Setting Forth

Today I dropped Whitney off for 2 1/2 weeks at Camp Arcadia, in Maine.  We’ve spent the last week or so gathering things for her time at camp, and this morning we finally packed the car for the long-awaited trip up to Casco.  Her taggie and baby blanket were carefully tucked into the top of one of the bags.  When we arrived at camp, I helped her make her bed.  I wistfully folded the taggie and blanket into small squares and placed them neatly on her pillow.  She has loved those little blankets for almost as long as I’ve loved her, even now that they are frayed and tattered.   For a moment, I wished so much that I could curl myself up into a corner of the cabin and watch the next two weeks of her life go by.  We’d packed my old camp stationary box with lots of note cards, stamps, and other goodies to pass the time during rest hour.  We arranged the box under the bed, next to the myriad of shoes we’d lined up in a tidy row.  I’m already dying to see what she will say in her first letter home, and I know I will be racing to the mailbox every day with a greater sense of urgency than an 18 year-old anticipating an early decision letter from college.  We hung the new mesh laundry bag on a hook by her bed, and it occurred to me that in a few short years the bag will stink from dirty athletic clothes worn by a sweaty body that is stretching up and leaving childhood behind.  We placed all of her clothes neatly in her pine box, all neatly labeled with sharpies, a job we’d done together just a few days ago while talking about what it might feel like when she’s homesick.  I was only there for a little over an hour, and when the time came to go, we left her in the pine grove as lunch was winding down.  We hugged and kissed several times, and I told my “beans” how much she was loved.  She gave a confident wave, and began to walk off towards her cabin with her new friend Eva.


Whitney with the pillow my mom made at Arts & Crafts at camp in 1953.

As we drove away, I thought of a graduation speech that a friend recently shared with me, and it included this passage from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  It makes me think of Whitney on her first night at camp, and I hope you like it too:

Then came a quiet morning when Mr. Zuckerman opened a door on the north side of the barn.  A warm draft of rising air blew softly through the barn cellar…the baby spiders felt the warm updraft.  One spider climbed to the top of the fence…The spider stood on its head, pointed its spinnerets in the air, and let loose a cloud of fine silk.  The silk formed a balloon.  As Wilbur watched, the spider let go of the fence and rose into the air.

“Goodbye” it said, as it sailed through the doorway.

“Wait a minute!” screamed Wilbur.  “Where do you think you’re going?”

But the spider was already out of sight.  Then another baby spider crawled to the top of the fence, and stood on its head, made a balloon, and sailed away. Then another spider.  Then another.  The air was soon filled with tiny balloons, each balloon carrying a spider.

“Come back, children!” he cried.

“Good-bye!” they called.  “Good-bye, good-bye!…We’re leaving here on the warm updraft.  This is our moment for setting forth.”

Good luck Beans!  This is YOUR moment for setting forth!




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