I went to pick up Suzanne at the airport today. She was late, so I watched streams of people coming out of the secured zones, first on the left side, then on the right. The Pittsburgh airport is so irritating that way. You never know which train your kid is coming off of . . .
But there was one tribe of kids coming back with some kind of nature camp. They looked pretty scruffy, as if they might not have bathed for a week or two. One of them had something that looked like a birds nest in her hair, or Smores with feathers in it. Another was carrying a bow and arrow he'd made out of twigs, bragging how he got it past security. A freckled boy was blowing one of those bird whistles that makes all the crows in the neighborhood come swarming around. They all looked pretty happy to be back, and so were their folks.
I was glad they were back too, even if they weren't my kids. I never was a fan of nature camp. My mom was always trying to ship me off to one or another of them. She'd have shipped me to anything with "nature" in the title, no matter where it was. But I wasn't interested.
She sent my sister, Julie, to a nature camp one year. When Julie returned, she liked dead things and snakes. Her favorite classes at Nature Camp were taxidermy and snake-handling. Julie spent our family vacation in Maine that summer looking for road kill. One day she brought home a carcass that wasn’t too stiff. This raccoon hasn’t been dead that long, she assured me before dumping it on the kitchen counter. Then she showed me how to skin it. Slicing it open and sliding off its skin, she explained that skinning an animal is as simple as taking off a jacket. That is, if an animal had a jacket.
5 weeks ago