One of the few visceral memories I have from my days at Camp Hillcroft was the time I received a long letter from my father, in which he spoke to me as if I were already much more grown up than I felt. I don’t remember the actual words or content of what he wrote, only that it made me feel special and loved and very, very close to him.
I believe some of his thoughts were about how much I prattled on about the boys at camp, and how he was worried that such trivial thoughts would trample my intellectual acumen and even more importantly, get me hurt. He was and is a quiet philosopher, my father, even though, as anyone who knows him knows, he couches it in biting sarcasm and quotidian wit. But underneath it all, he is a deep thinker who deeply loves and cares about those few people he lets into his life.
I’ve been thinking about that letter, long lost in the detritus of many moves, as I write to my almost-12-year-old son at camp this summer. This is his third summer, and his longest stint yet – he will be away from home for six weeks.
We are into Week Three, and to date I have sent him one letter that was mailed in time to be there when he arrived, one letter right before I left for an overseas trip, one postcard from said overseas trip, and another letter just today. None of the letters I sent were deep or meaningful. They were newsy, breezy. All the experts tell you not to tell your child you miss them when you write to them – and the fact is, I don’t. Not really. As I tell my family anytime I go on a work trip, I don’t miss anyone for the first week. Then, in the second week, I start to get a little ache.