We get multiple hugs. Loved camp. Happy to be home. Perfect.
He’s towering over me, only in part from the inches of hair. His tan is likely some combination of a summer’s worth of ground-in dirt and loads of sun. He tells me he showered regularly. I’m imagining a quick sprinkle with little soap involved.
At the pick-up we scour the rows of look-alike duffle bags to find his. A kid who hears me say Here’s Ari’s stuff starts yelling Ari Rubin, Ari Rubin. You know him? He’s the funniest kid in our unit. It’s hard not to be proud, although what passes for humour in the 10-14 year old set can be hit and miss.
We were at visitor’s day a week ago (I know. Why visit when they’re coming home in a week, but the sessions are only 3 1/2 weeks long, parents need assurance that the camp investment is worthwhile, and it has to be a Sunday, so you either visit a week after they get there – oh hey, moderately enthusiastic wave what did you bring me? or a week before they come home – I just need to warn you that I’ve lost most of my stuff).
I was in one of the buildings looking for the washroom and was excited to see the sign Gender Neutral Bathrooms – No gender, no judgment. Only Toilets. I took a picture. Progressive. Right on.
I showed Ari. This is fantastic! “Well,” he said. “It would be great if there wasn’t a line up of seven people waiting to use it every time. What it should really say is No gender, no judgment. Only Toilet. You’d think they could add a few more."
Most of the stories come out in a got-to-sleep-at-3:30am-after–running–around–saying–goodbye–then–watching-a–movie-on-the-counselor’s-ipad stream of consciousness. All the camp lore, the wacky families with multiple siblings who’ve been there forever doing wacky things – same names every year. The CIT who got the crappy evaluation, and probably won't be hired next year because he rarely showed up for activities and scared them at sailing by not wearing a life jacket and popping up from under the boat, yelling. By the time we pull into the garage, the kid's spent. The ride downtown from Richmond Hill provides us with pretty much everything we need to know about camp.
We open the duffle bags outside because...well…you know. Even the many clothes that never got worn (I can’t think too much about that) are damp and gross. Supposedly Ari was forced by his counselor to send things to the laundry once or twice, although there’s not a lot of evidence to support that. I pull out a (what the fuck is this thing that looks like a dirt ball but doesn’t smell like one?) sock and pull it apart. Why it didn’t go straight in the garbage – curiosity I guess. It’s full of holes, and there’s only one of them. What judgment told him this needed to make its way home, when all sorts of useful things did not?
The kid takes a bath and I start the first of three loads of laundry. Luckily the sheets, towels and pillows stayed at Dads’ to be washed.
After the bath Ari grabs his phone off the counter and heads to his much-missed computer. “I’m just going to catch up on some American Dad, Mom.”
I roll my eyes.
“Welcome back, Ari,” Ari says.
I start singing the theme song from Welcome Back Kotter.
“Classic Mom. Always doing the soundtrack. I really missed you!” He hugs me.
I hear the door close upstairs. I’m afraid to look at the tub. (Remember The Cat in the Hat Came Back?) I go into the bathroom and the toilet seat is up. The kid’s home from camp.