Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kids At Camp. Mom Not. All Is Well.

Day 18 of the Kids-At-Camp-Mom-Not program. At this point, though, I suppose the program could be renamed the Eight-Days-Remain program. As in, Eight Days Remain until I drive five and half hours to retrieve two exhausted, over-sunned, iPod- and mobile-phone-deprived campers for what will surely be some top quality car time with me. Hoo boy. Yep. Best to strap on those seat belts. That re-entry could be a little rocky.

Unexpectedly, I’ve been rather enjoying myself in their absence. I’d anticipated, after dropping them at camp 18 days ago, that I’d make the lonely return trip awash in tears, wracked by sobs so debilitating that I'd have to pull over to the shoulder and get myself together.

Um. Didn’t happen. I did get to listen to whatever I wanted on the car CD player, though, all the way home. And I got to sing. My songs. Loudly. Repeatedly. And off-key.

Originally, I’d thought it possible that I’d get a call from Kleenex manufacturer Kimberly Clark, thanking me for my singular increased tissue usage, which had prompted spiking stock prices. Hmm. Well. Looks like there are still plenty of tissues here, so I’m not worried about missing that call.

I had even boldly predicted that, for the four weeks they were at camp, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from getting up in the night to check on the kids, only to be reminded, sadly, that they’re not here. Right. Turns out, I got re-trained pretty darn quickly. I don't have to check. They’re not here. I'm OK with that.

I know I should feel guilty about how easy this has been for me. ‘Cause I really do love my kids and bask in their company. And they both know that. But it's only four weeks, and I've been making the most of it. And the fact is, the kids are doing everything they can to make sure I don't miss them.

Just look at an excerpt from the letter Mike The Mailman delivered today from Snarky Son (SS) – Not much to say, um, they’re forcing me to write. I’m having loads of fun … send candy!

Um, I love you, too?

And this, from Darling Daughter (DD), There are 10 days left of camp. I can’t believe it’s almost over. I don’t want to leave!

That's all right. Anyone could read between the lines on that one. She's desperate for me, right?

Let’s just say that I'm not counting on a Disney-type moment when I retrieve them next weekend. I well remember last summer, when SS made his return trip from camp to reality – and chores, rules, veggies, required-footwear and poop-scooping. He wasn't home 24 hours before he asked, in all seriousness, whether he could return to camp for another four weeks. What a lovable kid.

Lucky for me, I’ve still got another eight days to relish ... um, mourn ... their absence. And there's no better way to do it than with one of my favorite – and their least favorite – dishes. Potato salad.

I really do believe that this recipe (based on my mom’s) is the best ever. It's very old-fashioned and very simple – no boiled eggs, no bell peppers, no ornamental paprika and none of that yellow food coloring my grandmother occasionally called upon to give her salad just the right appearance.

And the way I eat it -- starting the day with breakfast and ending the day as bedtime snack -- it’ll be long gone before the kids return to reality. Lucky for them -- and me.

Old Fashioned Potato Salad
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5)
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 large kosher dill pickle, cubed
1/2 large sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui), diced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard (or slightly more, to taste)
generous grind of black pepper

Put whole, unpeeled potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat somewhat and simmer until fork tender. Drain, let cool slightly, peel and cut in rough 1/2 inch dice. Stir in celery, pickle and onions. Stir in about half of the mayonnaise and all of the mustard. Continue stirring in remaining mayonnaise as needed until moistened. Stir in pepper and additional salt if needed. Chill well and serve!

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