A Mother’s Heart

mother's loveToday was special — not for the obvious reasons. After six weeks our son came home from camp. Yes, we were happy to have him home; happy to be in his presence; happy to witness the camaraderie among friends; happy to notice the more grown up version of our child.

So, what made today special? Let me see if I can articulate the range of emotions and what I felt watching Hunter’s fingers adeptly caress the strings on his guitar, more comfortable in his hands then when he left 42 days ago. As he strummed, sharing a couple of new songs he learned, I was overcome with emotion. This beautiful child of mine, freshly scrubbed and relaxed on the family room couch, was easing back into home life. I imagine it’s analogous to an astronaut’s re-entry.

As I unpacked the sandy, stinky, soggy contents of the well-worn duffle, I discovered mail. Mostly, I found our letters to Hunter. I wonder if he read them more than once? The most surprising find was a batch of folded missives scribbled with the day’s adventure; letters Hunter wrote to us; letters penned but never sent. He did write to us…however, in true Hunter fashion, the tales recounted never made it into envelopes, let alone to the post office. I love that he thought about us and wanted to share what he was doing and experiencing. It didn’t matter that the mail never reached our box.

At one point, standing in the kitchen, Hunter tolerating my repeated hugs, I asked, “what are you doing?”

“Standing here being hugged,” was his reply. A smile slowly appeared across my face. He patiently let me hug him (and kiss him) and maybe even secretly enjoy feeling my mothering arms envelope him…at least I’d like to think he didn’t mind.

We noticed that the kid that stepped off the green Tamarack Camps bus this morning is a very different person than the child we greeted one year ago. I am not talking “unrecognizable different.” There was a maturity, a confidence, a self-awareness that we hadn’t seen before.

For those who are reading this and don’t know about the camp experience that I am referencing, a little background. Hunter was privileged to spend six weeks at an outpost camp in northern Ontario, Canada. Two dozen teens hiked, canoed, sang, cooked, cuddled, swam and bonded. They were guided only by their desire to sleep or eat or watch the stars or marvel at the sunset on the great Lake Superior. With no time keeping device, iPhone, flat iron or other “necessary” electronic allowed, these “connected” teens easily and willingly unplugged in exchange for this temporary slice of heaven.

In a brief one-on-one moment this morning as the kids and parents settled into the familiar camp home-coming routine, the director connected with me. Without fanfare or pretense or any ego-driven need to flatter me with compliments, he told me what it was like to have Hunter as part of the camp community. He used adjectives to describe my son that brought tears to my eyes.

Today was filled with perfect moments; special moments that filled my heart with the love that only a mother could know.

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My Heart is Full

rubik's cubeAt precisely 1:13 pm the call came. How did I know it was the one we’d been waiting for? Only identified as Ontario, Canada, it would have been a unique coincidence for the call to be from anyone other than my son.

“I’ve gotta go.” Without missing a beat and disconnecting the incoming call, I was actually able to end my current call, and accept the incoming urgency.

“Ola, Chica,” came the upbeat voice from my camper on the other end. I would take it. Would I rather have heard, “Hi Mom or shalom, Ima?” It really didn’t matter.

In the five minutes he had on the foreign pay phone, Hunter excitedly told us about the 8-day, 52 km hike with 9 others including the part where one of the counselors pulled him from certain death when he caught his foot in a crevice. Honestly, I am so glad that I hear about this stuff after the fact and am not there viewing the experiences in real time.

“I feel like I’ve known these people my entire life,” he shared when asked about acceptance and if he felt ok being open with his fellow campers.

As a kid, I didn’t really like being away from home. I was not even really keen on a neighborhood sleepover. I never strayed too far from mommy and even when given the chance to experience camp did not really find it to my liking. The idea of no plumbing and having to do your “business” in the woods definitely is a deal breaker in my world.

For Hunter, this is where life begins. He lives all year for the first day of camp. Each year gets better for him. It is his safe place; his nirvana; his Zen garden. I think the camp reunions are planned before the bus rolls into the parking lot signaling the end of yet another amazing summer. These bonds are for life.

For Hunter, a kid who needs structure yet the freedom to be independent, spending six weeks in the woods without so much as a watch to indicate a meal time, camp is the perfect place. He has responsibility and rules yet the opportunity to be carefree, explore the finest mother nature has to offer and the ability to open up and really get to know himself and others in a way that would not be possible in another setting.

Hearing his voice, I marvel at how grown up he sounds. It’s only been two weeks since he left but somehow it feels as if a lifetime has passed. I’d like to believe that he needed the call as much as I did. Of course, he took the opportunity to ask that we send food (yes they do get fed) — I am guessing what he really wants is junk food, treats, stuff to remind him that he is after all, still a kid.

Most days are filled with worry for him about one thing or another. However, today, for now, I can take a breath, let myself relax and know that he is getting what he needs. Right now, my heart is full.

PS. Yes, Hunter solved this Rubik’s cube.