We were home for 4 nights after vacation before the next adventure began. This year both Blue and Violet are running Cross Country for their school. Training for Cross Country begins pretty early in the summer and since Violet was going to try to earn a jersey with the team this year, she decided to start running on her own before practices began. We have a nice little 1 kilometer trail here at home and it’s convenient to walk out of the house and be ready to run. She started running around the end of May and the team started later in June. By the end of the summer the team has bonded a bit and the coach likes to end the summer practices with a 3 day camp just before school starts back up.
I love to run and I really enjoy being able to run with my kids. Each year my mileage starts to double as I run my morning 5K alone and then run again with one of the kids as they train. Blue graduated from needing my support on his runs just as Violet joined the team. She’s moved along quickly and while she no longer needs my support, we have a pretty strict rule about people not running alone so I still join her on her runs.
There’s a lot of parental support and volunteering on this team which is really cool. Many of the parents run or bike with runners at practices and help make sure that no one runs alone. These same parents travel to camp and help with food prep and various other planning activities while there. This year school did not interfere with me going, so I planned to attend most of the camp.
The day before camp was Blue’s birthday. He got his learner’s permit and had a couple of birthday cakes and lots of gifts. Violet and I got him a llama piñata and filled it with goodies. It was a good day. That night the kids and I packed and prepared for an early departure the next morning. I was up at 6:30 am to get my 5K done. I dropped the kids off at school and then followed the bus up the mountain to camp. It was a pretty place with decent cabins and a pond. When the kids were trying to make sure I was going to camp with them, the pond was a big selling point. They told me there were pedal boats and kayaks. Violet said we would kayak together every day.
I knew I pretty much had to go either way, but I figured I’d have to kayak alone. While her intentions were pure, I knew that once she got around her friends, they’d want her to do all the fun things with them. When we arrived, I unpacked and helped the other volunteers get tents and tables set up and then we went for our first run. There are two runs each day at camp and they begin and end with a half mile loop around the pond. It was not super-hot but it was very humid. I had to take a shower as soon as we were finished running and everyone was getting ready for the afternoon free time. After lunch everyone explored to see what activities were available. There was a large group of kids at the pool apparently trying to kill each other with a ball. There was a chilly creek that ran through the property. There was a zip line and a rappelling tower. We were free to use the pool, but the zip line and rappelling tower were amenities we did not purchase so those were out. I don’t love sitting in water with a lot of other humans splashing around, so I ignored the pool. I walked over to the pond just as Violet and her friends were walking away from it. Violet ran to me and announced that we were not allowed to use the pedal boats or kayaks due to “short staffing”. The girls played in the creek instead.
I made my way back to the front porch of my cabin and grabbed my laptop. With classes beginning in a week, I had plenty to do. I quickly realized that there was no internet at camp so while I had plenty to do, I was pretty limited as to what I could do. I used my phone to do make some advising notes for a couple of students and then I decided to just sit and enjoy being bored. I wrote and drew in my sketchbook for most of the afternoon. I’m realizing that being bored is a luxury and perhaps even a necessity for a creative person. In the bustle of this busy summer, I have written some details in my sketchbook but I have failed to draw in it as much as I would have liked. Now there was nothing else I could do. It was nice.
The late afternoon run was just as hot and I had to take another shower. The food was provided by parents and it was pretty good. I had no food complaints at all. There was a campfire with s’mores and then some down time until lights out. Y’all know I’m socially awkward and some of you may be able to imagine that I do not have a ton of things in common with other sport parents. If you’ve never been the “art person” you’ve at least known an “art person”. Well, I’m the art person. I don’t think I’m really that weird, but I know I’m weird to normal people. So take their trepidation in trying to talk to me and multiply that by my awkwardness and desire to be alone, and you can imagine what it was like for me to sit for an hour in a room talking with the other dads. Nice people, I just felt very uncomfortable.
The dads split up the two parent rooms and I was sharing one with another quiet dad. I know this is one of the strange idiosyncrasies of being me, but I don’t sleep well with strangers. Fun fact: I also don’t like eating with strangers. There’s something very bizarre about being so vulnerable around people you don’t know. I can do it because, well, I love to eat. When it comes to sleeping, I just can’t relax enough to get into a deep sleep. On a different type of trip a few years ago, I was packed in a room with a whole crew of kids and dads and the dads snored like freight trains. I may have slept 2 hours in three days that time. It was horrible. If you’re reading this series, you already know how I feel about my sleep. At camp the kids were supposed to be in bed by 10:30 so I was probably in bed by 11:00. My roommate didn’t snore or make any weird noises but I only slept a little from 3:00 – 5:00 am.
Lying in bed awake most of the night reminded me of all the things I have to do for school in the coming weeks. You’ve heard of the “Sunday Scaries”? I don’t get those so much, but I do get the “August Anxieties” just before the academic year begins. This was on my mind as we ran our morning run. There was a lot of free time scheduled for the day and I mostly had to just sit and sketch and try not to think of all the things I had to do that I couldn’t do. I sketched as kids would come and go in the cabins. I watched Violet walk with a group down toward the pool. While they were walking a very loud lightning alarm went off. They froze, then turned and speed-walked back to the cabin.
It didn’t storm where we were, but it did storm near enough to cool us down a bit. The Friday night run was a “fun run” planned by one of the parents. He spent the day calculating distances between challenge stations and doing math. I volunteered for the station that required sidewalk chalk and I drove to Dollar General to get some chalk. I grabbed a coffee at Starbucks on the way and it really helped my mood. I drew a hopscotch board under a gazebo on the pond and waited for the teams to check in. After the fun run I packed up and got ready for dinner. I had to leave after dinner but the camp was continuing through the next day. I told the kids I was leaving and I headed back down the mountain.
The coffee helped keep me awake but I was ready to go to sleep. When I got home I unpacked and washed a couple of loads of laundry. I took that awesome shower you take when you return from a trip and you get to shower in your own shower. Then I slept that awesome sleep you sleep when you return from a trip and you get to sleep in your own bed.
This adventure wasn’t over yet. I was up at 7:00 am the next morning to get my run in and to get ready for a day in Columbia. The reason I came home early was because while the kids would be enjoying their last day at camp, I would be driving to Columbia for the Young Artists Festival at 701 CCA. In one of the earlier segments I wrote about the experience of doing the mural summer camp with the kids from the Boys and Girls Club in Columbia. The Young Artists Festival was connected to that. My kids’ murals would be exhibited in two locations in Columbia and I was going to be at a table providing information about the summer camp or perhaps manning a “creation station”.
Katherine was invited to this event because of her important role in helping me lead the mural summer camp. After my coffee, I loaded a sculpture into my truck to deliver while in Columbia and when Katherine arrived, we hit the road. We briefly talked about lunch as we pulled into town, but once we got to the Festival venue, we quickly got distracted. We were told we were, in fact, doing a creation station. We had about 45 minutes to develop the idea of what we were doing and to gather some materials from next door. We made a few posters and developed a system and then waited on the kids to arrive.
While we waited, I, of course, compared our station to the stations around us. There was a cool lady beside us with two activities to offer. She had colored sand and was offering something like sand painting. Very cool. On the other side of us was Kat Hampton, a cool art teacher who was doing a printmaking station. I felt ill-prepared in comparison. I also felt very hungry. We forgot about our lunch discussion and realized we were stuck behind this table without any food for the next few hours. My fear about our station was washed away by the first visitor to participate. This adorably cute child walked up and announced she wanted to draw a mural. She was very young but when she said she wanted to copy the bird on one of our posters, she showed off her hand to eye coordination like a champ. While my fear was gone, my hunger was still intact. Soon the emcee announced there was free pizza in the courtyard and my heart lifted. We took turns grabbing a piece of pizza and a water. The entire Festival was fun and we had lots of participants. Some wanted to keep their creations. Some asked us to tape them up behind us on our “gallery wall”.
The mural I created for inclusion in a park in Columbia was on display at the festival. It was nice to see the 24 foot mural on a wall for the first time. We were able to reference it when talking about the mural summer camp. One of the kids from our camp came through the stations with her mom and brothers. She came over to speak to us and to tell her mom that she knew us. It was nice.
After the festival ended we cleaned up and returned our materials next door. We were still hungry so we found a Sonic close by and grabbed a snack and more water. I delivered the sculpture in town and then we made plans to eat an actual meal with the family on our way back. G and the kids met us at Dempsey’s and we all ate too much pizza while sharing cross country camp stories.
Ok, so this one wasn’t much of an adventure, I’ll admit that. But it was probably the last activity of my summer. The kids would have their first day of school in just a few more days. I would have one week to get my life together and try to remember what it’s like to be back in class every day. Summer was kind of officially over for us at this point. It was a really good summer. If I didn’t get to see you this summer, I hope I’ll see you soon. Maybe we can sit down with a couple of coffees. Thanks for reading along.