Wide Open Spaces

Our season of sleepaway camps began today as I delivered Snowman (aka #2 Son) to Jazz Camp. I love driving away from City By the Sea on these summer errands, up into the less-settled lands of Maine. The lakes and the hills opening to the more distant mountains mark the wide open space of summer, the chance to be free from the routines of school-year life, to play and experiment and simply to be. The back of the car holds duffel bag and clarinet, new reeds and cork grease, lots of clean socks and the inevitable Frisbee.

The camper describes his strategy for the afternoon audition. Each student will be placed in a small ensemble based on ability. “I’m just going to play the piece the way it’s written.” During the school year his training is classical. The trip to Jazz Camp is a musical excursion as well as a trip away from home. “I’m here to learn to improvise. I’ll be happy wherever they place me.”

In the car, we listen to “Evita,” talking about the music as we drive. “That’s a third over a minor third,” he says (or something like that) about the intervals when the crowd sings her name at the beginning of Act Two, an ominous discordant theme. He is the first member of the family to have a keener grasp of music theory than I, the first one to really understand what I mean when I talk about how a musical theme expresses something about a character and then to be able to define the underlying theory. He is a musician. We are engrossed in our discussion, playing certain sections back, marveling at Mandy Patinkin and Patti Lupone, comparing the latter’s grasping Evita to the film version’s somewhat more sympathetic take on Eva Peron.

And then as we turn off Route 27 and toward the campus, his face changes. “We’re there!” Such happiness!! Evita is forgotten, the CD paused awkwardly.

He first went to Jazz Camp two years ago, a chubby 13 year old not quite as tall as I was being packed off to a dorm room on a college campus in an unfamiliar town, thoroughly relieved to learn he was rooming with a friend from home. I remember feeling it was very hard to leave him, harder than dropping him off at church camp had been, maybe because a dorm seemed so grown up and far away and unprotected.

His dad delivered him last year; the contrast of two years feels sharp to me. In line for registration, many old friends say “hi” to him. I don’t for a moment worry that he will miss home as he looks down at me from his height advantage of 6 or 7 inches. We get his things unpacked in no time, in the same corner room he shared with his friend from home last year. This is a happy and familiar place to them now, nothing strange about it. He is as happy to be there as any of us are to find ourselves among familiar people who share our love for whatever it is we love.

In the lobby of the dorm he gives me a hug, already wearing his new Jazz Camp t-shirt. I must look a little wistful, because he hugs me again.

I get back into the car and start the CD again. It seems odd that it should pick up exactly where we left off. My life resumes while my son explores new territory from the safe base of camp. Can I make this week as expansive for myself as I know it will be for him? Drawing near to City By the Sea, seeing the sparking water and the summer sky, it feels to me just such a wide open space.

14 thoughts on “Wide Open Spaces”

  1. Hey, my little boy is going to camp too. You can check out my post – I thought it would get easier – or less wistful anyway – as they got older, but I guess not, huh?

  2. ouch
    time for a spam filter, I fear!
    That sounds like the most wonderful opportunity,- perhaps #2 son will be able to make jazz click for LoudBoy, whose enthusiasm far outpasses his musicianship, but who is, nonetheless, another clarinetist.
    I love the way you have a proper long summer. 6 weeks feels so paltry, when you can see your children growing up and away before your very eyes. One more long summer would be soooo lovely…

  3. This is beautiful.
    I admit somewhat sheepishly that I was doing the math in my head, trying to figure out how tall “Songbird plus 6 or 7 inches” is.
    I have a secret wish that someday Snowman and WonderGirl will meet–two sensitive, brilliant artists. Is that so wrong of me?

  4. I would have loved to be in that car “talking music” – it’s so much fun being with musicians that can discuss the theories part of music. Not to mention, being in Maine, I would love to see that state!

  5. cheesehead, “Songbird + 6 or 7 inches” is still “Wonder Girl – 4 or 5 inches” I fear, if she is indeed as tall or taller than you are. He’s about 5’7″ (and still growing).

  6. I simply LOVE how you parents write about your children. Thank you. What a beautiful way to get to “see behind the curtain” of what goes on behind the scenes. (As in, behind the school scenes.) I hope he has a wonderful time. Thanks for the lovely post.

  7. Wonderful! 13-year-old daughter has a good enough grasp of basic theory and vocal technique to follow me in my wanderings. We had a nice conversation the other day, and I realized how much I had missed sharing that. Husband appreciates music but knows nothing about the underlying structure.
    I hope the Snowman has a great experience!

  8. LD goes off to Aunt Camp today. I’m up early to make sure I worry enough about the plane flight and her what she’s chosen to pack for the trip.
    Blessings upon our children as they use their wings!
    Lovely post, Songbird!

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