Yesterday I dropped Eleanor off at camp, and while there was more paperwork and more check-in procedures than her first year (because: COVID), this year was extra spicy.

First of all, you should understand that Eleanor needed a rapid PCR test completed within seventy-two hours of arriving at camp (and obviously, it had to be negative). A PCR test is not an antigen test. It is a full-panel respiratory illness test, and includes between sixteen and twenty-two different tests (at least that’s how many tests the ones Eleanor took had), including testing for COVID and its variants. I set her up an appointment at our medical group for this past Friday. Mid-week, I was in the medical group picking up some other paperwork for camp, and the nurse who does the tests flagged me down and explained the pricing structure and then spent 45 minutes calling all over town to see if anywhere else did this particular test for less money. This test is particularly expensive for two reasons: it tests for everything and it’s clearly a luxury test (people most often get it for travel purposes). You don’t wait for it to get sent out; it’s complete within 2 hours and you get results in hand. You pay for the unnecessary thoroughness and the rapidity. It’s what camp required, and we have a generous HSA, so I just had the medical group run the test, to the tune of $260.

Around noon that same day, the nurse called, let me know Eleanor was negative for sixteen respiratory illnesses, and I could pick up the paperwork. I met Bob for lunch, and he took over the task of picking up the paperwork, which he did immediately after lunch. At that point, we had everything assembled, paperwork-wise. We had 5 forms that had to be dropped off with Eleanor, and like 10 others that had been uploaded directly to the site. All good.

I spent Saturday washing clothes, buying clothes and supplies, and labeling everything. I then packed it all up for Eleanor, and showed her how I’d labeled everything (with a big E.A.R., which tickled her something fierce), and where in her bag and suitcase it all was. Bob had been at the office all day Saturday finishing some drawings in AutoCAD, and things were clearly deteriorating on that front. His computer ended up bricking entirely. After the kids were in bed, we spent awhile troubleshooting (including using the command line, which is always highly energizing), and finally gave it up as a bad case. The IT people at his work will need to fix it. It was probably 10pm by this point, and Bob had to finish this work for a submission deadline on Sunday evening. We agreed to switch places for Sunday: I would drive Eleanor to camp four hours away, and he would manage the boys and get his work done / run 15 miles.

This is when he realized he’d left Eleanor’s paperwork at his office. We walked a block over to his office to pick it up, and while we were walking back, I noticed that the rapid PCR test results were missing. Fast forward to 2AM, after multiple trips back to the office, tearing the house apart, and his work car, we realize it’s just not going to magically appear. We still don’t know where it is.

We felt we had two options:

  1. Keep Eleanor home one more day, and try to get her a test at the medical group on Monday, and drive her to camp after that.
  2. Drive her towards camp, and try to get her a second rapid PCR test along the route.

Both options had drawbacks. The biggest drawback to option 1 is that Eleanor would be absolutely crushed. The second biggest drawback to option 1 is that we weren’t sure the camp would agree to this; they have extremely rigid/defined procedures for arrival/departure in order to keep all the campers and staff as safe as possible. So I was not willing to entertain option 1. The drawback to option 2 was that we’d drive 3 or 4 hours and wouldn’t be able to get an appointment within a reasonable time that would allow us to arrive at camp during the window we were given. This felt like an acceptable risk, given the alternative. The drawback to both options, which was unavoidable, was that Eleanor would need to endure a second rapid PCR test. Since she had to have yet another on arrival at camp, it felt like a lesser problem (but then, I’m not Eleanor, and it wasn’t my nose).

So we decided on option 2, with the understanding that I would get up at 6AM, get Eleanor into the car, and start driving. Bob would start calling around to urgent care clinics along my route and get us a rapid PCR test appointment when we were passing.

It was a lovely drive. Eleanor was situated in the back seat of the van with her pillow, duvet, and Pink Dog, and slept until we got about 3 hours down the road. Meanwhile, Bob called a few places (including one who told him a rapid PCR test “didn’t exist”), and found one that could get us in at 10:30. We arrived at 10AM, and I called from the parking lot. They squeezed us in right then, at a cost of $400. We got the test done (poor Eleanor), and went to a nearby Sheetz for lunch, which we took to a local Staples. After we ate in the car, Eleanor and I walked around the Staples, picked out stationery so she could write home (they’re required to write home twice a week; it’s a no-technology camp), and tried out every single office chair they had until the test results landed in my inbox. We printed them out and rushed off to camp. We arrived with 20 minutes to spare in the drop-off window (the camp staff was incredibly warm and welcoming, and I’m sure it would have been fine if we were late).

Once at camp, we checked in, filled up Eleanor’s Camp Bank (last time she spent her money on presents for Henry), and then it was time for Eleanor to get her … rapid PCR test. She was just delighted. At each station we visited, the staff could not decipher our last name on the forms, because Bob filled them in. “Ray?” “No, Ring, like you wear on your finger” “Ramy?” “No, Ring, like you wear on your finger” etc. I finally explained that Bob’s handwriting is interpretive, and it tells you a lot about yourself, depending on what you see. She got her test, like a champ, and we moved on to the nurse station to get checked for foot fungus and head lice. With a negative for both, we were free to flag down staff to carry her bags to her cabin (talk about luxury!).

The camp is run by a couple, Matt and Rose. Rose checked is in at Camp Bank, and Matt brought a golf cart to take Eleanor’s stuff to her cabin. It’s a pretty big camp, and gets kids from all across the northeast. Matt has been in camping since he was born: his parents also have run kids camps in several states, and he inherited this one. Some of the campers are legacies! Their grown kids are counselors at the camp, and the whole place just has this very warm, homey feel to it. So Matt and his son (also Matt, but he apparently goes by Junior) put Eleanor’s stuff in the back of the cart, and asked if we wanted a ride (there’s a big hill) and Eleanor was almost coming out of her skin, she was so excited to be at camp! So she wanted to RUN there, and run she did.

We arrived at her cabin (Parakeets), which is an octagon (how cool), and she immediately ditched me to run inside (parents weren’t allowed in). I stood outside in the rain and watched her through the window. I met her cabin counselors through the window, and watched as they helped her make her bed. She was the last girl to get there, so she didn’t get to pick her bed. But it was the only top bunk in the cabin, and I think she was pleased. She got right up there and tested it out. She yelled out the window “bye mom!” and I had to make her come to the door to hug me goodbye.

Everything leading up to getting her to camp was 100% worth it. Seeing her in her cabin talking Harry Potter with the other girls, and hearing her talk about the art studio and the stables, and how she described the lake to a new camper in line (“like coca cola, but don’t drink it”), it all made it really worth it. She’s so happy, and that made me happy, all the way home. That and a stop at Wegmans for some poke. I checked for photos online but camp hasn’t uploaded any from this weekend yet, so I’ll just have to wait. I’m picking her up in two weeks, and I can just imagine the non-stop chatter on our way home!

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