His little hands clenched and released; dirt under his fingernails, a surprisingly nonfatal splinter wound almost healed on his palm. He looked around the room in an uncharacteristically quiet way. He glanced up at me for confirmation that this was going to be okay. I nodded my head, put on the best and biggest smile I could manage, and told him he would be spectacular. He looked to me to find his courage; the same way -just over six years ago- I looked at him and found mine.
Both of us had been looking forward to his short week at summer camp since February. He is a legacy at that camp; he follows in my storied footsteps. I was a camper there, one week each summer, for 12 years. When I could no longer be a camper, I became a counselor. Some of the kids I had as campers are now counselors, and that makes me very very old. I told him stories, I told him secrets, I gave him insider information to ease him into this new experience.
He has never been a timid soul. He has chameleon skin, he thrives in New. He is so much like me; he is so different from me. He is an adventurer, an explorer, a child-sized pioneer.
There was a moment of uncertainty. There was a second of hesitation. We leaned into each other, and knew we would follow through.
He is so grown up, so big, so sure of himself. Yet he is so small, still my baby, still my firstborn.
The campers circled in around him, the counselors used their “Welcome to camp this is gonna be great!” voices to introduce him. He hung back, and then he joined in. He walked behind, and then he caught up. He told everyone he already knew the names of the four mountains surrounding the camp. He said he’d share the story of the legendary catfish that still swims in the murky lake.
He rounded a corner and found that we’d beaten him to the cabin. As his daddy dropped off his sleeping bag, his suitcase, his pillow, his puppy, he gave me one last hug. Any hesitation he felt just minutes before had evaporated. He did a let-me-go-already dance and kissed my cheeks. His daddy told him to remember who he was; I told him to shine his light.
He shimmered. He shined.