Twelve years ago, I held a warm, dimpled, button-nosed little boy on my lap and thought, “I think we are going to be best friends.” Well, my 12-year-old self didn’t realize how hard it can be to be best friends with a sticky toddler, a still-sticky Spongebob-obsessed 4 year old, an “I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school” first grader, and a suddenly adolescent 12 year old—especially given that I was a suddenly adolescent 14 year old, a newly licensed 16 year old, a college-bound 18 year old, and a recently-married 20-something.
Surprisingly enough, I still look at that warm, dimpled, button-nosed little boy (who sometimes still sits on my lap until I say, “C-c-c-an’t B-b-r-eathe”) and say, “I think we are going to be best friends.”
Well, 12 years after I first met him, he went off on his first adventure without anyone from our family—he went to sleep away camp. To some, that might seem like a small feat. But, if you know Drew, you’ll know that there has never been a creature of habit who loves his bed more than Drew does. If you don’t know him, picture this: his room is perfectly clean and neat, he already has a morning and nighttime routine, and he can definitely tell when someone moves something on his dresser—he is the definition of a “creature of habit.”
Last week, when my mom asked, “Can you guys come over to dinner to wish your brother off to camp on Sunday night?” I thought, “Sure, but we’ll be seeing him by Tuesday anyway.”
It’s not that I thought he would chicken out—it’s that I couldn’t picture my little brother fending for himself in the wilderness for a week with a group of near strangers, stepping out of his comfort zone both physically and mentally without being able to climb into his perfectly neat bed at the end of the day.
So, I did what any sister would do. I ran to the corner store and purchased seven individually-wrapped sour candies. Then, I wrote a letter for each day of camp, starting with Sunday night. I taped a single candy inside each, thinking that they would be a nice end-of-day “I survived” treat for him.
On Monday night, his first night at camp, I drilled my husband with a million questions about camping. “Will he be warm?” “What if it rains?” “Do they have real food?” “What if he doesn’t feel good?” “Do you think he’s fine?” “Are you sure you think he’s fine?” “Should I call mom and Glenn?” “Do you think they have called the camp yet?” “Am I annoying you?”
By Saturday, none of us could contain our excitement to see him. I kept picturing him coming back mad at us—“I can’t believe you made me do that!”—but, of course, I was hoping he’d come back saying, “Thank you for making me do that!”
When I saw him step out of Glenn’s truck, he had a bashful grin on his face that looked like a combination of pride, excitement, and, most of all, relief. He headed off to camp as a hesitant, nervous, and shy boy—but he came home after a week of truly roughing it as a more confident nearly grown-up little man.
Later, I found out that Drew looked forward to and read my letters every single night. He claims it wasn’t just because of the candy. Either way, I felt the same pride, excitement, and, most of all, relief when I saw those big brown eyes on Saturday afternoon. He might have looked older, wiser, taller, and a little leaner, but those eyes still belong to the warm, dimpled, button-nosed boy I know and love.