Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie

As we approach Skyland’s Opening Day, this blog is worth sharing once again. It was written by a first-time Skyland mom in 2014 the day that she dropped off her daughter at Skyland Camp for Girls. It made us laugh. It made us cry. And it reminded us of the very real emotion that bubbles up all around as parents drop off their children for their first overnight camp experience. This is for you, Camp Parents!  We know it’s not easy. We know you’re being brave. We know this is may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. And we know that driving away on Opening Day may be filled with “wait … what did I just do?” Thanks for trusting your daughter, for trusting her counselors, for trusting 100 years of Skyland. We love you and can’t wait to see you on Opening Day!  <3

Original Post: July 14, 2014

Written by:  First-time Skyland mom, Jen Byrum

Today was one of the most strange and bittersweet days I’ve ever had as a parent. In 13 years of being a mom, I don’t remember ever feeling so happy and sad at the exact same moment.  My baby blossomed and grew into a young lady right before my eyes this afternoon.

The moment happened when I dropped my daughter, Quincy, off 3 hours away in Clyde, NC for her first ever time at sleep-away camp. She will be gone for two weeks at Skyland Camp for Girls.

I’ve spent the better part of the last week completely and totally focused on making everything perfect for her experience. Writing lists of things not to forget, labeling everything with Q’s on them, shopping at Walmart way too many times to admit, and finally staying up til 2am last night, precisely laundering and folding dozens of the cutest outfits and her supplies into two large black plastic trunks.

On Sunday morning Q arrived at my house (after the weekend at her Dad’s) excited to leave and get the party started. I, on the other hand, was like a ridiculous, nervous Momma Bear. I made her listen as I showed her each item I had packed, when and how it could be used, what to wear if she got too hot or too cold and the importance of hydration, bug spray, sunscreen and brushing your teeth. She looked at me like I was nuts the entire time.

As we drove for nearly 3 hours into the western North Carolina mountains, I was non-stop with last minute advice and she was cool as a cucumber.  I actually wished at one point I had given her a notepad to write all my instructions down. Was she remembering all this?

Try something new every day. Write everyone back that writes you. Put your hair up so it’s not in your face all day. Change the batteries in your flashlight only when the light goes dim. Hang your wet towels and clothes to dry.   Wear matching clothes. Wash your face. Make friends with everyone. Ride a horse at least once even if you are scared. Don’t forget your manners. And remember to have the time of your life.

No pressure or anything. Geez Mom.

As we pulled into camp, her counselors and her new roommates came bounding out to greet us, singing songs to welcome her and literally jumping up and down. She was shocked at the fun after being with nervous Nelly for 160 miles.

We parked and she hesitated for two seconds, overwhelmed by how thrilled they were to see her. I watched her bravely open the car door. And then she grew ten feet.

At that moment she came into her own and bloomed.  Blossomed.  I was amazed.  Introductions were made but I can’t remember one name because all I could do was watch her in awe as she confidently became part of her new surroundings. Wow.

We hauled her stuff up to her bunk. The car was packed. She looked like Cher arriving for a two day stint at Madison Square Garden. Although her ensembles are much less sparkly.

My goal was to get her bed set up on the screened-in sleeping porch.  I was escorted to her new spot called Secret Corner.  I wanted to make it cozy, perfect and homey… pillows fluffed, stuffed animals posed just right, extra blankets (4!) on the foot rail of her metal bed.

A camp counselor stayed with me and helped as I nervously fumbled with the fitted sheet.  It was like it was round.  My hands were shaking and I was so nervous.

I realized then that this cute and adorable 20-year-old counselor, that refused to leave my side, was actually there for ME. She was showing me that she HAD it and the transition was about to take place. She was assuring me “it’s ok, crazy worried mommy, it’s camp, we will love her and take care of her”.

I knew then that I was moments away from saying goodbye. Gulp. Inside I was dying. I didn’t want to leave. I truly thought it would be the other way around…That Quincy would be upset, not me.  That thought couldn’t have been farther from reality.

I found my girl inside her room with her new friends hovering. She was unpacking her trunks with her second counselor, arranging her shelves happily. Not a nervous twitch to be seen. She was nesting and already bonding.

Her shoes were lined up. Her laundry basket ready for stinky clothes. Her bathrobe and shower caddy were ready to be used. Her clothes stacked neatly next to her 39 pairs of socks.

I knew it was time to go in the most wonderful, non-pushy way. In a matter of twenty minutes there, my daughter was home, settled and comfortable.

This process was done with the most incredible precision, sweetness and love. I didn’t even know it was happening. I can’t even tell you how it happened. One moment she was my little girl and the next moment she was totally immersed and in another world.

I told Quincy it was time for me to leave. Her response nearly killed me. She simply said OK!   I asked her to walk me out to the car. Nope. She told me she wanted to stay there with her new friends and could I just hug her now?  Oh my gosh. Seriously!?!

So that’s exactly what I did. I pulled her aside. It was all I could do not to sob. I mean, I really wanted to just lose it right there. I could feel it overwhelming me. Big crocodile tears were incoming.

I squeezed her tight and shakily told her I love you. She could hear it in my voice, but couldn’t see my face as I squeezed my eyes, trying not to be that mom. But she knows me better than anyone else and told me please don’t cry.

My big girl was hoping her mother could keep it together. She was GREAT.  Excited and fantastic. I told her she was going to have the time of her life and she was completely ready.

I was a mess. This is an insane feeling for a mom, I tell you. My baby had just given me a side hug and wasn’t even thinking twice about me not seeing her for 24 days.

I was so stunned at her independence and her maturity. So much that I was actually able to pull it together and leave her. I didn’t look back. I would have sobbed. She wouldn’t have been there to see it if I did.

As I got into my car, I was so perplexed. I wanted to break out into the serious ugly cry. At the same time I was so profoundly at peace with what I had just experienced. That also made me want to cry.

My daughter is incredible.

I pulled off onto a side street 3 minutes after I drove away. I texted her Dad to say she was safe and well. And I tried to let the emotion out. I needed to cry but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to anymore. My head was spinning.

It was so weird. I was sad but elated for her.  I was so proud and excited for her.  My heart was so full knowing the pure goodness she was about to experience. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone at Skyland. I felt pure love.

So I put the Jeep in gear.  And I turned on Pandora.  The last song we were belting out, before we arrived, came back on.

Long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile… American Pie.

I rolled down the windows, blasting it as high as it would go and sang it at the top of my lungs as I breathed a major sigh of single motherhood relief.

And I knew of I had the chance, I could make the people dance and maybe they’d be happy for a while.  They started singing…