My mother packed my trunk for Camp Alleghany, and in it she placed the blue shorts and white shirts I needed to wear to dinner each night, and the white shorts for Sundays, the bathing suits and play clothes and sweaters and underwear that would carry me through three-and-a-half weeks of camp (enough that I could live without half while the laundry went out at the end of week 1 and week 2). And in each of those items of clothing, she sewed a name tape.
"Songbird K. Daddy’sGirl" they read, each one cut from a roll that looked like seam tape, the letters imprinted in red. Patiently, or so it seemed to me, my mother sewed each little label into the navy blue cardigan and the red shorts and the many, many white shirts. (My mother liked to dress us in red, white and navy blue. She had a theory that there would always be a matching sweater or pair of socks available.)
My children will go off to their camps with their last name Sharpied on significant items, and otherwise we will hope for the best.
I’m not sure my mother cared any more than I do about retrieving the items of clothing; but the camp had a set of rules that included labeling clothes, and she chose to abide by them. She always went by the rules. She never would have stacked the deck in Candyland, as I did when playing with my children. (Honestly, when the game is almost over and someone draws Grandma Nutt, how can a person stand it?) On second thought, given her frugal nature, counting the socks up at the end of the summer probably did matter.
Tomorrow Snowman leaves for Vacationland Jazz Camp, the high point of his summer. This will be his fourth year in attendance. Two of the teachers he likes graduated from Land o’Lakes Arts Academy, and I imagine he is excited about seeing them and discussing school as well as playing music. He’ll live in a dorm at UVacationland/CuteTown, rooming with Hobbit Boy, his bass-playing friend from home. We will pack haphazardly, and he will figure out how to manage once he gets there. The only thing that really matters is the clarinet, you see. The rest is just stuff.
I may not sew name tapes in the collars of their clothes, but I do feel successful at helping them discern what really matters in life.
I’m working on that myself.