Somewhere over the Rainbow. . . Camp actually makes life easier for working mothers

 “Large thunderstorms moving into the area should arrive by 11:00,” warned the weatherman on the radio.

“Ma, where are my red baseball socks?” shouted my son from his bedroom.
Oh no, I thought, baseball camp sounds a bit iffy for today.

“Thunderstorms may clear late this afternoon, but only in time to make way for the mass of rain coming up from the south that should be with us for the rest of the week.” With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I turned the radio off.

“Benn, the forecast doesn’t sound good!  Hurry up so we can get you to camp before the thunderstorms close it down!”

My four kids were scrambling to get themselves ready. The three girls arrived at the breakfast table laughing. 

“Don’t worry,” Alicia said to the youngest, Abigail, “you’ll never be the rotten egg, because Bennett is always last.”

My oldest can drive, so she rummaged around in the “key dish” for the keys to the mini van, a few bites away from taking off for her summer job.  The amount of pay she received had an inverse relationship to the amount of responsibility she shouldered.  She was helping run Rainbow Camp, a daycare camp for under-privileged kids in White Plains.  She was responsible for keeping almost a hundred kids aged three to seven and their counselors happy from 8 to 3. 

“I just love my job,” she said as she gathered some construction paper and pocketed a few more crayons.  “The kids are so cute!  It’s so much fun.

“Benn why don’t you forget about baseball camp and volunteer as a counselor’s assistant today?  The little boys would just love you – we have so many of them and only one male counselor!”  Jocelyn kept up her sales pitch on her way out the door.  “And I am sure you would have fun playing with them.  Besides, it’s going to rain and you won’t have camp anyway.”

My son finally emerged from his bedroom, resplendent in full baseball regalia: white baseball pants, long red baseball socks, a red RED SOX shirt and matching baseball cap.

“Wow, Benn, you are ready already?  You are early!” Alicia, never one to miss a trick, gave him a warm sarcastic welcome at the breakfast table.  When he turned around and playfully pulled her long curly hair and shouted, “BOING!” she blew me a kiss, and ran off after her older sister, for a ride to her Counselor in Training summer camp job.

Baseball was Bennett’s passion.  Like every other twelve-year-old boy he knew all the stats of his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, and had the scoop on all of their competition.  He lived to play baseball, and only agreed to go to school so he could qualify for the school sports teams. He could not wait to get to camp: usually I found him on his bed contemplating putting on his sox when it was time to get into the car to go. 

My youngest danced away from the table in her gymnastics uniform, equally passionate about gym camp.  “Bennett hurry up.  Mom has to drive me to gym camp and I don’t want to be late.”

“Well then you had better put on your jet pack and fly!  Otherwise, I hope you don’t mind being the last one on the trampoline, because she is driving me to baseball camp first.”

“Mom can you drop me off first?  Bennett always makes me late.  And I don’t want to miss the warm ups, because then I am last in line for the balance beam.”

“Mom, NO!” Bennett said, as a piece of French toast, suspended in mid trip on the way to his open mouth, dangled precariously from his fork. “I still have to register.  I have to get there right away.”

“Benn, I have to drop off Alicia and Abigail and then we can register you.”
For a moment groans and complaints were the only sound that could be heard in the kitchen.

“Alicia left with Jocelyn, and I wish I had her drive me too,” announced my future gymnast.  “Bennett always makes me late.”

I looked at my watch.  At this rate, I will never get to work! I thought. 
“If we get in the car right now, we’ll be ok to quickly get Benn registered and then we’ll get Abigail to gymnastics in time for warm up.”

“Why can’t you drop me off first?” Abigail wanted to know.

“Because it does not make sense geographically!”  Bennett knew my weakness—I hated zigzagging all over town dropping kids off and driving in circles—and he was quick to point out the logical route from our house to the camps to my office. 

“Benn is right, his camp is closer to home, and your camp is on my way to work.  Let’s go!”

But things conspired against me.  We could not find the location of the registration for baseball camp on the college campus where it was held.  When we were finally steered in the right direction, the closest parking lot was a football field away.  I threw the car into “park” and we hit the ground running, my purse flying off my shoulder and my son’s baseball bag whapping me against the legs.

“Just let Benn register himself, so I won’t be late Mom,” Abigail begged as we jogged past the recreation complex on the way to the field, my high heels tapping, my son’s baseball spikes clicking and an almost inaudible squish of the gymnast’s cushiony soft shoe a sweet cacophony of sound.

But I did not answer, suddenly distracted by the sight of several clumps of parents with boys and baseball bags straggling past us, going in the opposite direction!

“This does not look good,” I warned Ben.  “The boys should not be leaving.”  I was afraid to ask any of the parents why they were all walking away; each group was engaged in heated conversations with their sons.

We finally arrived at the field and I saw a man with a clipboard, standing alone, sipping from a cup of coffee. 

As I struggled to catch my breath and scrambled to spit out that I wanted to register my son the man held up his hand and said, “We decided to postpone the camp until tomorrow.  There is a chance of thunderstorms.”
“But the weather for tomorrow is supposed to be even worse!  It may hold off ‘til after camp is over for the day.  Don’t you think you should give it a try?”

“No, we will register you tomorrow.  You can pay then and we will extend the camp by an hour each day of the rest of the week, so we can make up the time we miss today.”

“But it is supposed to rain all week.  It is much MORE LIKELY there will be thunderstorms every day for the rest of the week.  Can’t you just get started and then call the parents if you need us to pick up the kids earlier than 2pm?”

“Sorry ma’m I just sent most of the boys home, so we will try it tomorrow, see you then.”  He turned away, already in day-off mode.

“ARGGGG,” I muttered.  “There won’t be a tomorrow.  It’s going to rain!
“You should have taken everyone’s money before you made the bad decision to take the day off,” I muttered to myself.

Luckily not even my kids were listening to me vent.

“Now I’m late for no good reason,” Abigail said.

“Now what am I going to do?” Bennett asked.

“You can help out at Rainbow Camp,” I announced brightly. “Jocelyn just said this morning, they need you!  There are not enough male counselors for all the little boys who like to rough house.  And you like little kids.”  I was trying to use some of my parenting skills to reflect his feelings and convince him.

“Well,” said Bennett shaking his head with doubt.  “I know I said I would like to try it someday but I am not sure about today.  I have been waiting since last summer to go back to baseball camp.”

“That’s not an option today,” I said firmly.  “We are going to get Abigail to camp and then I will drive you to Rainbow Camp.”  Oh no, I thought, looking at my watch, now I have to drive to White Plains! I am going farther from work instead of closer.

We ran back to the car, tapping, clicking and squishing.  Bags whapped me, and occasionally smacked one of the kids.

Breathless, I threw the car in gear and screeched out of the parking lot, cooling my jets only when I saw the dirty look the campus security office threw at me.

“I have to go home to change,” Bennett announced from the back seat.  “I can’t go to Rainbow Camp in my baseball gear.” 

“No time!”  I said, hoping to make the green light at the corner.  “We have to go right to gym camp and then White Plains.  I am already late for work, I don’t want to miss my ten o’clock meeting too.”

“But mom, it’s bad enough that I can’t go to baseball camp.  I don’t want to show up to work and look stupid in my baseball uniform.”

“They will think you are a real baseball player.  Don’t worry.”

“Mom, I will look weird.  The kids will think I’m strange.  I won’t know what to do.”

Abigail and I ran into the gym before the car shut off.  She got there for the last minute of warm up and mercifully snuck into the formation so she was second to last for the balance beam.

But my son’s objections to his outfit continued as soon as I got back in the car.  Even when we got on the highway, long after it would have been easy to turn around and head to the house for a change of clothes he complained that while he wanted to help out at camp he could not see it working if he showed up looking so dumb.

By the time we got to Rainbow camp it was time for snack, which we figured out the hard way when we tapped and clicked (at least the squish was gone) through the empty playground, and through classroom after empty classroom until we found the cafeteria.

We burst into the room, but no one noticed, the noise level was so high.  I finally found my daughter busy distributing “white” milk and having a loud discussion with an adorable little boy to help him decide whether he wanted chocolate milk or juice.

“What are you doing here?” she said. 

“Baseball camp is canceled for the day.  Bennett is going to help you,” I said. 

“Great!  Where is he?” she asked.

I looked around.  I thought he was right next to me. 

We both saw him and started laughing at the same time.  He had taken no more than a step inside the door.  There was a kid wrapped around his right leg.  There was another one hugging his neck and hanging off his back.  He was talking to 2 little boys who were laughing with him and another boy was tugging his hand.  A fifth boy was jumping up and down in front of him and pointing to his socks.

“I knew he’d like it,” Jocelyn said.

“Have fun,” I waved to her and then walked over to Bennett to say goodbye.
I could not get close enough for him to hear me.

Boys in every corner of the room dropped the rest of their cookies to come over to see the baseball player.

And my son was laughing and tickling as many of them as he could.
The next morning Benn arrived in the kitchen well before any of his sisters, once again decked out in his full baseball attire.

“Honey, it’s raining!  There is no baseball camp, I am not sure what you can do today,” I said.

“I know, I am going to Rainbow camp.  They said I could help out for the rest of the summer, and all the boys want me to play baseball with them,” he said with a huge grin. 

Wow, I thought, maybe today I’ll get to work on time!

Copyright janefcollen September 2011


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