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07/22/2011

It seems the fish were biting, along with everything else

Hey, you know how I always talk about Tyler Place as if everyone there walked around in an unshakeable haze of smiles, relaxation, and goodwill? Well, this summer Ben proved me wrong:

Ben-fishing
I wasn't there when this photo was taken. I was probably doing something like cooking a meal or scrubbing a toilet or — ha ha ha haaaaaaaaa just kidding; more like kayaking with my spouse or lingering over coffee with new friends or reading a book on a chaise longue in the cool of the morning shade. Whatever I was doing, I certainly wasn't impaling worms, keeping a boat full of preschoolers from hooking each other, or, worst of all, touching fish. But Ben, I am told, had a fantastic time, and indeed he said so later. I can only suppose that in the moment, when the photographer said something friendly like, "Look upon what you have slain and rejoice!" — well, he got a little freaked out. And shrank from his trophy. And clutched at the nearest grown-up.

I'll confess it, because although I feel about Tyler Place like I do about TiVo and the Wacoal 85185, I am committed to a foundation of truth in my blogging: Ben had a tough time of it. Every dropoff with his group was as teary and fraught as if we were leaving him not at a bright, spacious facility packed with amusements, but at, I don't know, a venomous snake proving ground, or, in the evenings, maybe an exclusive poison tasting. ("Complex, mineral, with aromatic overtones of death, remorse, and parental abandonment.") He liked the activities a great deal and talked about them enthusiastically once he was back with us. But as soon as he figured out we were setting out again for the playhouse, the whimpering began: "I want to stay with my fami'y!" As if he thought we were doing something fun instead of cleaning bathrooms. And riding bikes. And taking sailing lessons. And laughing ourselves stupid on the low ropes course.

If we hadn't known from experience and observation that he was in a safe, welcoming place with staff who genuinely cared about kids, we might have been concerned. If the counselors hadn't greeted him each time by name, bringing him skillfully into activities, remembering what he particularly liked to do, we might have had reservations. Because according to Ben, the counselors weren't nice. "They are not nice," he told us solemnly on his second day after pickup.

"Oh?" I asked mildly, examining the backs of my thighs for hammock prints.

"No, they are bad people." Eyes wide with the import of what he was telling me.

"Hm," I murmured, looking forward to that evening's gin and tonics, plural, in the lounge, while aforementioned bad people cared for my second son. "What do they do that's bad?"

Ben paused to think, groping for any credible example of depravity. He finally seized on one, the worst thing he could think of: "They bite."

Nice try, kid, but I'm not buying it. To pry me out of my Adirondack chair overlooking Lake Champlain, you're gonna have to show me some marks.

...

Out of something like 66 families, that week there were eight sets of twins. Eight. My math isn't great, but I calculate that to be an incidence of roughly 382%, or about 950 twins per 1000. And although I won't speculate on any aspect of that fact, because for some reason everybody hates it when I jump to conclusions about the reproductive capabilities of strangers, as if such a thing were private or something, I will say we were among our people. And that is not an assumption.

When we arrived, Charlie and I went to the inn to check in. As we stood in line, someone behind me said my name. She had recognized Charlie, she said, from reading my blog, and quickly recited her history, which ended, happily, in one of those sets of twins.

It was the first time I've ever been recognized, so I got a little kick out of that, but more importantly, I felt known. I like meeting new people, but I sometimes find it hard to navigate those first few exchanges, when I haven't yet determined just how much myself I can be. Meeting C. instantly relieved that anxiety. It was a real gift, her reaching out to me like that, and I'm so grateful. Even if I'm still jealous that her kids smiled in every photo. (Maybe they had more fun than Ben did. Or maybe the ravenous counselors found them slightly less toothsome.)

...

Charlie had a blast, of course, and if I could figure out how to rotate my movie of him going down the zip line without asking you to pick up your monitor and cant it 90 degrees counterclockwise, I'd show you. But like with Ben, the photographic evidence of his pleasure is — oh, let us call it limited. The best picture of the week was this one, from pirate night:

Charlie-piratenight

...when his homicidal look of deadly murderous lethal killishness was at least thematically appropriate. I know he loved the trampoline, the bounce house, the karate class, the campfire, the pools both outdoor and in-. I just can't prove it. There is no way to show you the gladness I felt with his flashes of giddy joy.

I say this every year, but because there is no horse so dead that I scruple to flog it further — oh, Ben didn't like the pony rides, either, because "they wanted to bite me," which leads me to wonder if there was anything on the property that didn't want a chunk of tasty, tasty boychild. Jeez, kid, bicycles are herbivores — I really treasure the chance to enjoy my kids without the concomitant crap, to feel a whole uninterrupted week's worth of everything I love about being a parent.

It's been painful to come back, as always, and not just because there's no easing in, no halfway house where someone offers you only two entrees at dinner instead of three, and entertains your kids for merely half the day instead of three-quarters. The questions we have about Charlie still loom, and a large part of the rest of the summer will be devoted to devising some sort of plan, both for home and school. Ben, almost three now, has begun experiencing these sudden hopping fits of rage on the flimsiest provocation; that they are developmentally appropriate makes them no less tiresome. And I will just get on with it. Back to life as we know it, rather than life as we wish it could be.

...

It's been a long time since I posted here. It's so nice to be back on my blog. I have a lot to say but little time to say it, as Charlie is mostly home. But I miss this space, and I'm energized by Melissa's great post about blogging. See you here soon, I hope. Thank you for staying around.

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