Intense Waiters, Y’all

Posted by mwallach on August 23, 2011 in My Kids, New To You |

Dear That’s Life,
With day camp ending and my girls having returned last week from sleepaway, the school year seems to be right around the corner. Some take the opportunity to get away for a couple of days, others scour stores for back to school sales, and many do a little of both. For a time I wondered, however, if I would finish all of the camp laundry by the time the kids are ready to don their school uniforms. Luckily, I now have the answer.

When we were first married, we used a laundry service near our apartment. Drop off, pick up, neatly folded into stacks that makes an anal-retentive person like me smile from ear to ear – who could ask for more? Having never used a similar service since moving to this area, I did not feel the need to until now. While I am not opposed to doing all of the necessary laundry that is part of the ancient custom known as the “emptying of the trunks,” this year was different. It can be summed up in one word: bedbugs. As a result, there was no way the possible delousing of my girls’ entire summer wardrobe was going to take place in my home. At my husband’s insistence, nothing was brought into the house without being bagged. Large black garbage bags were then hauled into the garage and ultimately, to my truck. My original instinct had been to burn all of their clothing and start anew. Donating the items to charity was not even an option – if I would not let my kids wear them, there was no way I was giving it to the less fortunate. On the other hand, the prospect of taking two teenage girls to completely replace their wardrobes was enough to make me violently ill. Commercial laundromat: here we come.

It is safe to say that the cost of this endeavor was worth every cent. If nothing else, every item came neatly and (almost) insanely stacked in perfect columns, right angles and all. For as long as it lasts, my girls are sure to have impressively organized closets. It almost tempts me to send in every piece of clothing we all own, though even I recognize, that may be slightly loco.

The post-sleepaway camp ritual also includes undoing the annoying habits and sayings that have been picked up in Pennsylvania. Even before getting off the bus and returning home, I spoke to my eldest. During one conversation, she used the word ‘intense’ no less than three times. She picked up on my vibe, but did not understand why the word bothered me. I informed her that “intense” would remain in camp – it sounded incredibly dramatic and had no place in my life. “How about ‘y’all’?” she asked. “I’ve also started saying that.” After a long silence during which I tried to regroup, it was nixed. “Y’all??” I asked her. “Are you kidding?” She got the message loud and clear. “Y’all” was gone, too.

She was not the only one who tried to bring some things from camp into our home. Even after only three short days and two very quick nights on a trial program, my son had sleepaway camp “souvenirs” of his own. Amongst a number of classic lines in my house, I remind the kids that there is no wait service. “The waitress is off tonight,” I say, my words laced in sarcasm. If you want the ketchup, you know where it is kept: help yourself. Same thing applies to cleaning up: dishes need to be brought to the sink, all items returned to their proper location. Again, I remind them that the waitress has off, and they should not plan to see her any time soon. There are no free rides at the Wallachs.

Upon returning home from the trial, my son bounded off the bus, having thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When I asked him what his favorite activities were, he could not limit it to just one. The next highlight, was something even I could not predict. “You know what else was so great about camp?” he asked. And even before I could answer, he responded proudly, “They HAVE waiters there!”

To quote one of my favorite movie lines: “Is this heaven?” asks one character. “No,” says the other. “It’s Iowa.” In this case, heaven may be in Pennsylvania. Oh well, welcome to New York.

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