Monday, August 15, 2011

For This She's Paying X Thousand Dollars?

Please excuse the Matron's absence. She's been on the phone.

Now, when HWCBN absconded to Northwestern Debate Institute -- for a month -- she experienced this dearth of communication, despite the fact that debate participants had unlimited access to their cell phones.

Here is the Matron, texting her beloved offspring: "hi honeyu how is ur day goong?"

Two days of silence later, she receives this: "When are you going to learn how to use the key pad on your cell phone? I'm fine. Bye."

She tries again, more carefully: "Eating okay? Do you guys go out a lot? Things here are good. Merrick got a hamster and no dog has eaten it yet. We named it Omar."

Four days later: "Send a picture of Omar. Thanks!"

Now, the Matron will admit that she grew to enjoy this pattern. Sure, she missed her guy. If you stumbled across her doing dishes, running errands, working on a syllabus or any other mundane task, the thought of HWCBN would pour through her, eliciting a warm, nostalgic sentiment. She missed him. But this was not a searing, all consuming pain but more like a wistful --even pleasant -- ache laced with the certainty and contentment that he would soon return.

She rather enjoyed having just two children to drive and administer.

Then Scarlett went to camp.

This is a three week theater fest with NO CELL PHONES for the first week. Campers receive their beloved lines to the outside world on the first Sunday at 8 pm Eastern time.

Here in the Midwest, the phone rang at precisely 7:02.

Scarlett: "Mom!! Where's my package of food? The food is horrible! I'm in a really good play and I play a whole bunch of roles and I'm the youngest one here and one of my cabin mates might be on Annie on Broadway because the directors are coming here tomorrow and she's Annie here and she's really good and some of these kids are amazing singers and what is Merrick doing RIGHT NOW? How's Boc? Did you take the dogs to the dog park today? What are you doing? We had roast beef for dinner but remember I'm a vegetarian and we have a volleyball tournament coming up. What's a WASP? We're going to dress like WASPs because there's a contest and that relates to who we are in my play and . . . "

Her daughter! The Matron could not get enough! This was what camp communication was supposed to be like, the breathless call, the excitement, the flood of news! After a week of silence she relished the conversation. Was thrilled she could be of actual assistance from a distance: "A WASP is an acronym for White Anglo-Saxon Protestants and you can think of it as privileged uptight white people who are conservative in their social values and probably political values too."

Scarlett: "Like cousin Janet?"

Matron: "Exactly."

Scarlett: "I have to go! But we have break times at 10:30 am, 4:00, and 9:00 and I'll be sure to call then. Write me everyday. I'll call!"

And she is. Every day, at every opportunity.

Now, do not misunderstand the Matron. She delights in her daughter. She thinks Scarlett one of the most amazing, talented and gracious creatures currently occupying the planet.

But. Doesn't sending your child to a three week (expensive) residential camp somehow imply an ABSENCE of said child -- who is supposed to be having an amazing experience in independence, autonomy, friendship and community? Instead of this:

Scarlett: "Oh, it's raining today." Silence.

Matron: "Raining? Really? Oh, that's too bad." Silence.

Over the past two weeks, the Matron has spent more time in dialogue with this child than when she was just ten feet away. It is just 9:30 on Monday morning as she types this, and there has already been one communique. At home? She's said two words to Merrick who is watching TV and HWCBN is still in bed. Silence.

She's even tried not answering the telephone if she's genuinely busy (as in that full time job which requires actual brain space and time).

Answering Machine Clicks On: "Family? This is Scarlett! Where are you? I'm going to lunch in a few minutes but now I'll be TOTALLY traumatized by the fact that I can't reach anyone in my family. It will be hard to eat with all that anxiety. Bye."

And guess who made SURE her daughter packed that cell phone charger? Sigh . . .


MJ said...

Ah, so sweet. Recall: Scarlett is a girl. She will call you, perhaps less frequently as she ages, but still regularly even as an adult. It is so sweet that she misses you so much. She'll be ready to come home.

Common Household Mom said...

Oh, my. How old is Scarlett? Her phoning behavior may change. My oldest daughter, now 18 (as she often reminds us) actively hates me when I attempt to communicate with her via phone, either text or voice.

But I remember when I sent my son to Jamboree (a giant scout camp) he didn't phone once the whole time. It was agony for me. And then, when he got back and was asked "What did you do?" his answer was, "Stuff."

Maybe the camp should do like I've heard army training camp does - cell phones only used Sunday from 7 pm to 8 pm. Confiscated for the rest of the week.

KL Crab said...

yup, I believe you have just sorted the difference between male & female teenage children in communication styles. I just took my son to college, I expect to hear his voice at Thanksgiving- between now and then I will attempt to cope with text only messages. Frequently they are single letter only responses....k?

be well, KL Crab