It’s amazing how fast a week goes. Remember when you were a kid and the weeks leading up to your birthday or to Christmas or a vacation seemed to drag on forever. Now, as we accumulate years of memories, the days and weeks make up such a small part of the time that they seem to go by in the blink of an eye. This week was a perfect example. Just six days ago, my wife, Cam and I made a trek down to North Carolina to drop Cam off at Camp Kanata. After months of waiting (I’m guessing that for Cam it seemed like an eternity), his chance to go to the gluten-free summer camp just north of Raleigh was finally here. And now, six nights later, we are back to pick him up in the morning. Just like that, the week has passed. As a parent, you hope that your kid missed you as much as you did them but, deep down, you know that they didn’t and that makes you even more happy. For you want them to have so much fun meeting new people and doing activities that you want to be (as hard as it is to say) an afterthought. From the looks of the pictures posted daily on the camper’s page to the nightly update, I’ll be surprised if he’s happy to see us tomorrow, being that it will be the sign that his week is done. If his entire week made him as comfortable being at camp as the drop off process made us, as parents, feel confident that his celiac needs were taken care of, he may even hide in an effort to stay another week.
To be honest, the drop off day didn’t start so well. The culprit…Mother Nature. The morning consisted of off and on showers and even a rumble of thunder. We watched the radar as lines of heavy rain all pointed towards and moved in the direction of the campgrounds. We knew he would get dirty but we didn’t expect the muddiness to start before we even had him settled in to his cabin. You are asked to get to the campgrounds early to complete any forgotten forms and to avoid a “rush” during the check-in process. When we arrived, the first sign that the week was going to be great for him appeared. The rain stopped. It was as if the camp was under an invisible dome. We were able to get out of the car, walk around and explore where he would be living for the week (the picture above was taken during that time; note the sunshine and dry ground). An intermittent shower did come and go but it was nothing like the deluge we had experienced earlier in the day. And from what I understand, the whole week was ideal weather; some of the most comfortable weather you can get in North Carolina during the last week of July. Upper 70s and low 80s, low humidity and cool nights. Cam gets hot easy so someone was smiling down on him.
When check-in time came, we headed down to the dining hall to pick up his camp shirt and to get his cabin number. He was in Cabin 13 (yes, Friday the 13th and Camp Crystal Lake references came to mind). Also located in the dining hall was the gluten-free table. The Gluten Intolerance Group was sponsoring this week of camp and a representative from the organization was there to introduce herself to us and, especially, to Cam. She told us that she would be at the camp all week and she would be preparing the gluten-free meals for the almost 30 campers there that week that required different food needs than the rest of the campers. She was going to be Cam’s “point of contact” for anything food-related; from meals, to snacks, to the packed lunch for his all day canoe trip. Her being there lifted a burden off of my wife’s and my shoulders. She understood what was needed for Cam to avoid being “glutened”. Someone was going to be looking out for him.
But, being “glutened” was still a concern for us. This is a camp. If you haven’t been to one lately, the restroom situation is not one to be confused with that of a fancy resort. If any cross-contamination did take place, Cam having to go through the pain that he does, in a camp restroom facility, did not bring me happy thoughts. Again though, our fears and uncertainties were pushed away. While Cam was setting up his bunk, putting his stuff away and meeting some of his cabin-mates, my wife and I quietly pulled the cabin counselor aside to familiarize him with our son’s disease. To our great relief, he already knew of Cam’s condition. The cabin counselor let us know that two of the counselors on grounds that week also suffered from celiac disease and came back to help out, based on their previous positive experiences. He indicated that they would be discussing that first day, as a cabin, the significance of the gluten-free week. He wasn’t going to make Cam an example but he was going to raise immediate awareness. He also let us know that if Cam did experience any issues during the week, there was a “lodge” restroom that was air-conditioned and more “comfortable” than the regular bath house where he would take him. He added that if anything did happen, he’d stay there with Cam as he went through what he does… so Cam wouldn’t be alone. Another “words can not begin to describe” moment for us in this journey.
It was kindness like this, that we discovered everywhere that we went on those campgrounds, that stuck with me and kept replaying in my head during that long, late car ride home. I had just dropped my boy off at his first week-long camp experience, in another state, with no one that he knew. He was on his own, but after that first day, I knew that he really wasn’t and that he was in good hands.