Letter to My Niece
“Are these all your T-shirts?”
I meant to leave this letter hidden under your pillow when we dropped you at soccer camp. I wanted you to find it that night when you crawled into bed, surrounded by your new friends in the neighboring bunk beds. I, along with your mother, little brother and grandfather, were filled with many emotions when we left you in Bunk 83.
Your initial reaction to not being placed in the same bunk with the only two girls you knew – a bit teary-eyed and scared – was completely normal. And though your mom tried to rectify the situation, I knew – we all did – that you would be fine. No, scratch that. You would be more than fine. But it’s hard to explain that to an eleven-year-old girl about to be left alone for the first time in her life.
Last hug before abandonment.
You had been so confident in the days leading up to camp, but after we parked and herded your stuff toward registration, your confidence slipped a little. That too is normal. Trust me. But I’ve got to tell you Paige, despite the housing mix-up, you took it like a champ. I took real pride watching you organize your cubby, lining up the bottles of Gatorade, shower supplies and soccer gear even though you were still (sort of) hoping to be switched. But then another girl arrived, a first-timer also, and we watched you, amazed by the effortless way you made small talk. Your mother Jackie and I smiled at each other as we made your bed. “She’ll be fine,” I mouthed to Jackie, who herself appeared relieved as well. In that instant I had a flashback to my own first day of camp. I was 12. Jackie, 8, was there too. We were standing behind my bunk, me, homesick and in tears, Jackie offering comfort, telling me I would be “fine.” Now here we were, three decades later, passing the torch.
End of Day One. A genuine smile.
The lesson I learned then, the one you may not fully understand until years from now, is that sleep-away camp is a first step in becoming a well-adjusted adult, another skillset in your personal arsenal for survival that will prove useful in many other firsts that are just ahead for you: first day of high school, first day of college, a new job or even a party. To be able to enter a room not knowing a soul is difficult, but you can do it. You know that now because you did it.
I can’t wait to be there when we pick you up from camp and hear about the wonderful time you had. Just as I can’t wait to watch you flourish in so many other ways too.