Each summer for the past four years, Ben has attended a five-day baseball intensive. It is held in the Bronx, only an hour's trip from our home, but since he stays in a dorm and is engaged from early morning until late at night, our experience is not that different from the one we'd have if he were in another state, or another country. I like to mark his growing independence, and my acceptance, by charting our changing responses to this repeating event:
2009: Ben expresses some nervousness about being away from home for an extended period, about rooming with a stranger, and about whether he will be able to keep up with the other players. I go over the packing list obsessively, sew name labels into all of his clothes, including his 99¢ socks, and call the camp with endless safety questions. At the dorm, I insist on meeting his roommate and interviewing the camp director. On the way home, I am haunted by worries that he will be hit by a stray ball or bat. This persists until we pick him up, despite frequent calls and texts.
2010: My singing trio has a gig coming up in September. One of our members has a house in Maine, and she invites us there to work out our numbers. I request that the trip coincide with Ben's camp period, and they accommodate me. I write his name in his clothes with a Sharpie. He gets a ride with a friend's family, and we leave on the same morning and return on the same evening. We stay in touch by sending each other pictures on our phones, and we both have a wonderful time. I am home in time to be waiting for him with his favorite snacks when he arrives.
2011: I hand Ben the packing list, and assume he will bring everything he needs, which he does. We had tentatively planned another trip to Maine but postponed it because of horrible weather conditions. Instead, I fill up my evenings with engagements with my singing group and other friends, and Bill and I go out to dinner. Ben travels back and forth with a friend on public transportation, and texts us good night every evening.
2012: Ben packs by himself and travels with a friend. When I text him good night, he usually replies. One night it is late when I remember to text him; when he doesn't respond I assume, correctly, that he is already asleep. The evening of his return is the first class of an advanced music improvisation course I have been looking forward to. I consider skipping the class, but decide against it; Bill will be home and I will see Ben later that night. The class is fabulous, and when I get home, at around 11PM, Ben is already in bed, nearly asleep. They worked him hard, but he learned a lot and had a great time, he tells me. We chat briefly about his experience before turning in.
As always, I am thrilled to have him home.