My son's alacrity to head off to a lakeside camp in Maine was due, in no small part, to the fact that one of his buddies was going as well. To an 11-year-old, friends are everything.
I once took Alyosha on a mountain hike at the apex of autumn to view the Maine woods from on high. While I was being awed by the silence and the chromatic rush of color laid out before us, my son, between yawns, could only pronounce, "Booor-ing!" But the very next week, with one of his friends in tow, he rushed to the summit and took charge of the view as if he were its sole owner.
So it was with camp. Once my son knew that bosom buddy Thomas was going, he focused on his departure like a laser. In moments of domestic friction, he would even inform me that he might not come back.
The two boys couldn't have been more different in their attitudes toward camp. In the weeks leading up to their departure, Thomas was fretful and anxious, in steady need of reassurance and comfort. My son, on the other hand, was full of swagger. He had never been to a sleep-away camp, yet spoke of it with Viking bravura.
When Thomas worried that they might be made to swim beyond their endurance, Alyosha waved him off with, "Big deal!" When Thomas spoke of homesickness, Alyosha pooh-poohed the very concept.
My son's confidence and anticipation made it easier on me, of course. I had spent undergraduate summers as a camp counselor and had witnessed my share of screaming "drop-offs," the children wailing for their parents as the latter drove off for home. At times I was almost in tears myself, wondering how parents could be so cruel.
But my son's Mt. Rushmore countenance reassured me that I would be spared any such test.