And you all thought an author's life was glamorous . . .
So my darling son went away Saturday morning for his first sleepover camp away from home. He's still a couple of weeks shy of his 11th birthday, and I spent most of Friday night hyperventilating. Because:
1. First sleepover camp
2. First camping trip without a parent, just the Scout masters
3. They held it in the Florida Keys. Which is a very very very long way from Jacksonville. (440 miles, to be exact, but more on that later)
Finally, Saturday morning, I decided to let him go. After all, I'm very adventurous. My husband is very adventurous. I didn't want to crush Connor's sense of adventure at such an early age because Mommy was worried.
After more than 10 hours in the van, they finally arrived Saturday night and set up camp. In the swamp. Seriously. Long Key State Park smells like a swamp or a sewage treatment plant. I'm sorry if you're from Long Key, but even driving up to it I could smell the stench through my closed windows. (Driving. Up. To. It. Yes. I'll get to that . . . )
We got a call at breakfast Sunday, things were good. Much camping activity planned. No call Sunday night, but okay, scouting things. Independence. Mommy tries not to worry.
Monday morning the phone rang. It was the scout master. Heart leaps in throat. What's wrong?
Connor is in bad shape. Because the SWAMP they picked to camp in is -- wait for it . . . this is a shocker if you know anything about Florida or swamps . . . A MOSQUITO NESTING GROUND.
The poor kids have been SWARMED. Connor has my blood chemistry, which means that he, too, is very attractive to all manner of stinging insects, and he reacts badly to them. The scout master says, We're all bitten pretty badly, but poor Connor is the worst. The other scout master is on the way to the store for FIVE MORE CANS OF BUG SPRAY.
Connor wants to come home. Also he has a bad scratch right next to one eye.
Okay. I say, reasonably, I think, Are you all coming home early since you're being dive-bombed with mosquitos?
Okay. I say, I'm on my way. Less than an hour later, Tom Tom programmed, daughter ensconced at the home of a very wonderful friend, I'm in the car heading south. Driving south.
For Four Hundred and Forty miles. South.
Arrive at camp site amidst stench 7 1/2 hours later and bugs start to dive bomb me. Walk through group of very depressed-looking kids, all scratching their bug-bite covered limbs, to find mine. He's in the tent packing up. Say, Connor come out here.
Child is a mass of welts from head to toe. Literally. Swollen up so badly behind his ear, his ear is pushed out from his head. Neck covered, Arms and legs covered. Every available inch of space covered. He's trying to roll up his sleeping bag, I say, forget that, just throw it all in the trunk. We make the mad dash out just before all blood is sucked out of my body by kamikaze mosquitos.
Head 30 miles back up the road, trying desperately to keep poor kid from scratching himself raw. Stop at lovely Key Largo Holiday Inn resort and put child in shower. He comes out and sits in only his shorts on bed while I slather him with half a tube of cortisone cream. EVERYWHERE is covered with bites. They got in his clothes. Bites even in his armpits. Between his toes. Gave him Benadryl, I take shower to wash 440 miles of road off. We head for dinner, he eats like starved thing. Other boys ate faster so he never got seconds.
Back to room, collapse in exhaustion. Wake up Tuesday and drive the 410 remaining miles home.
Wait, are we getting to the glamorous part yet? Oh, no. Hmm. Maybe where I washed 8 loads of laundry yesterday, with all camping clothes, gear, and sleeping bag wet and sandy from beach . . .
But he did tell me he helped clean up a turtle nesting ground Sunday and he was proud of that. (The welts and bruising are healing now.)
We got matching t-shirts and are calling this The Great Mommy/Boy Scout Rescue Mission of 2008. Because you have to laugh about this stuff. And who wouldn't drive 900 miles in 2 days to rescue her kid? It's in the Mommy contract.
But from now on? No camping trips further than 150 miles. Seriously.
Alyssa, trying to survive the final 4 days of spring break