In the sizzling August heat, the backseat of our SUV smelled like something that had refused to bathe for several weeks had crawled in and taken up residence, and then upped and died. Turns out the source was Bob's Big Brother, who we’d just picked up from camp.
“Tell me that’s not you that smells,” I asked.
"Nah. Not me," BBB said. "It’s the fish.”
I spun in my seat and Hubby hit the brakes.
“What fish? You brought home a fish?” I squealed. Because yes, BBB is the kind of kid who'd take home a fish and forget to tell us.
BBB frowned. “No. I caught him, but then he got loose. He fell into my sneaker and it took a while to get him out.”
“You took him out of your shoe, right?” Hubby asked. "And then you set him free, right?"
“Back in the lake, right?” I asked.
My son waved off our questions. “Relax. I didn’t bring any fish home.” That’s when he reached over for his backpack and started to unzip it. “I brought the bait home.”
I turned to Hubby, who was frantically scrabbling with the window buttons. (Now that we weren’t moving, well, the smell was something.)
"Do something," I said.
"Like what?" he said.
“Maybe it would be best if we find a gas station,” I said, holding my nose. “You know, to buy an air freshener?” I looked over my shoulder at BBB. “We can dangle it from his ear or something until we get home. It might help.”
We ended up not stopping (and possibly breaking a few speed limits because of this.) It turned out the bait was actually rubber worms– big, sparkly, purple and neon green worms, which he delightedly wiggled over the front seat at me. He also brought home his target practice shots, a leather wallet, and a tiny canoe he’d carved by hand. While I’d never quite experienced him smelling so badly before, I’d also never seen him so happy or proud as I did at that moment.
We drove the hour and a half home with the windows rolled down. Breathing through our mouths. It was worth it. BBB’d spent his first week away at sleep-away camp. Sure, it was a special camp, for kids like him with special needs. But it was something we’d never thought he’d be able to do. Ever.
What happened, what I never foresaw, is that he’d come home smelling like a fish. Or more, a rank fish. Because I didn’t know he could successfully fish. Or that he could shoot target practice or paddle a canoe. I never imagined he’d share he met a really cute girl named Heather. And I certainly never dreamed he’d come home so exhausted he’d sleep through the night for the first time in years.
But sometimes life surprises us like that; it’s wonderful when it does.
That night, after a thorough showering, the heaving of his duffel bag and sneakers into the trash, and an airing-out of the car, Hubby and I tucked him into bed.
“So,” I said. “You haven’t told us. What was the worst part of your week at camp?"
BBB lay in bed, his fingers folded against his chest, and frowned at the ceiling. “It would have to be the green beans." He sighed. “They were just disgusting.”
Point taken. Then I asked him then what the best part was.
His face broke out in a grin, and he sat up, excited.
“For once,” he said, “I got to do stuff normal kids get to do.”
He was right. He did.
Why do I bring this up, you ask? No reason, other than this year's camp survey and next year's application just arrived in the mail today. My initial reaction was oh, no, cha-ching. Especially as cha-ching is scarce round here thanks to the most recent medical bills. AACK. I might have even had a little meltdown. But then Hubby reminded me about the fish. And, well, okay. What can you do?
Hopefully, he'll have an even better time next year.