Eight-year-old Son is attending an All American Sports Camp for the month of July. This is about as close to heaven as he can get. From 9 am to 3 pm each day, the kids play baseball, basketball, swimming, and hockey. His only complaint was that they weren’t playing football and soccer, too.
On the first day of camp, each child was given a gold camp t-shirt, a navy camp t-shirt, and a small navy duffel bag along with the instructions: “Campers must wear camp-assigned shirts and bring the equipment bag to camp each day.”
Seems pretty specific, right? “Does that mean we don’t bring your backpack?” I asked Son.
“I don’t know.”
“Which shirt do you wear?”
“We alternate each day.”
So much for my finely tuned three-days-a-week-only laundry schedule. I supposed every mother of an athletic son has succumbed to a daily laundry schedule to clean the one team jersey and two camp shirts. (It’s nice that the shirts match our gold and blue town school colors. It’s also nice that they didn’t hand anything out to represent the town team name: Trojans.)
Husband stretches a piece of duck tape across the front of Son’s duffel bag and scrawls his name on it. Off to camp we go. On the fourth day, I pick son up, drive him home, and open the duffle bag to extract his wet suit and towel and empty lunchbox. Stripes? Mouth guard? I quickly scan the unfamiliar items, zip it up, and look at the front. Masking tape is scrawled with another name.
“You picked up someone else’s bag,” I call and read Son the name.
“Yeah, I know who that is.”
“Okay, we’ll call and figure out how to make the exchange.”
I start to look for my school directory when Husband walks in with his cell phone. He’s nodding and looking questioningly at me. The other boy is on the line. I mouth to him that we have the bag. Choppy negotiations begin.
“I’m heading out soon and can drop it at their house,” I say and reach for the phone.
The camp director is on the line. “I guess there’s been a mix-up with bags,” he says and puts the boy on the phone.”
“I need my bag,” the boy says in a panicked voice. “There’s something really important in it.”
“Okay, well I’m headed out now and can bring it to you. Can I speak with your mother?”
He puts her on and she seems agitated as well. I offer to bring it to the school or to their house.
“How soon can you get here?” she asks and I tell her I’ll be at the school in ten minutes.
On my way to the school, I imagine what might be so important in the boy’s bag. Perhaps it’s an inhaler or EpiPen. Maybe he needs to take medicine at a certain time each day. Or perhaps it’s a special, favorite object that he holds dear.
I pull up to the school and the mother is out of her car in a heartbeat. I hand over the bag.
“Thank you and I’m sorry,” she says and mumbles something about his responsibility and that they are in a hurry to get him to a game.
Was the boy panicked because he was in a hurry and needed his bag? Because his mother was angry at him for taking my son’s bag? I’ve certainly had my share of similar moments.
But I like to think that there was some live saving device in that duffel bag. Something that justified the panic in an eight-year-old’s voice beyond guilt or a hectic schedule. After all, the boys are required to bring identical navy duffel bags to camp. The mix-up was just a simple mistake.