I’ve been doing my work commute a bit different the past couple weeks, instead of sitting on the ferry with 1500 of my closest friends with headphones on, I’ve been commuting via car to our costume warehouse, about an hour and a half away from my house. What this means, besides the fact that I haven’t had time to write, is that I get to listen to the music that I want to listen to, really loud for 3+ hours a day, kind of like I used to do on all those cross country trips I made in the mid-90s. Seattle traffic sucks and there are parts of it that have been beyond tedious, but what has been rather fantastic is listening to CD’s I loved back in my 20s: Cowboy Junkies, Garbage, Mazzy Starr, Sinead Lohan, Ryan Adams, Starsailor, David Gray, etc. A couple days ago I pulled out my old Shawn Mullins, Soul’s Core CD. I had practically worn this one out when I lived in Los Angeles. In fact in 1998, I was pretty sure he wrote those songs about me. All those songs about the Pacific Northwest, driving down the coast, and living in Los Angeles, it had to be about me, right? One lyric in particular caught my attention again after all these years. In the song Anchored in You there is a line that says “But I’ve always known, since I was a child, that the road is my home and my spirit is wild, and I have my memories and I’ve got lots of time…”. I remember thinking when I first heard that lyric at 24, that those words summed up my life right then and there.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about who and what made me who I am today; the books that resonated with me and broadened my views (thanks Howard Zinn), the music that moved me, the places I lived, the people I met, the chances I took, all the little moments that make up my life. From my first gay BFF who taught me that we are all the same (JB- the heavens gained a brighter star last week), to my first solo road trip to South Dakota that taught me that sitting in a car with a mix tape and time to think is the best thing ever, to my first time sitting by myself under the stars in the Grand Canyon and realizing that we are just specks in the sands of time, to my first time camping in Joshua Tree with another bestie that taught me that the universe is fragile and who needs boys when you are 26 and have amazing girlfriends, to the time I received a phone call telling me a friend had tried to harm themselves and I realized that we all matter to someone, to the first time I worked at a theatre in Europe by myself and realized I was being brave, to the first, last, and only time I packed up and moved states to move in with a boy because I was in love ( Jason, we were crazy!) All these firsts, they made me who I am today.
I sometimes forget that before I was a minivan driving Mama on a very regulated schedule, I was a bit of a gypsy soul, (free spirit of the family right here) who followed my heart and made courageous decisions without even realizing it. I collected tattoos that told stories of the places I lived and the people I had known and I listened to artists that were time capsules of my state of mind in that moment. I collected a bowl of trinket, an arm full of bracelets, and a heart full of stories that all told of a particular moment and place or lesson learned. I am proud of these moments and thoughts, they tell tales of the chances I took, the times I was brave, many times when I was just plain stupid… and all the times I was independent and made my own life decisions. I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of life and also what I was meant to bring to it. Luckily my parents were good sports about all this moving and traveling and dreaming. They may not have liked everything I did, but they did encourage all us kids to be brave, take chances, and do what we love.
This summer, my kiddo gets to start her own journey with her first summer camp. Like the real freaking deal summer camp. 5 days, 4 nights away, no parents, swimming, horseback riding, talent show, fishing, boating. This camp is sponsored by her Children’s Hospital and is staffed with medical personnel. It only accepts kids with major medical issues that can’t go to a regular camp. She will get to be around peers that know what it is like to live life with a medical condition, kids that face different but equally grave medical issues. This camp was created so these carefully monitored, medically fragile children can forget hospitals and limitations for a few days and just be courageous kids!
It’s a big deal for an almost 10 year old. It’s an even bigger deal for her because she has never been away from either my husband or myself for more than forty hours at a time due to her medication being mixed and hooked up to her every forty-eight hours. It’s a process that only Jason and I and the hospital nurses know how to do, so even when she goes to her grandparents or my sister’s for a couple days, we check in every other day to hook up her Remodulin. I don’t mind, I swear, all this regulation is probably really good for me.
While I am for sure panicking out a bit about the medical puzzle piece of this adventure, the free spirit part of me that I buried deep somewhere is beyond excited that Zoe gets to experience life without us for few days. I’m actually having a bit of mom guilt over the fact that I should probably be more worried about her being scared or feeling that she isn’t fitting in, but instead I’m just so freaking excited for her. I can’t wait for her to start finding her own gypsy soul and start her own journey, her own dreaming, do her own problem solving, and find her own courage. We, as her parents, are so used to never leaving her side, to questioning her constantly as to how she is doing and feeling (not necessarily by choice, but more by default), but what if she was to make these decisions on her own? I want her to discover who she is, to discover people and places that are strictly her own, activities that make her shine and find her own light. I want her to meet other kids that are as tough as she is.
Is that too much to ask of an almost 10 year old?
Zoe is at an interesting place in her life. She is educationally going into third grade, but she will also be ten in two weeks. While there are things that are very third grade about her, there are also things about her that are definitely preteen. She questions mortality and asks thoughtful questions. She loves to dance and pose and put on makeup and do things on her own, “I’m doing my night routine Mama” she says as she closes the door on me so she can get into her pajamas and get ready for bed. She throws out sassy, witty comments with a laugh over her shoulder. She bravely walks into surgeries and appointments and blood draws without getting scared. But for every moment like that, we have to be there to help her shower so her central line dressing doesn’t get wet or ride the tandem bike with her because she doesn’t have the physical strength to do it on her own. For every time that I send her down the next grocery aisle by herself to pick out something without a parent staring over her shoulder, there is a school day where an adult rides the little bus with her because she can’t be unsupervised with her medical pump. How is she to discover her own strengths and greatness and her own opinions if there is an adult always there helping her make decisions?
I didn’t have a chance to go to a regular summer camp when I was a kid, so I don’t have much to compare Zoe’s upcoming adventure to or help tell her what to expect. I did go to a teen church hike every year, but I knew all the kids there because I saw them every Sunday and there wasn’t necessarily a lot of self-discovery going on. I did however discover how much I disliked hiking and eating ham every day. Perhaps because of my experience, or lack thereof, I am excited for Zoe to stay up late at night whispering stories with new friends, to come home with a friendship bracelet from a new friend, to meet people that I have yet to meet! I mean, I know she’s young and I know she will be scared that first day, but I am so dang excited for her! I think she has the spirit and the will to do this and to succeed wildly at it, she is part my kid after all. I also know she will be hesitant and she should be, putting yourself out there is scary. Vulnerability and courage are kind of the same things after all.
In the deep, dark, back of my mind, part of me wonders if I am so excited about this because I don’t know how many of these opportunities she will have in her life time. I don’t know that she will get to drive cross country and stare at the stars all by herself in the middle of nowhere while she figures out why she is here on this earth. I don’t know that she will have the time to have her heart broken and then mended again. I don’t know that she will have the years to accumulate stories and trinkets and adventures. Maybe I’m being selfish in pushing her? Maybe I’m pushing her so that she has no regrets later in life and neither do I?
Regardless, summer camp starts in 3 weeks and we will be as ready as we can be.
You know what else gets to happen as a result of this summer camp adventure? Jason and I get more that 40 hours together for the first time in 10 years! So as much as she gets to be independent, so do we! I won’t lie, it will take me at least two of those four and a half days to get over the anxiety that I’m sure will instantly hit me when we drop her off. I’m pretty sure Jason and I desperately need this as much as Zoe does. We need to remember who we are and who we have become as much as Zoe needs to discover who she is. Maybe our adventure will begin again just as hers is. Zoe’s story is just waiting to be told. I want her to do stupid things, brave things, take chances, discover the world, live and love and rock the world with her joy. She just needs to remember to come home… in 5 days, and she better tell me absolutely everything that happened!