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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

The Drop-Off

I’m glad I don’t believe in Murphy’s Law, because when it came time to get our kids off to their one week of sleep-away camp, we would have exceeded Murphy’s expectations.  In other words, just about everything that could go wrong… tried to.

Friday night, 11:00 pm.  At the dacha.  A call comes in from family friends in DC who just had a huge tree hit their house during a freak storm.  Ninety mile per hour winds and heavy rains hit the city, knocking out power and leaving downed trees across many thoroughfares.  Her husband had moved to Eastern Europe only a few weeks before for a job assignment, so we were the ones she called, since his phone service was sporadic.  Shattering glass from a window had hit her teen daughter, but thankfully, they were fine.  Benedetto advised her, I prayed for her, and wondered if the entire city was without power-?

Saturday, 4:00 am.  Time to rise and shine and get the campers in gear.  We leave the south by 5:00 am, heading north seven or eight hours, it all depends on whether or not I let anyone use the bathroom enroute.  Naturally, I’m the first one needing to stop.  We hit bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic a couple of hours outside of DC and inch forward slowly.

Saturday, 2:00 pm.  Destruction everywhere.  Most main roads are closed, tree debris all over, surrounded by police tape.  We detour this way and that, praying that we have power.  If not, our kids will need to pack in a 100-degree house, and we will need to head to a hotel closer to camp, another two hours north.  With all of the visiting tourists for the Fourth of July, hotels are packed, ice machines are sold out.  It’s not looking good.

All of the traffic lights are out, with the occasional flashing one.  Surprisingly, the motorists do a tremendous job of taking turns at every crossroad.  There are no backups anywhere.  Then again, maybe most locals have fled the city….

We arrive home and glimpse a neighbor’s porch light on.  Could it be-?  Stepping inside, we are blessed beyond imagination with cool air greeting us.  We have power!  Thank you, Lord.  There is no TV, internet, or landphones, but the children and I make do with cell phones and a DVD player for their last night at home together.

Another storm is brewing, so the boys rush to mow the front and back yards, the girls toss last-minute items in their bags.  Happily, I had insisted that everyone make piles of folded clothes the week before, socks and underwear in ziplocks, boots, tennis shoes and watershoes standing nearby.  The girls will be at horseback camp, and the boys at an adventure camp, all within the same complex, yet separate enough to give each some individuality.

As afternoon turns into night, I place some dinner in the oven, and a load of laundry in the washer. An hour later, the laundry is still cycling.  I try to change the settings, and the dirty water will not drain out.  Rinse – no.  Spin dry – no.  I take the dirty, wet heap and toss it in the overflow tub, wringing it out, then throw the sloppy mess into the dryer.

Wah- WAH.  Wah-WAH.  The dryer groans.  It will not start.

We rig up some drying racks outside on the small back porch, keeping it under cover in case the heavens open again.  Which they do.  I call Benedetto to consult him, and he suggests that maybe a fuse was blown.

“What do I do?” I ask, knowing nothing about fuses.  Nuclear science, genetic engineering, world peace, and making dinner, yes.  Fuse boxes, no.

“It would take me too long to explain.  Just wait till I get there, and I’ll look at it.”

Which results in Petya and me bailing as much dirty water out of the washer as we can.  With 100 degree temps outside and probably 120% humidity, nothing is drying.  After about an hour of drip-drying, Pasha helps wring everything again.  We drape hangers and laundry from every shower in the house.  The kids don’t need any of these items for camp, except for their cotton knit pillowcases, which are seriously soggy.

Sunday, 6:00 am.  I rise and check the laundry, none of which is dry.  I put the pillowcases on chairs underneath a ceiling fan and that seems to help.  We are due to depart around 11:00 am, crazy Sunday afternoon drop-off time in another state.  The kids are standing by the front door by 9:30 am.

“We have time, everybody, we have time.  Go over your packing lists again, and make sure you have everything you need,” I suggest.

Eleven-year-old Sashenka comes to me, requesting some cover-up for an acne problem.  I take one look at her face and gasp.

“Where is the skin on your nose-?!” I am aghast.  She has picked off a big patch.  “What happened?”


“Did you use your acne cleanser this morning? ”


I try not to get into a big argument and send her on her way.  Her sister emerges, fourteen years old, and wearing a big layer of lipgloss spanning from nose to chin.

“No – no – no—” I shake my head.  “Please wipe some of that off.”

“Wha-at???” she whines.

I see we’d better be going before things descend any further.  By 10:45 am, we’re outta there and on the road.  Still there are downed trees causing detours, and traffic lights out, but we make our way north.

By noon, our group stops at a fast-food restaurant for bathrooms and ends up eating there.  The kids are so hungry and nervous.  Mashenka is bitten by something big on her arm, and I avoid telling her that her lipgloss will act as fly paper, attracting even more bites.

“You’ll be fine,” I say, instead, “don’t scratch it.”

We arrive at camp an hour early.  There is no check-in, there’s no nothing at this hour.  It’s 1:00 pm and we find a semi-shady spot in which we can stand.  The kids goof around, I take a couple of photos of them.  Then my eyes light upon Pasha, wearing a brand-new leather dress belt with his cargo pants.

“Where’s your casual belt?” I ask him, knowing full well that he has a webbed belt that would be much more appropriate for rope courses and zip lines.

“I don’t know….”

I shrug my shoulders.  I can only say something 100x.

Petya has no idea where his water shoes are.  Pasha has smuggled in his camera against our advice, the girls say.  My camera suddenly says its memory is full.  Mashenka is so nervous that she literally trips and falls over every chair and other item, while Sashenka needs an army of siblings to haul her stuff.

The camp counselors begin the check-in process, wherein I must ferry each child to his own individual camp, spread across large acreage.  We start with Sashenka, her siblings guarding her stuff while I get her processed with paperwork.  A counselor engages the siblings, learning (somehow) that they’re Russian, a point we had discussed over and over.

Me:  “They’re going to hear that some of you have an accent.”

The Older Ones:  “We don’t want anyone to know we’re adopted.”

Me:  “No need for them to know.  You were born in Russia and came here a few years ago.  Period.”

After which they all stare at Sashenka, a known motor-mouth, who says, “Oh well….”

So this time, as we join the others, Sashenka and I are surprised to learn that the Russian connection is already out within the first five minutes.  This counselor enthuses as we arrive, “So, you’re the mom?  And you’re all from Russia?” she points to all of us.

“Yes, yes,” I nod, “pretty much.”

She lets us know that two other campers in Sashenka’s division will be from Russia.

“Uh-huh,” she smiles weakly, not too impressed, but she’ll have bigger issues to deal with.  State law now requires a head lice check for each camper, which strikes me as rather demeaning, the campers flipping their hair this way and that, while their leaders probe their scalps.  I turn my attention back to the counselors—bright, upbeat, and positive in this conservative setting.

That’s when I notice some pink hair, lots of toe rings (why this bothers me, I do not know), and we meet up with the boys’ counselor:  wild, black, curly hair, dropping to a type of mullet in the back, skinny, straight-leg jeans ending with Converse tennis shoes.  He wears heavy black glasses… along with two nose rings.

No, no, no.

I whisper to the boys in Russian that if either of them arrives home with rings of ANY type, I will have to chop off the offending body part on which it sits.  (I took the low-key approach.)  They both burst out laughing, reassuring me that I have nothing to worry about, and we discover the counselor to be quite delightful and engaging.

“Don’t judge a book” could be a good life lesson for all of us.

While the boys wait for their lice check, I finish up with Mashenka.  In her cabin, there are about a dozen girls screaming and jumping up and down, obviously undergoing a reunion of sorts.  Will she be odd-girl-out?

“As you can see, we selected a nice, quiet cabin for you….”  This is perfect for our older girl who is louder than loud (along with her sister) and drives the rest of us nuts.

“Top bunks shower at night, bottom bunks shower in the morning,” a counselor calls out, throwing Mashenka into confusion.

“What should I do, Mama?” she asks.

“Well, first of all, think of where you want to be—up or down?” I reason, knowing she’d love to try a top bunk, just for fun.  “You might be hot and sweaty by night, and really want a shower after the day’s activities, and that would leave you more time during the busy morning rush….”

“Okay,” she throws her stuff on a top bunk.

We see girls’ boots, English and Western, lined up near the cabin’s door, whereupon I take my leave and hug and kiss her goodbye.

That’s it.  All four are settled in.  I try to think “happy camper” thoughts, rather than trying to transform this to an Ivy League prep school with tennis courts and polo ponies and clean-cut counselors.

Walking back past the stream and through the fields to the SUV, hardly any parents are left onsite.  A counselor strolls down a covered porch softly playing a ukelele, I see trays of brownies being carried to the newly-checked-in campers, while the afternoon round-up of horses takes place.  I breathe deeply, listen to the peace and quiet, and say a prayer.

Driving through the hilly countryside dotted with historic farm houses and barns, my goal is to relax and let go.  They’ll be fine.  Soon, Benedetto will arrive to join me at home with the dogs.

As soon as I make it back, the lights and air in the house begin to flicker.  Say it isn’t so.  Then all goes dead.  Two hours before my husband’s arrival, the temperature inside starts to rise.  After a long, long, long couple of days, and hiking around in the sweltering heat of a summer camp, the last thing I want to do is think that we may be displaced from our own home.  I start packing my bags while the daylight wanes after taking a quick shower.

Benedetto agrees that we might need to evacuate, particularly for the dogs’ sake.  With their long hair, the Scottish terriers don’t enjoy extreme temps.  We somehow make it to an evening meeting (with the dogs to keep them cool) where somebody just happens to bring a cooler full of ice that they don’t need (and we can use), encourage our friend with the tree through the roof, stop back at home, grab our bags, talk with more neighbors, and drive another eight hours back to the dacha.

We pull in almost as a new day is dawning, dogs content after snoring on my lap all night, and our children will soon wake in a beautiful, country setting.  Soon, we’ll get to reverse the process, all for love.



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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar SLB says:

    Oh my goodness! Where do you get such a positive outlook on things! You sure know how to go with the flow! “Y’all” are ready for ANYTHING! I love it! I need to tune in more!

    • avatar admin says:

      Lol, the key is focus, SLB. I have to choose to see the good, otherwise, I can be overwhelmed by the other stuff. The cup is usually way more than half-full with good things, so I just choose to laugh about the minor irritations….

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