A Mom’s First Day at Summer Camp
Fourteen vans crammed with middle schoolers
head west to Gastonia, North Carolina.
The air is thick with anticipation, gummy bears
and Taylor Swift. I try to memorize the words,
knowing there will be a dance party later.
Faces streaked with purple paint,
we meet our opponents on the grassy meadow.
I try to run without first stretching, and my left
hamstring screams in protest. I slow my pace,
watching our fastest girl sprint across the field,
returning flush with the spoils of victory:
the bright yellow flag of the enemy team.
The barn is filled to capacity. Worship
music fills the air and teenagers raise
their hands in abandon. Later, the DJ spins
Olivia Rodrigo, Ed Sheeran and — is that
really Hall & Oates? At least I know those lyrics.
We are screaming and laughing,
Smart phones glow through blankets
and giggling lasts till the wee hours.
“Lights out” means nothing when you’re
in a bunk bed. Eventually, the girls drift off,
sleeping like the dead through the night.
I get up four times to pee, walking uphill
to the bath house, guided by string lights
laced through a canopy of trees.
When you’re in your 50s, chaperoning
church camp is a big ask. Somehow
I survived, collecting memories and levity
that had evaded me in middle school.
In case you’re wondering if there’s still time
to revisit your youth, the answer is a