This summer has been busy for our family. I’ve found myself packing and unpacking a lot of suitcases and trunks for trips to camp, baseball tournaments, anniversary trips, etc. I’ll probably be quite ready for school to start, when it actually does, simply to get back into some sort of routine.
One of my earlier driving trips was up to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. My youngest son, with his two cousins, were taking a bus from Dallas up to the Branson area. The camp offers chaperoned chartered buses for the kids. It’s quite helpful and convenient. Much easier than the first couple of years when ThrillCam and I would drive our oldest to camp, spend two weeks camping in Missouri and Arkansas, then returning to Branson to pick him up from camp. We would spend our whole vacation time driving to and from Branson, basically.
Nowadays, all we have to do is drive up to Branson to get them from camp. Much better. Less time-consuming.
This year’s drop-off of the cousins went without a hitch. My sister-in-law Sherri, her husband Gregg, and I woke the kids up at 4 a.m., shoved Pop-Tarts into their groggy bodies and drove to Dallas to meet the buses. We got the trunks loaded on the buses, the kids in their seats, all seemed to be going as planned.
Then, as Sherri, Gregg and I were walking away from my niece’s bus, we noticed a little girl, standing just outside the bus door, crying. Hard.
I said to Sherri, “Aww, you know, if your daughter were out here, she’d totally make that little girl feel better about going to camp.”
Sherri said, “You know, you’re right. I’m going to get her and see if she can come out and console that little girl.”
By this point, all the parents were moving back, to give the buses room to get out of the parking lot. The rest of the buses’ doors were closed, locked. They were ready to roll.
All but one.
The little girl’s parents were trying to convince their daughter to board the bus–it was the right combination of love and reassurance, while nudging her to take flight from the nest.
She just did not want to go.
I knew, though, if anyone could pursaude the sad little girl that camp is the happiest place on earth, my niece could.
You see, my niece is one of those little girls everyone wishes they had. She has such a sweet, sweet spirit about her. She’s a friend to everyone, never says an unkind word, and loves anything with four legs and covered in fur. I want to talk my sister- and brother-in-law into trading one of my boys for her, but I just haven’t figured out how to do it.
So, Sherri goes onto the bus and calls her daughter to come outside. She tells her that there is a sad, little girl outside who is scared to go to camp. My niece leaps into action.
They join the, now inconsolable little girl outside the bus.
We are all watching and waiting.
Holding our breath.
Will she stay or will she go?
We start humming.
It’s quiet at first, but grows with intensity…
“Should I stay or should I go?
Should I stay or should I go?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay there will be double
So come on and let me know…”
By this time, the parents have begun to circle up and are taking bets.
“Twenty says she stays!”
“I’m with Mitch. Put me down for twenty, too.”
“Oh, now, Bob, that’s just mean. She’ll go. That other little girl and her mom will win her over. Put me down for $30 to go.”
It was getting ugly out there in that parking lot.
My sister-in-law looks to the little girl, and says in a caring and loving voice, “You know, my daughter was really scared her first year, too! But, now, she loves going to camp! And, you will too!”
The little girl, with huge crocodile tears falling down her face, looks squarely at my sister-in-law and almost yells, “It’s not my first year to go! It’s my THIRD!!!!”
True story. (Maybe not the singing and the betting part, but the rest, all true.)
And, I’m happy to announce, the little girl did, in fact, get on the bus bound for camp.
Just as she climbed the stairs, my brother-in-law leans in and says quietly, “Shut the door. Shut the door.”
They should have shut the door.
Because, about 5 minutes later, the same little girl leaps off the bus, tears streaming down her face, arms flung open, heading straight to her parents.
There is an audible rolling of eyes in the parking lot.
The exchanging of money commences….
But, this time, she gave her parents a hug, and turned right around and got back on the bus.
It was a happy moment.
And, this time, they shut the door.
Finally the engines roared on, and slowly, slowly they began the long journey to camp.
We waved goodbye to our children as they drove out of the parking lot, praying for safe travel and hoping the $5 tucked into their carry-0n bags would be enough for lunch…all the while, knowing they were headed toward a couple of life-changing weeks of fun.