Why do you check the camp website every morning, scrolling through photos from the day before and scanning the dirty little faces in every group shot for the unique visage of your child?
Because: You need proof not just that your child is happy, but that your child is still there. Children, as we all know, are wily creatures, prone to impulsive thinking and deft at escape. There’s no telling what sort of peril they’ve fallen into or Lord of the Flies-style savagery they’ve resorted to while under the influence of their own wretched anguish over missing you. That’s why you need to lay eyes on your offspring in those camp snaps. And when you don’t, you can only think:
Perhaps your child is still weaving lanyards in the arts-and-crafts hut where you abandoned him last week, because no one ever told him he could get up.
Or maybe your child has broken into the mess hall to gorge on Cheetos, popsicles, and pancakes that he likes better than the ones you make. Maybe your child is getting high on cooking oil as we speak. That’s probably a thing now.
But possibly: Your child has absconded with a canoe and is attempting to paddle home along the tributaries of America’s rivers. If so, she most certainly has forgotten to re-apply sunblock.
Conceivably, your child impaled his toe on a tetanus-spiked splinter and is now hiding in the crawlspace under a cabin like a wounded dog, and no one knows he’s there, and why did you ever agree to send him away, and HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO SAVE HIM FROM ALL THE WAY OVER HERE?
Maybe your camper befriended the camp ghost and disappeared. Maybe the “Brian” your child wrote you about in yesterday’s letter hasn’t been a camper there in 30 years.
Or what if you’re being punished for relishing the quiet so much that you allowed yourself to daydream about a child-free life for just a fraction of a second? You can hear the universe bellow, “YOU LIKE THAT, DO YOU?” as it dawns on you that in a Freaky Friday scenario you’ve actually wished your child away with your mind. You realize with certain horror that if you were to call the camp right now, they’d say, “Excuse me, but we have no record of your family here.” Look what you’ve done.
Or maybe it’s simpler: No longer sure how photos work when they’re not selfies, your child bolts at the sight of another person holding a camera outward.
Although perhaps your child has adopted the ways of native tribes and now believes that photos steal his soul?
It’s possible your child has been promoted from camper status and IS the new camp photographer. She does have quite an eye.
But most likely, your child is basking in newfound autonomy, enjoying the unfettered liberty of wearing the same damp, moldy bathing suit for 120 hours straight. Your child is probably developing a mean case of crotch rot, but it’s the CROTCH ROT OF FREEDOM, so it’s good.
Your child is fine.
(Or using cigarettes as currency to buy whiskey at a bus stop three miles from camp.)