It is summer time!! Time to send our teenagers to camp!! Why would we want to do that? To get rid of them, of course. Preferably a camp without any electronic devices permitted to limit all possible contact. If any of my blog readers are thinking I am a “mamma snaturata” – a bad mom—you may be right, but I am guessing you don’t have teenagers. Sometimes we parents need a break.
(I always seem to have a hard time with these teenagers in summer – I was just re-reading my summer teens post from last year, and things have not changed much. See Blog Post: Mozz Mamma Meets Italian Teenage Summer)
So, my sister, who lives in Texas, sent her teenage daughter to “Wrangler in Training Camp”. Yep, that’s right, wrangling camp where kids learn how to wrangle. Wait. I just looked up “wrangle” in the dictionary and it means, “to quarrel noisily or angrily.” Stop! All teenagers know how to do that already. That is NOT what “Wrangler in Training Camp” is for. “Wrangler in Training Camp” is for learning how to wrangle animals like cowboys do, but in this case it is horses and not cows.
Apparently my niece spent five hours a day with the horses riding, brushing, saddling and rubbing them down. She got to teach a class to other camp units on feeding horses and one day had to take responsibility for taking three miniature ponies to a camp party and supervise them while younger campers patted them.
My sister said when she picked her daughter up her new boots were filthy dirty as were her arms and legs and she was has high as a kite.
I left my daughter Chiara yesterday at her Church to depart for her weeklong church Youth-Group camp. They had a meeting for the parents last week and I arrived 45 minutes late (I had a good excuse, I was picking up my son at the airport, he was returning from University). I went flying into the little room at the back of the church where the meeting was, hoping to quickly pick up the list of the “things to pack” and get the details on departure times, payment etc. I found a nice group of parents sitting around in a circle with a priest, a nun and a couple of assistants.
I slid up against the wall and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but the priest urged me to take my place in the circle. They were taking turns going around the circle introducing themselves. As I waited my turn, I whispered to the mother next to me, “sorry, I am so late, had to pick up my son, what have they said up to now?” She whispered back, “we’ve just been praying.” Yikes, 45 minutes of prayers!!?!!
We got around the circle, I introduced myself in turn and eventually I got the little piece of paper I needed of the “things to pack”. Top of the list: Bible. By then it was 8:15 and I needed to get home to get dinner going. But the priest was going on and on in a calm, gentle voice. Finally I decided to make my usual “brutta figura” so I stood up and said I was really sorry but I had to slip out. The priest said, “I am sorry but the gate to the parking lot is now locked and I have the only key, so I will have to come with you, so the meeting will have to end here.” Ah, the GUILT. I had come 45 minutes late and was breaking up the meeting. Whatever. So all the parents stood up in the circle and I started towards the door.
But wait!! The priest, and all the parents crossed themselves and started reciting a prayer. Now, I cover the Vatican, I have been to God knows how many Masses and liturgical events. I have pretty much got the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary down in Italian, but those were not the prayers they were reciting and all of them seemed to know this one by heart. Oh PANIC. I didn’t want to seem like the heretic in the midst, so I started the fake mouthing of words tossing in some “Dios” and “benedettos” and “Marias” and “Pane quotidiano” and “cielos” and a loud “Amen” when we finally reached the end.
This morning, when I dropped off my daughter, I discovered what I believe may be one of the reasons for her enthusiastic participation in this Youth Group. There were 12 kids leaving for the camp – ten very handsome young boys, and two girls, my daughter one of them. Chiara mingled with the other kids for about five minutes before wandering over to me and saying “Ok, you can go Mom, Ciaoooo,” and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. “But the other parents are not leaving,” I pointed out. “Yeah, but you can go,” she smiled, “it’s ok.”
I tend to be friendly and my teenage kids live in fear that I am going to do something “awkward”. The kids began busily carrying supplies of food out to the bus and I saw bottles of tomato sauce and the biggest bag of pasta I have ever seen. They don’t have Costco in Italy, so I wondered where they got that.
I got in my old Fiat Punto and turned around in the tight church parking lot. I nearly backed over the huge bag of pasta, which would have been seriously awkward and a real “brutta figura” but I hit the brake just in time. I could just imagine poor Chiara cringing.
I spoke to Chiara today and she said they get up, they pray, they eat breakfast, they have Bible study. In the evening they have a Mass and more prayers before bed. Fortunately they do some long hikes in between, but it is not exactly wrangling.
I was a bit worried that Chiara was going to come back clutching a rosary and declaring her future as a nun, but she came backed tanned and happy.
Then there is my brother’s daughter, who plays the cello and has been shipped off to music camp for a month. There, they allow no electronic devices whatsoever, and my mother sent around an email urging all of us to pick up an “old-fashioned piece of paper and pen” and write her letters. I think my teenagers have no idea how to write a letter. And once it is written they don’t have much familiarity with stamps or mailboxes. I think if they don’t see a “send” button somewhere they will be lost.
Of course this all brings back memories of some of my teenage camp summers. Groan. I was once sent to Camp Wabasso Girl Scout Camp in New Hampshire with my older sister. I think I am still trying to overcome the trauma of it all. We slept in tents and had to use latrines. My sister Gwen was the star of the camp. She became famous for her “one-match fires”. She could build up a little pile of wood doing what they called an A-frame fire with the right amount of tinder and kindling and poof with one match it lit right up. If I wanted to light a one-match fire, I would need to dump a can of gas on it first. She was also a pro at making S’mores (those delicious treats with graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate, and a marshmallow toasted on the open fire at the end of a stick). I was always impatient with my marshmallows and ended up sticking them in the flames and burning them to a crispy black.
On top of that Gwen was the best hiker and was put in the “fast” hiking group while I was left with the slowpokes. She also had all those good Girl Scout qualities—loyalty, integrity, and determination (she still does)– which I seemed to be lacking in. My favorite time was quiet time after lunch when we sat on our cots and wrote letters home. I did my best to write colorful accounts of our scouting exploits or perhaps they were tall tales of the terrible treatment by cruel counselors and little ol’ me struggling under the shadow of my super sister. I think back then I already had a future as a blogger.
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.