I did something that totally pissed my kids off.
I sent them to summer sports camp so I could work and try to make money to pay for their braces and college.
That’s right, I’m an asshole.
After camp, when I got to the front of the pick-up line in my minivan; a 20-year-old counselor-in-training with crack-dilated eyes and green paint on his face dashed to my car, yanked my sliding door open and yelled:
“Happy Leprechaun day! Who’s your camper? WHO’S YOUR CAMPER???!”
I was so startled, I involuntarily kegeled.
“Um, Clare and Bridget?”
“Clare and Bridget? We LOVE Clare and Bridget! They’re Freaking Awesome, Man, So FREAKING AWESOME!
Then, into his previously unseen megaphone:
“Awesome Campers Clare and Bridget, Clare and Bridget, Your Mommy’s Here!!“
Shit. Did he just say “Mommy?” I’ll have hell to pay for that one.
Suddenly, I see a female counselor-in-training, also in green-face, whose wide, broad, toothy grin has methamphetamine written all over it, escorting my 7 and 9-year-old daughters to the pick-up line by
“I’ve got Clare and Bridget here! I’ve got them here!!!” she bellows.
In counterpoint, my daughter’s green-painted faces reflect the gloom of a particularly bad encounter with an Opium derivative.
- Their clothes are dirt-encrusted
- Their knees scuffed
- Their hair inexplicable
- And they walk with limps.
Their posture suggests they’ve been in The Shit on the front lines in The Nam and are getting airlifted out of combat.
“Hi guys!!” I chirp.
They remain mute, their eyes suggesting they’ve lost the capacity to think, let alone speak.
“Ha Ha Ha Ha, See You Tomorrow Girls! It’s Blue Man Group Day, We’ll Have Blue Faces, Ha Ha Ha Ha!”
Shrieks the Green Man, and yanks our sliding door shut, then slaps my minivan on the ass like a cowhand urging his horse forward.
Silence in which you can hear two childhoods snuffed out.
I can’t take it. I break.
“So, did you guys have fun today?”
“Oh yeah, so much fun,” says Bridget.
I don’t like the sound of her voice, it’s like an anvil waiting to drop, “I HATE FUCKING CAMP WALLABY!” she explodes.
“I thought we agreed adults don’t curse in front of kids and kids don’t curse in front of adults, but we can all curse in front of our contemporaries,” I remind her.
“Camp Wallaby is so bad,” whimpers Clare.
I don’t like the sound of her voice even more. It seems two steps from the grave.
“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” I say, in a voice that demands to infect them with its cheeriness.
(1.) “They make us play soccer when it’s one hundred degrees outside,” shouts Bridget, “And then I cut my ankle and I was trying to sit down so I could let it rest and then my stupid counselor put a Band-Aid on it and yelled, ‘Now get back in the game, Colleary. Get back in there!’
“And I said my cut hurt and he yelled, ‘You’re not that hurt, Colleary, suck it up and get back in there!’ Oh my God, mom.”
(2.) “And then,” says Clare, as though she’s nothing but a wraith floating between two worlds, “they made us play Dodgeball, mom.
“Where people hit you in the head with a soccer ball, because they don’t have the light airy balls, just the hard soccer balls, and they hit you in the head with them and then they laugh, Mommy. They laugh so hard.”
(3.) “AND THEN,” yells Bridget, seemingly outraged afresh by her sister’s tale of woe, “Then they made us play basketball, and all of these kids shove and push you and stick their elbows in your face! Didn’t you say we’re not supposed to push and shove other people?”
“Well, normally that’s true, Sweetheart, but basketball’s a contact sport.”
“Good. Because my elbow contacted this five-year old kid named Tommy in the face because he was acting like a real little bastard.”
“Tommy is a little bastard,” whispers Clare.
“Do you even know what a bastard is?” I ask.
“Yes, a little asshole,” murmurs Clare, in her corpse voice.
(4.) “And then they made me run laps to teach me a lesson!” wails Bridget.
“I hate that goddamned Camp Wallaby, which is a stupid name, cuz we’re not even in Australia! Please, don’t make us go there ever again!”
“Never again,” breathes Clare, who I notice has her head between her knees and is taking deep, slow breaths.
“Guys, I think you’re over-reacting,” I say, attempting a stern, no-nonsense tone.
(5.) “They made us memorize a Limerick mommy!” kvells Bridget, ‘And it was totally inappropriate!”
“I’m sure it wasn’t…”
The girls interrupt me, singing in unison (Clare soprano, Bridget alto)
“I am a small green man of old age,
Intoxicated to the right stage.
Never getting so drunk,
That I smell like a skunk,
Or end up on the papers front page.”
I remain mute. Expressionless. I can’t let them smell my fear.
“Just face it, Mom, summer camp’s for parents, not kids!” Bridget rests her case.
For a split second, they’ve got me. I’m guilt-ridden that I haven’t taken the entire summer off to escort them on field trips to Disneyland and Magic Mountain every godforsaken day.
But, I have one more weapon in my arsenal to get them back to camp tomorrow.
“Who wants a McFlurry from McDonald’s every day after camp?”
Clare brings her head out from between her legs, Bridget is left speechless. They give me the fatalistic stares of two recovering addicts sorely tempted by their dealer.