Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dear Jake

Dear Jake -

When I think of you at camp, I smile. Because I know you are having a blast. You are outside playing ball, shooting guns and arrows, swinging a golf club, playing guitar, climbing a 75 foot wall, ziplining down, popping up on one ski, competing aggressively against rival camps, making friends, and creating memories. And dare I say? You are even having a few emotional moments. You are so in the moment of camp, and I know you let the tears spill over once in awhile, but we won't talk about that. Because we don't need to. You keep those special moments to yourself, and only share them when you want to, and with the right person or people. Like those new friends of yours on the last night of camp. Let 'er rip, buddy.

When we went to Confirmation Camp over visiting weekend, it was the best time I've spent with you since I used to rock you to sleep at two in the morning when you were a baby. See, over the years we both have grown up, but the long drawn out moments together are few and far between. So spending ten hours in the car with you over 36 hours was, I'll admit, a bit intimidating at first. What would we talk about? Would you ignore me over your phone, texting with your friends from home who you missed terribly over the past four weeks?

You asked me if you could play music. I agreed. I loved your song selections. They are just like you - laid back, all over the board, still searching for a niche. A little bit of everything. And we'll keep the fact that we both bopped along to country music a secret from your sister.

We rode in silence for quite some time. I actually thought it felt a bit awkward - what does the 41 year old mother say to her 13 year old son? We'd already caught up on all the specifics of camp, and you knew what had been going on with me since I write to you every day. So what's left?

Plenty. We talked about the upcoming changes we are going to make in our diet as a family. We talked about extended family members. You talked incessantly about the fun you had at the Dells with your camp friends and the insanity called Scorpion's Tail which I WILL NEVER RIDE! We talked about Kahley and Dad. We missed them together. But we also commented about every interesting thing we saw on our drive.

And you played more music. Great tunes that had us both singing at the top of our lungs to the classics and the current top hits. You played my requests, you introduced me to your current faves. We had fun.

When we got to Walcamp, for your final year of Confirmation Camp, you did not ditch me for your friends. On the contrary - very soon after we arrived, you came up to me and gave me a huge hug. In front of everyone. Just because.

Do you have any idea how that melts me?

Our ride home proved even more entertaining. Already relaxed and in the groove, we created a game plan whereby you would take a picture of anything interesting along the way. Yes, this was primarily my idea, but again, you softened my heart with your simple comment, about 2.5 hours into our drive:

"This is so much fun, Mom. Good idea."

Your simple, sweet way is what I love most about you. Keep that. Stay who your are.

I recently sent you a special letter at camp. You know the one. It has no greeting, and no closing. It simply contains the lyrics to Lynyrd Skynryd's Simple Man.

Be a simple kind of man.
Oh be something you'll love and understand.
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh won't you do this, for me son, if you can?

...and don't forget son, there's someone up above.

And that is my lifelong, ultimate wish for you, Jake. All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied. 

Now onto your mad photography skills. Which, yes, you are right, are quite good considering we were traveling at speeds anywhere from 15 to 75 mph and you took the majority of these out of a bug-slathered window. Well done, my boy! There's no way I can post all 163 images, but here are some of my favorites.

One of the first pictures you snapped - we weren't even out of Illinois yet! Farmer Bill and Farmer Ted just shooting the breeze on a sunshiny Sunday morning.
The farm implement theme carried throughout the day, the machines getting more complex the further north we traveled, and the more hay fields we encountered.

I mentioned to you that I wanted some pictures of barns.
 We definitely had plenty to choose from on our drive.
Impressive! Especially considering I shouted: "I like the stone on that one!" as we were cruising by at over 65mph.
I don't even remember seeing a blue barn. Good eye, Jake. Kahley would love the weather vane on this one.
And the barn quilts. Which I just learned about a few weeks ago thanks to Kathie Mackin, our northwoods neighbor. She has one of these on her shed. Did you know that?
 Makes me want a barn so I can put a quilt on it.
And the final barn and shed we saw - which was so beautiful we had to stop so you could get a great photo. Love this!
Your pictures of the Central to Northern Wisconsin landscape accurately depicted how our drive morphed from fields of grains,
to fields of livestock,
to wooded narrow roads (getting closer to home!),
to the first of many lakes.
 Sometimes the mode of transportation fit the landscape perfectly.
and provided a welcome distraction and photo op.
Did you even know that your grandfather, my dad, drank PBR for at least thirty years of his life?
Clearly, the answer is yes, as you couldn't resist the ancient bar signs.
I love the names, too. Hitchin' Rail and Long Branch. Good, solid bar names.
And while flipping through your handiwork, I chuckled at this one. There are still cheap eats in this world. We could feed our entire family for $4 on Wednesday night at this place.
I loved stopping in some of the cute little towns with you. Time to debug!
And how could we not resist a picture by PARTYVILLE!, er Pardeeville? How sweet would it be to have that as name of your hometown?
There's just something quaint and interesting about small town sights:
Doggies running for home,
Guidance on where to drive snowmobiles,
 And a waterfall in the middle of town. How cool is that?
We stopped in a teeny town where you stood in the middle of the road because a vehicle doesn't amble by for half an hour.
But not during the Tater Toot Festival!
Can you believe that next weekend will find over 1000 people lining the streets of Almond, WI, enjoying a car show, parade, inflatables, fire station competitions, music, food, drinks and dancing? But for the life of me, I still can't figure out what the name Tater Toot means. So if any of you readers are from Almond, I'd love to know the history of the name of your annual festival and what exactly "Tater Toot" means.

I suspect this reminded you of a certain Bates Motel? No. We are not staying here. Ever.
Getting ever closer to home, I know you love this one. The shrine on the corner of the road, where we always threaten to leave you and your sister for the night if you are bad in the car.
I know, I know. It creeps you out. You're not alone.
And...the ingenious yet misleading name of this northern Wisconsin golf course and supper club.
Club X to C.
Ecstasy? As in, the drug? Adult Entertainment? Sheer, mindless bliss?

No. The intersection of Roads X and C. Of course.

I do like small town cemeteries. There's something so quaint and peaceful about them.
And something even more special about this church. I noticed it, but didn't even have to say the word. You saw it too, and captured this brilliant image. It might be my favorite of the day.
Nah. This one is.
My sweet boy. I love you more than you'll ever realize, I miss you terribly every day, and I look forward to two short weeks from now when you're back from camp.

Until then, keep having the time of your life!



  1. Wow, these pictures are awesome! I'm impressed! And where are all these fantastic barns? Kevin's dad used to photograph old barns and he would love all these pictures. I love this letter. Our kids are still too young to go away to camp and I don't even know if they have any camps like that in California but I would only hope to write a letter a tenth as good as the one you wrote here. :)

  2. Thanks Hilde! The barns were on the backroad route to our cabin, from just north of Madison to the Northwoods on Routes 51, 22, 73 and J. And it doesn't matter if you don't have camps in California - the camps in Northern Wisconsin would LOVE to have some California kids! Check out their websites - for girls, and for boys. They can go as young as 8 (I think). Kahley started at the age of 9, and Jake started with Rookie Camp (weekend) at the age of 8. One of the best parenting decisions we've made!