May 25, 2010

I'm Just A Nut-Job On A Bungee Cord

Routine welcomes me like a butt grove in a favorite chair.  I settle at the kitchen breakfast counter with my cinnamon toast, morning coffee and sticky-keyed laptop.  ("No, Zander, you can't be on the computer when you're eating chocolate!")  Exhaustion tugs at my brain, making my head heavy and my eyes ache.  I showered as soon as I got home but I still feel sore and campy and there's dirt beneath my toenails that refuses to wash away.  Four days.  Four days of unwashed youth, bass that vibrates through the grass at my feet - up into my chest - so strong it makes me feel nauseous, soggy mac & cheese and sloppy oatmeal, showers that dribble, toilets that don't flush, girls in pajama pants and boys in skinny jeans.  Four days of dirty feet, dirty showers, soggy bedding and damp denim.  Four days to help my family recognize and appreciate how much Mommy actually does for them.  Four days.  It's a long time.  I wouldn't trade it.

I'm a veteran by now with at least thirteen years under my belt.  It feels cliche to say it, but this may have been the best year yet.  I don't believe that I'm a wonderful spiritual leader, I think, instead, my gifting lies in my ability to connect to the kids on their level.  I am able to leave behind my mommy-grown-up-mind and just be among them and the amazing thing is, they just accept me and include me and I think they actually like me.

I love my role as a mother.  It's what I believe I was made to do but there's something inside me that comes alive when I give some of myself to these kids.  That piece of my high school self that lay dormant, that piece that embraced life and lived for experiences - no matter how trivial - seems to resurrect and take off like some nut-job on a bungee cord.  There's some strange freedom that is born in events like Pitch and Praise that can't be duplicated anywhere else.

I kiss my kids goodbye.  I sit in the front seat of the bus after I do a head count and pray for our journey.  I like the front.  The kids like the back.  I take the drive to shift modes - get my head where it needs to be so I can be fully present when we get there.  I'm a little concerned because Scott's never had all three kids alone for this long.  He is far from being domestic.  He's feeling resentful that I get to go away for a weekend and he has to do the job of two parents.  I say, "Welcome to my life."  I'm thinking it will be really good for him and good for the kids but I'm sad because I had to give a rushed goodbye to Zander when he left for school that morning and Noa was asleep when they dropped me off at the church so she didn't even hear my goodbye.  I read.  The bus stereo is pumping out some KJ52 which seems to be a youth road trip anthem.  The bus turns heads.  The custom flame grill gets people pointing and the pounding bass and squealing kids draw stares.  I'm a chapter away from the end of my book when we stop at McDonalds in Elmira.  "15 minutes," I announce then book it down the street to the Tim Hortons because I'm already feeling tired and need a shot of caffeine to regenerate.  I'm back in ten.  We leave twenty minutes later after a milkshake spill and another head count.

There's cheering as we pull in to the camp.  Tents are erected in record time.  Kids helping each other.  I walk to the main office to get us registered.  I return to a completed site: couches arranged in a circle beneath our large tarp shelter, music pounding out from the sound system we bring every year, patio lanterns and rainbow rope lights flicker, the Canadian flag hangs at the apex.  Rules are announced.  I call each person forward for their name tags which will get them into sessions and meals.

Sessions are amass with screaming youth - hair of every colour under the sun - outfits as strange and wonderful as their array of piercings and footwear.  I feel the music as much as I hear it.  A clock is counting down on the screen.  We pick up the count when it reaches one minute.  In unison the numbers are shouted out to zero when a euphoric cheer erupts and shakes the tent over our heads.  It has begun.

The worship band appears in a fresh burst from the smoke machine.  Girls are already falling in love.  The lead singer is the Edward Cullin that Stephanie Myers really wanted, the bass player is a Jonas brother and the fiddler is a dead ringer for Coldplay's Chris Martin.  They own the stage in their rock star jackets and tight black jeans.  Their energy is contagious.  There is a struggle with the mix but nobody cares.  I decide that fiddles should be mandatory in worship.  I'm clapping and bouncing - bungee cord, remember?  The evening speaker is dynamic and quick-witted and calls everybody "man" and "dude".  He looks like a Baldwin brother with a faux-hawk and stabs each person with his piercing blue eyes, the direct eye contact is unnerving but he makes me laugh until I'm wiping tears.  He paints on stage.  It's fast and amazing.  I want to go home and start painting again.  The tuck shop has onion rings this year.  I'm planning to gain five pounds before I go home.  There's Kareoke, Open Mic, a 70's Cafe, games room, sports tournament, Pitch Has Talent, swimming, Battle of the Bands, a dance club, seminars.  To any kid that complains of boredom I say, "Are you kidding me?"  Morning sessions are led by an acoustic guitar and a youth pastor in a questionable tank top.  The speaker is a 50 year old southern black women who says things like "Holla!" and "Girl!" and "Ohhhhh Lordy!"  There is a moment where the entire congregation sings Queen's We Are The Champions and I think that's amazing.  There's a bombardment of timbits, carafes of coffee that taste like earwax, the bailing out of my tent with a styrofoam cup following the torrential downpour on Saturday, the girl who laughs like Woody Woodpecker, communion together with my small group, an airbrushed tattoo of the Batman symbol because I know my boys will like it, the blue-haired boy who bought his jeans at Ardene and can put on eyeliner better than most girls, too little sleep, grumpy morning people and wanna stay up all night people.

 the Batman tattoo

My favorite moment?  T-shirts are thrown from the main stage to promote the merch tent.  There's a dive for it - like single girls going after a wedding bouquet.  Five guys and a boy about eight.  The little boy gets knocked around and one of our youth wins the fight over the shirt.  The boy goes back to his mother, crying, hurt and disappointed.  He sits in his chair, tears on his cheek, arms crossed, shoulders shaking.  When our guys realize he's hurt they take the t-shirt and give it to the little boy.  He refuses to look at them, taking the shirt without raising his eyes, his mother saying thank you for him.  The shake of his shoulders stills.  He unfolds the shirt carefully, checking out his prize, tracing the design with a finger.  A small smile starts to spread across his face.  He hugs his mother.  And I'm fighting back tears like a blubbering idiot and am so ridiculously proud of our guys that I want to hug them - and I'm not a hugger - for giving up the shirt they got grass-stains on their own by fighting over.

I'm happy to be home.  My kids survived without me.  Scott survived.  He even did the dishes.  I feel affirmed in my choice to volunteer with the youth.  Through a seminar I attended on tapping into creativity I feel affirmed in my desire to write.  I also feel like I could sleep for the next two days but my kids were yelling for cereal at ten after seven this morning.  C'est la vie!  And I wouldn't change it.

sleepy me the morning after
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  1. I've been to Pitch as a teen and a leader. Teen wins. I have new respect for you.

    I'd a been a blubberin' too. Gosh, that was a touching little slice.

    Way to go Scott. I wonder if he read "Sex Starts in the Kitchen" while you were gone...

  2.'ve got talent...great writing, very made me laugh out loud and brought tears to my eyes. Nice.


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