Monday, July 20, 2015

Care Packages

From the bluffs overlooking Lake Erie, I witnessed the forging of many summer storms. The natural drama of clouds colliding into an angry tempest would play out on particularly hot, humid days in July. As the first rain drops fell and the distant thunder rumbled, campers would scurry from electives stationed around the grounds of Calvary Camp into their respective, but identical small white, wooden cabins.

The counselors - the muscles of camp - would quickly, but diligently unfasten latches that released an extra layer of protection from the approaching gales and showers. As the wind would pick up, the flashes of lightening would become more vibrant, the thunder would reach a more frightening decibel, and the last cabin mate (number ten of ten) would burst through the door panting, soaking wet, relieved they had finally reached a measure of safety.

Tucked inside the dark cramped cabin, rain pummeling the roof, gusts of wind threatening the wooden boards that stood between us and nature's fury, I was always thankful for the stuff that had reached me in the past week from the world outside of camp, hundreds of miles away.

A postcard from my parents written from a lazy porch in Chautauqua; a letter boasting of operas, ballets and symphonic masterpieces that followed dry happy hours. A greeting card inscribed with my Grandmother's perfect penmanship, capturing the putting green, Mississippi River Catfish, lightening bugs, Hello Dollies, and heat indexes of Quincy, Illinois. A note from my Grandpa, decorated with exclamation marks that showcased his enthusiasm for this summer's crop of tomatoes. A mix tape titled 'Quite the Gentleman Caller' - a gift from a friend back home; a melange of catchy songs that became the soundtrack to the summer. And finally, my care package.

My name, as well as my brother's and sister's had been called over the loud speaker earlier in the week. The announcement summoned a dozen other lucky campers and us to the camp office to pick up their respective miniature treasure chests of branded packaged goods. Walking back to my cabin, arms wrapped around my brown parcel, I felt a little more loved, a little less hungry, and a little closer to home.

Back in my cabin I unwrapped a tube of Pringles, Oreos, Goldfish, Life Cereal, Trident, two rolls of Certs, a Mad Libs, my In Style magazine, a couple extra pairs of Hanes, the long sleeve GAP t-shirt that I had forgotten to pack, and a note from my Mom and Dad sealing the gift with love. 

Atop my bunk, my fear of thunderstorms turning to tornadoes was assuaged with a stack of Oreos and a sheet of Mad Libs fielded by the more verbally provocative in the group. Despite their distance, my parents always knew how to make me feel better. 

***

Huddled in the plastic wrapped safety of the Peggy O on Saturday afternoon, Stacy's Pita Chips making their rounds, Revolution brews cracked, famous tales getting taller, we watched sails unravel, skyscrapers disappear, and white caps form as a massive storm system descended upon the Windy City. With one of my fellow Calvary Campers on board, I flashed back to the stormy scenes of Camp that I remember so well.
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This past weekend, I felt like Calvary was back in session. My campers, two special new ones included, gathered in the Midwest for Arts and Crafts, Skits, Swimming, Boating, Banquets, Campfires, and laughs that echoed across Lake Michigan and back. IMG_2406
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While there were some changes ... the outfits were trendier ... 
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The food more craveable, the bug juice more potent, and the ice cream at canteen sweeter. 
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The electives more colorful ... 
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And the news a little quicker to reach home. 
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A lot was the same; campers got R-O-W-D-I-E,
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More seasoned campers watched out for the newbies.
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Girls passing boys' tables in the dining hall paused to flirt. 
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Rest hour was mandated. 
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New friends were made while old ones were nurtured.IMG_2435
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And the hugs on the last night of Camp had to last another year.
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A special thank you to my wonderful Aunt and cousins for making their way all the way to Chicago to show how much they cared. I hope you had as much fun at Camp 2015 as I did.

Lo.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Free

Two hundred and thirty nine years ago, a group of patriots signed the Declaration of Independence, setting themselves free from the British monarchy and their unruly taxes ...

(I was going to go into a little more detail at this point, but after debating facts and figures and an unknown order of events with my husband, I realized my knowledge of American history is painfully flawed, so I'll stop and fast forward to present day.)

... In the Play Pen, a notorious spot for anchoring and partying in the shadows of Chicago's historic skyscrapers, thousands of people celebrated Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock, and quite a few other lesser known signatories yesterday. Among the masses, I doubt I was the only one who didn't know the finer details behind the founding of our great nation. Nonetheless, everyone seemed to have good reason for toasting to America's 239th birthday. Decked from head to toe, bow to stern, in red, white, and blue, revelers partied from morning to an hour far past my bedtime.  

There was certainly an aura of life, liberty and an ultimate pursuit of happiness bobbing and floating in Lake Michigan's calm waters. And despite a predominantly foggy understanding of the reason behind the regatta, there were universal freedoms that everyone seemed to be partying for.
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The freedom to eat one more doughnut.
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The freedom to live a little dangerously.
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Freedoms of press and speech.
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The freedom to raise the flag.
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And wear it if you so choose.
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The freedom to party with as many people as possible.
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The freedom to take selfies and share them with the world.  
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The freedom to bend the rules. Even in the presence of the Chicago Police.
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The freedom to eat, drink and be merry.
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The freedom to marry whoever you want. Especially if you've found that person who completes you.
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In all seriousness, I felt very thankful to be an American yesterday. To live in a country free of war; where my kids can play and embrace their youth as long as possible; where hard work still pays off; and where there's always a pursuit that advances the status quo. Yes, our country still has it's flaws and yes, there are still inequalities rampant within our civic structures, but we have made a lot of progress over the past centuries. And I'm optimistic that my children will see a day and age when everyone is truly treated as an equal. 
A hearty thank you to our founding fathers, to our war veterans, to the brave soldiers who have fought battle after battle for the advancement of civil rights on our home soil, and to the millions of people who make our country work (harder) every day. Thank you for letting my children sleep soundly tonight. 
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So they can dream big tomorrow. 
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Lo.

Friday, July 3, 2015

My Lap

A couple weeks ago, the extended family gathered in a row of $20 balcony seats at Hinsdale Central's auditorium to watch my niece, Ellie, chasse and pirouette through her first ballet recital. Initially, I thought the steep fare was a suburban rip off, but the combination of baby ballerinas, seasoned company performers, and catchy tunes was well worth the money.

Bobby and Mary shared a VIP seat during the show. Mary had it for the first half; Bobby for the latter. Perched on my lap, they both felt the rhythms that carried the dancers from one bar to the next; they heard the lyrics of 'California Girls' and 'Put on a Happy Face' echoing in their ears; and they hopefully inherited a little more of my enthusiasm for the performing arts.

Around the fifteenth number though, Mary made an escape so she could practice her own routine in the aisle, while Bobby was snatched up and moved from one hot seat to another. As his face went from a gaping smile to perplexity, Mimi laughed and said, 'he knows this isn't his Mommy's lap.'

While he was content shortly after, it did make me think about the kind of comfort I offer my kids, how they perceive me, and just what my lap must feel like?

Even now I can remember exactly how my Mom's lap felt. Falling asleep on it in the car; sitting on it to read stories, crying on it when the world seemed too big for a little girl to handle. It was soft, embracing, warm, and filled with a cushy kind of love that made everything okay.

While the former lacrosse player in me doesn't love that my lap has gotten a little squishy over the years, I know my kids have appreciated the extra padding. They've loved the pony rides, booster seat, and proximity to their food. And as they start to realize that at times life and its bee stings, boo-boos, rainy days, teeth, and bad dreams can be a little scary, I love that scooping them up and offering them an insulated seat can cure any ill.

This week alone, there were thunderstorms, a reoccurring nightmare about a 'scary man', pangs from first teeth, a bee sting(!), and several other cuts, scrapes, and bumped heads.  


But as fast as fear approached, there were chocolate chips, ice cream, carousel rides, rice cereal and extra doses of hugs and kisses from Mom, Dad, and Eva as rewards for bravery.
In a way, I wish they could always stay on my lap, safe from the world. I know as quickly as Bobby turned five months, they will crawl, run, and graduate off my lap and into independence. And I will long for their little bottoms. But I love that each week brings new developments, adventures, and lessons. And I couldn't be more proud of the accomplishments they've already made.

Lo.