My dad often says that to learn how to do something, you have to do it three times: The first time, you will make an obvious mistake. The second time, you won’t make the same obvious mistake but will make another less obvious mistake. By the third go-round, you will do it successfully.
This can be true, as I’ve observed myself with things like making a complicated recipe or playing a new board game. There are some things that are variable – I have made probably hundreds of pie crusts over the years, but a humid, rainy day can still sabotage my best efforts. There are some things I’m always going to find new and different ways to screw up, like building Ikea furniture or cake decorating.
And then there is packing for camp. The first year, I was neurotic as all get out, which is my natural state. I printed off the “What to Bring” checklist and obsessively highlighted items as I acquired them and then crossed through them once they were neatly labeled and packed in her trunk.
The second year, I was more low-key about it. Instead of ironing name labels on to her socks, I Sharpied her initials on them and didn’t actually care too much if the socks made it home or not. I had been super-careful at the end of Year 1 to store “camp-only” things – pocket shoe holder, twin mattress cover, shower caddy, mesh laundry bags, tennis racquet – in her trunk so that they would already be packed, and I felt like I really had a handle on the whole thing.
Now here we are, at the start of our third summer, with Ruby set to leave for three weeks on Sunday, and I am so off my game!
I know where her trunk is (in her closet, buried under a mound of clothes that have slithered off of their hangers and old school projects that she can’t bear to throw away), but I have no idea where the camp things are. I saw the shower caddy in the laundry room under a shelf several weeks ago, and I know she used her tennis racquet to make a slime video for her friends, but the laundry bags and mattress cover and shoe holder could be anywhere. They could be in the trunk. They could be in the garage. Ruby has been out of town, Georgia has been in limbo between camp and school, and my dad has been sick, so I have been too overwhelmed to even think about it. It’s Schrödinger’s trunk, both full and empty, and I am too scared to even open it.
Contrary to my dad’s adage, I feel like somehow, now, by the third summer, I know just enough about camp-packing to be dangerous. I know vaguely that she needs bathing suits and pajamas, but I forgot about the flashlight batteries! I have a sense that she needs non-aerosol sunscreen, but I don’t really recall if she needs two or three pairs of jeans or the exact ratio of regular towels to beach towels.
I have let my normal obsessiveness slide, and as a result, I feel like everything is chaotic. I got sloppy. I got complacent. I got camp-lacent. And now I am scrambling.
Of course, I also got cocky and decided I could easily throw a pool party for Georgia the day before leaving for camp, so I now have party stress compounded camp stress.
My dad is usually right, but on this particular nugget of wisdom, I think he’s wrong: It’s my third time packing, and I feel more confused than ever!
Please send me vibes for good weather (for Georgia’s party), good traffic (for the drive to camp), and you Catholics out there – please say a special camp prayer to St. Anthony that I find the mattress cover!