It happens while you’re unpacking. You happen on an oddity or two—or ten—in your child’s bag or maybe shorts pockets. Crazy little circular chains of rubber bands (dozens of them!) seem to be tucked into every crevice of clothing your child could find; a water bottle filled with what appears to be sand and lake water, or a pocket full of leaves. These are but a few of the little treasures that made their way home with your camper. You ponder over your child’s spoils from camp for a few minutes and try to figure out what it’s about. Then you finally decide to ask about ‘a Ziploc baggie full of sand?’
‘From the waterfront!’ Your child proudly declares. ‘I wanted something to remember the fun I had there this summer.’ You sit the bag (that you were considering throwing out a few seconds before your child walked into the room) down on the nightstand and make a mental note to pick up a container that will do it a little bit more justice than a Ziploc baggie.
The souvenirs that find their way home from camp are always one of your favorite parts of unpacking. It’s become a game for you, trying to guess the chain of events that led to you finding that random piece of burnt rope alongside your child’s socks and putting it together with the years prior to this summer that he and his camp friends spent plotting their rope burn strategy.
‘Yes!’ You guessed one. You’re starting to get good at this. What you begin to realize is that the random discoveries you’ve been fishing out of your child’s luggage like an archeologist at a dig site aren’t random at all. They’re memories. More importantly, they’re the summer’s best memories in the form of rubber bands, lake-water filled water bottles, sand filled Ziploc baggies, and, yes, even burnt pieces of rope. The candles and ceramic animals are obvious. You like them, too. But it’s these special little surprise finds that tell the more complex story of your child’s summer–the reason you’ve come to like, actually anticipate, unpacking after your child returns home from camp. You’re not exactly sure what you’re going to find or what it will mean, but you can’t wait to find out.