Letter to Camille: 131 Months

Hello sweet girl and Happy 131 months to you!

I’m a little late in writing this letter and somehow we are already six weeks into your summer break. Six weeks?! Six weeks of sleeping in, of summer camps, of salt water and periwinkle snails.

There’s a spot along the marsh in our neighborhood where we like to launch your kayak at high tide. I learned the hard way that we should ONLY do this at high tide, after that time we went at mid-tide and I sank up to my thighs in marsh mud trying to get your kayak to the water. That was my least favorite of your kayak expeditions, but probably your favorite – all the exposed mud was a fun stomping ground for you and for Lola. Her sneakers kept getting sucked off her feet, and you’d have to dig her shoes out of the mud, getting happily filthy in the process. The two of you laughed hysterically about it.

When you weren’t kayaking solo or with buddies, you spent several hours in the shallow marsh areas collecting periwinkle snails and crabs as temporary pets. One day after you’d walked to the marsh with a friend, the weather turned ugly so I drove to the marsh to give you a lift home. You and Freya sat in the backseat of my car, holding a periwinkle snail and two fiddler crabs – until one of the crabs disappeared. It was never recovered. It’s probably still in my car today. At first, I was annoyed at the thought of a live (soon-to-be-dead) crab in my car. But then I reminded myself that having a nature-loving kid sometimes means a fiddler crab gets lost in my car. Worth it.

Your summer is sprinkled with a few weeks at home, a few weeks of travel, and a few weeks in various camps. One of your favorite weeks is the Marine Biology camp put on by UGA at its Skidaway Island campus. This is your third year of marine biology camp, and each year as you move into a higher age group, your experiences and opportunities grow too.

New on this summer’s itinerary: squid dissection.

You and I share many passions, but animal dissection is not one of them. As a kid, I could be annoyingly idealistic (and probably still am), and I decided in high school that I was going to refuse to dissect an animal in Biology. I was going to take a big fat zero for that assignment, as a way to protest something I felt was unnecessary. For med students? Sure! But why did I need some animal to die so that I could cut it up and peer inside when I had no desire for a career in the sciences? So I told myself I was going to fail, on purpose.

But as fate would have it, I didn’t have to. We moved mid-way through that school year, and because of the timing I managed to miss out on the dissection labs at both schools. Ha!

Returning to present day – as we drove to the Skidaway campus on squid dissection day, you were bouncing in your seat. “My first dissection!” you cheered as we parked outside the classroom, and then you rushed into the double doors, ready to grab a scalpel.

When I picked you up in the afternoon, your demeanor was very different. Like a person who’d been through a traumatic event.

“How was squid dissection?” I asked.

You shook your head with a faraway look in your eye. “There was so much blood,” you said, speaking so quietly I strained to hear. “And it smelled so bad.”

Hmmm. Well, maybe we’re not as far apart on this topic as I thought?

But even though the reality of squid dissection was not as fabulous as you imagined, it hasn’t deterred your plans to be a marine biologist. My hope is that the next time you walk into a dissection lab you’ll be better prepared for what you’ll find, and better able to see past the gore into the beauty of science.

This last month also involved a major milestone in your life – one that has nothing to do with summer camps or periwinkle snails. Last month, you were baptized in our church.

One of the things I like about being Baptist is our belief that baptism should be chosen by each individual. As your mother, I can take you to my church, I can talk to you about my faith, but it’s up to you to choose Christianity – or not.

And you decided you were ready to join and to be baptized. It was a proud moment for me, full of meaning, and made even more special by the fact that you were baptized by my Daddy. The same strong but loving hands that dipped me into the baptismal waters were the ones to baptize you. The same voice boomed out, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

I am proud of your decision, and of the person you are becoming. As you grow, I know your faith will go through growth and changes too. Peaks and valleys. Times of strength and of doubt. But I hope your faith provides you what it continues to provide for me: comfort, guidance, a heart for service, and a loving church family.

With all my heart, I love you so much.

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