Hi there, my sweet little monster, and happy 132 months!
It should probably be noted up front that this letter has a different byline, and your dear old dad is stepping up to write this month in review. It’s not because mom was too busy or didn’t feel like it, but because the two of us got to share a very special week together. I’ll get to that in a minute.
The month started with you away at Cousin Camp in Tennessee, being spoiled by Nana and Granddaddy and relishing the attention of your cousins Stella and Jane. While we don’t like the fact that the girls’ home in Houston is so far away, it does make these annual reunions extra sweet. Since the “No Parents Allowed” rule was strictly enforced, I don’t have a first-hand account to relay, but I have it on good authority that you enjoyed attending a fancy tea party, mastering the once-feared WonderWorks science museum and Granddaddy’s daredevil rides in the golf cart. But your favorite thing had to be seeing a staged rendition of the musical Beauty and the Beast. I know this was a highlight because you, Stella and Jane performed your very own rendition of the show when we arrived to pick you up. It was complete with costume changes, an intermission and, of course, programs. Very professional.
From Tennessee, we drove to Cincinnati to see Uncle Trent and his beautiful family. They were gracious hosts as always, and we visited excellent restaurants, a rad comic book store and explored city parks.
Trent’s hospitality extended to arranging private box seating for us at a Reds game, complete with catered buffet. What a treat!
We also saw the Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center (AKA the Hall of Justice). For a couple of Star Wars fans and costuming enthusiasts, you and I were in our happy place. From inspecting the intricate embroidery on Queen Amidala’s dresses to seeing our reflections in C-3PO’s gold plating, the smiles never left our faces.
There was only one thing that you didn’t like about that Cincinnati trip: Mom got her first tattoo. Now, you are a very mature young woman. You are sensitive, intuitive and smart. As a wanna-be rock star shaman in the wilds of Costa Rica once said, you have a very old soul. Because of those qualities, you’ve shown that you can handle many types of change very well. But you do not like it when your safe spaces are altered. We’ve seen you struggle with moving, donating old stuffed animals and even things like getting a new car. You are fiercely loyal and cherish those constants which rarely, if ever, change. An alteration involving your mother, no matter how small, was something that you were not willing to accept. You begged, you pleaded, you teased in a way that wasn’t always kind. But as this month draws to a close, you’ve learned to accept mom’s ink and know that it’s literally only skin deep. Getting a tattoo did not change your mother’s capacity to love or nurture. But it did provide her with a boost of happiness, and learning to respect others’ needs is a big emotional step, even for one as mature as you.
After a few days at home, we were off again to visit with the always fun Leonard family at their lake house. This was the third year we’ve been able to share in the magic of lazy days on the water with this crazy crew. As soon as your car door opened you were enveloped into the tribe as Ansley and Zoe led you off to the girls’ bunk room.
Like visits past, you spent full days kayaking, swimming and fishing, pulling out several bright and feisty brim. Somehow there was also enough time left over for makeup, nail painting and watching the Disney Channel. I’m always amazed by what good friends the Leonard girls are to you, even though we don’t see them as much as we’d like.
This summer, though, you got an extra dose of Ansley and Zoe, as the very next week you attended Rock Eagle 4-H Camp with them. Mr. Allen asked if I’d like to be a volunteer with Fayette Co.’s group and, with the knowledge that you got to come along, I said yes.
4-H and Rock Eagle were huge parts of my growing up. Boo worked with the 4-H organization as a part of her career, and I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve been on that campus. Despite all my foreknowledge, many things were different from my time there as a camper, teen leader and counselor. From what I could see, all of those changes were for the better.
The new cabins may as well have been hotel rooms, air conditioned with internet access. The dining hall was sleek and modern. The counselors seemed to be well rested and well treated. Luckily, all of the things that needed to stay the same – whether for the spirit of the place or simply honored tradition – were still intact. The lake was still wide and calm. The nature trails were just rigorous enough for little feet. The eagle still captured the maiden in the pageant. The breakfast toast was still hard.
For all of the personal reminiscing I did that week, the real benefit of attending camp was to see it through your eyes. You LOVED it, and you took to it in a way I could never have imagined.
Your previous trip to Rock Eagle was just before your fourth birthday to recognize Boo’s last year at camp before retiring. Your only memories of it were prompted by photographs. Looking back on those images, you were so tiny and in many ways helpless. On this return trip, you were in your element, the perfect age to embrace the responsibilities and expectations of camp life. Going in, you only knew two people, but you quickly made friends with kids from all over the state. You canoed, held snakes, hiked to the effigy mound, and raced down the water slide. You cleaned your cabin, arrived for classes on time and followed the rules.
You also showed so much spirit. Our designated “tribe,” the Cherokees, became your people. The college-aged counselors became your beloved role models. Weeks later, you’re still chanting the cheers and teaching us the dances you learned. You’re drawing the moon and star symbols on your school supplies. The bright orange camp T-shirt you received is worn twice a week, regardless of cleanliness. The thought of returning next year and tackling the high ropes course is a frequent topic of dinner time conversation. Boo even helped you sew your own counselor uniform. It looks great on you.
Sweet, sweet girl. It has made my heart so happy to see how much joy that week of camp brought you, and understand that the same joy has been felt by tens of thousands more during the camp’s history. Knowing that I’ve had a small part in that story makes me smile, but being able to give you that gift makes me so proud.
Even though our week at camp was exhausting, you were only allowed a few days of decompressing before the magical morning of birthday number eleven. But I’ll let mom tell you about that next month.
All my love,