“You guys go look at the cockroaches in the terrarium, I need to speak with the director,” I told my family.
Anytime I’ve started a sentence with “cockroach” and it’s not been followed by the word “dead”, I’m a bit out of my comfort zone. It's a feeling that goes back to my younger days in Texas when my mother once asked me, at the wee hour of three in the morning, “Sarah, are you making a smoothie?”
Turned out the Texas-sized cockroaches had hotwired the blender and we had to unplug the thing to stop their madness.
But I digress.
The director of the camp was seated behind a little table, set up a bit like Lucy’s booth in the Peanuts cartoons.
“I’d like to talk about ticks,” I said, taking a seat.
It was a sneak attack. I’d attended a “tea for toddlers” nature walk several months back when we dragged nets through the high grass in search of crickets. Most of us came back with ticks in our collection, which our leader accepted with equal glee.
“It’s a female!” she exclaimed, holding one up on the tip of her finger.
I am no naturalist; I’ve never thought of “blood-sucking” as a positive attribute. That, I suppose, is because of the time I baked a chocolate cake for my husband’s birthday and he spent the ensuing days in bed, pale and clammy, with a fever that defied medicine.
“Either I’ve poisoned you,” I said, looking at a mysterious red rash stretching across his shoulder, “or you have Lyme disease.”
After a few tests, and a heavy dose of antibiotics, we were relieved to confirm that there was nothing wrong with my baking.
“Ah,” the director said, gathering her ideas, “we do teach the children to check each other for ticks, and recommend parents do the same each night at bath time.”
Puddle Jumping? Wings and Things? So much to talk about.
“What about bee stings?” I asked.
“Is your daughter allergic?”
Clearly, the director had not caught my drift, which was to focus--as I often do-- on hypothetical non-issues, that may or may not take place sometime a half year away.
“No,” I explained, “she’s not allergic to bee stings.”
“It’s actually.... against state law.... for our counselors to carry an EpiPen. You’d have to be prescribed that by your doctor. You could bring in some Benadryl and we’d keep that in our kit for your child...just in case.”
That was the kind of inside information that made coming out in the rain the day before the Super Bowl entirely worth it. Assuming the generic version of Benadryl had not been recalled by mid July, I would definitely bring a bottle.
At this point the director was looking slightly uncomfortable, and I think she suspected I was a mole---and not the kind eating earthworms out by the shed.
“You’re outside a lot, aren’t you, during these camps?”
“Almost all day.”
“May daughter’s a redhead.”
Finally, the director read my mind. She lowered her voice and leaned closer.
“We have some kids who arrive the first day in long sleeves and pants,” she said, “and...they usually don’t feel so well by the end of the day.”
I stood slowly, thinking about what she'd said. No matter the freckles, no matter the propensity to go from pale as a marshmallow to red as a Twizzler, it would have to be short sleeves and shorts.
I thanked the director and took a brochure.
“Mom,” my daughter yelled, returning from the cockroach tank, “they have a little display on what you should wear to camp!”
Had the Painted Turtle finally agreed to wear Teva's?
I never found out. Whatever was modeling the summer camp gear apparently had a backpack.
The sign of independence.
All brave, big, explorers wear backpacks.
And, mine will also wear a bit of natural bug repellent, SPF 45, a hat, and socks up to her belly button.
But, one thing I sincerely hope she won't wear is her mother's fear of nature camp.
Photo credits: Butterfly: Uwe H. Friese Bremerhaven, Germanyhttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schmetterling_1a_neucc.jpg
Redhead: LBM, with the help of a very patient daughter and photoshop