Hello muddah, hello faddah

I re-read my 1986 letters to my parents from summer camp, and I didn't barf.

  Sandra Boynton, obviously.

Sandra Boynton, obviously.

 

In a fit of decluttering last week, I came across an envelope that contained some of the letters I wrote to my parents during the year I was a CIT (or, as we called them, LITs, for leaders in training) at summer camp. Which was also known as 1986. Or the summer I was 14 years old.

I read through them all, and they didn’t even make me feel like throwing up, which is what happened when I tried to read my diaries from first-year university. I guess the existential angst hadn’t settled in yet. Or maybe there’s a difference between the letters you write to your parents and the words you keep private because they’re so full of doubt and hope and misery and embarrassment that decades later they leave make you dry heave after two paragraphs.

But, no. These letters are downright cheerful. I am resolutely upbeat about being put into a tent with my nemesis from the previous year (“… We aren’t going to get into any fights this year. We’re going to be friends (<-- positive thinking)” and, later, “actually, it’s not that bad with her. I am TOLERATING her and NOT LETTING HER GET TO ME. I UNDERSTAND THAT SHE IS INSECURE AND ACTS THE WAY SHE DOES TO COVER UP FOR IT. Aren’t I learning?”). Unsurprisingly, I am sick all summer: “My strep throat and ear infection are much better.” I write at length and fairly openly about social dynamics, who likes whom, the way the little kids look up to us and how cool that is, the evening program we planned (a giant murder mystery). “Could you send a GQ magazine?” I ask my dad. “It’s a man’s magazine with all these gorgeous male models in it. I need something to put up in our tent.” In one letter, I am thrilled about how my audition went for Grease (one of the counsellors, “told me privately that I was her first choice for Sandy, and that she loved my voice, so I was really excited”), disappointed to be cast as Marty Maraschino (“‘Like the cherry’”), elated to find out they were giving me a song after all (“Freddie my Love,” which never made it into the actual movie but was a solo nonetheless). I troll unremittingly for letters and gum and care packages.

I’m fascinated by my own handwriting, by my unabashed use of exclamation marks, and by how guilelessly open I am with my parents. (Of one of the girls in a younger unit I write: “She’s changed [since last year]. She’s punk, a slut & into drugs, and she was forced to come to camp. She’s going to try and get kicked out. Get the picture?”). I thought of myself as closed off, despondent, in my own little universe where parents weren’t allowed. I think I was wrong.

I wonder about my own boys, and whether they will ever send letters home like these to me. I hope they do. I’ll probably keep them forever.

 

This is the sandwich

This is the sandwich that Rowan will not eat in his lunch today at school.

It won't matter that he ate, enthusiastically, this precise sandwich — chicken salad and lettuce packed into a whole-wheat pita — on the weekend.

It won't matter that I carefully lined each inside surface of the pita with a vapour barrier of lettuce, so as to prevent sogginess. He will preemptively declare it soggy anyway. It won't matter that I have written him a loving note on a Post-it, explaining my lettuce strategy, and stuck it to the outside of his lunch container. (It will not matter that I also wrote on said Post-it, "And have I told you that you look gorgeous today?" He will see right through my flattery, but maybe he will smile.)

Rowan will say that he likes pitas at home, but not in his lunch at school. Unless, of course, the pitas at school come from the annual Pita Day, in which sandwiches are ordered from a restaurant and you have to pay for them. Those sandwiches are edible at school. But this one won't be.

And here we are, at an impasse. Me, making the sandwich. Him, not eating it. We are partners in a complicated dance, balancing nutrients with ease of preparation, health and appeal, texture and cost, availability and variety. There's no foolproof solution: some (rare) days, he eats everything. Other days, the exact same lunch comes home untouched. And so I try, hoping that today he will eat the sandwich (and even enjoy it), girding myself for the likelihood that I will dump its uneaten remains into tonight's garbage.

This is the sandwich that Rowan will not eat in his lunch today at school. Unless, of course, he does.

Check me out on the CBC’s “Canada Writes” this week!

I’m pretty chuffed to be featured this week on the CBC’s “Canada Blogs” series, part of its Canada Writes page. Please check out their Q&A with me, about blogging while Jewish and queer in Northwestern Ontario, what my mom would think about me spewing my life out onto the Interwebs, and whether what I write is really “honest” (I may or may not have used the term “pack of lies”).

While you're there, have a look at some of the other fantastic Canadian bloggers they have featured — I'm honoured to be in their company.

And if you really just can’t get enough, here’s a link the radio interview I did Thursday with Lisa Laco on Superior Morning. (We pre-taped the conversation, so, sadly, I can't even blame any incoherence on my part to having to be there at 6 AM.)

Have a great weekend – it’s been a lovely week to turn 43!