kids who had gone to sleep away camp. They were so much more prepared for the experience of being out of the nest for the first time; they adjusted with so much more ease.
But this is my baby, my first born, the one who made me a mother and who changed me again in ways I could never have imagined. I am so incredibly excited to be able to give her this gift, but I know in doing that I am also taking the first step in letting her go. There will be only 9 more years with her at home with us. With each one she will determine who she is, what she will become and where her path will lead. I know that my heart will break as the bus pulls away and I will count down every minute until she comes home. I hope I will be comforted in the knowledge that she is going to have the time of her life.