Remembering twice-forgotten son at camp

By Tammy Keith Originally Published July 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated July 26, 2013 at 11:35 a.m.
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Not a summer goes by that I don’t feel guilty.

Someone, inevitably, mentions summer camp. Someone, inevitably, says, “Didn’t you forget to pick up your son at camp one time?”

No, we absolutely did not. What kind of parents do people think we are?

We forgot him twice.

It was an innocent mistake. My husband’s fault, of course.

He’s always had a mind like a steel trap when it comes to dates. He’s savant-like when it comes to knowing what day a date falls on in a particular year, in the past or future.

Except when it came to our older son and camp. Then, his steel-trap memory became more like a sieve.

John went to a Christian camp in Branson, Mo., a few times when he was a teenager. He loved sports and being outdoors.

The first year went fine, and we got to the closing ceremony with no problems.

The second year, my husband told me the day we were to pick him up, and of course, I didn’t question it.

A counselor called me at work one night at the newspaper, saying John was worried because we weren’t there. I cried, feeling like the worst mother in the world.

We drove like maniacs the next morning as fast as we could to get there to find John in an almost ghost-like camp, sitting on his trunk.

The next year, you would think we would double- and triple-check the date. Yep. Who would make the same mistake twice?

My husband said he’d checked the calendar, and we were supposed to pick John up on Saturday morning. Definitely Saturday.

On Friday, my husband was off work and called me.

“We did it again,” he said.

I couldn’t believe it. I rushed home, threw clothes in a suitcase, and we headed toward Branson, laughing and feeling guilty at the same time.

It was like Home Alone 2, only it was At Camp Alone 2.

I called my mother because you always need a little support in these situations.

She said, “Wasn’t it in writing somewhere? Was he crying? Maybe he just doesn’t need to go to camp. I just don’t want this to be a bad memory for him that y’all did this on purpose.”

There. That helped.

When we finally pulled into camp, the bright-eyed, enthusiastic camp counselors lined the road, clapping and cheering, ready to greet our camper, because the next session was starting.

We rolled down the window to our van and said, ‘No, we’re not coming. We forgot to pick up our son. We’re here to get him.”

Their faces fell, and we could see the condemnation in their eyes.

It was deja vu. Our son was sitting with his trunk at the office, looking forlorn.

We apologized and promised we didn’t mean to do it — again.

We took him for ice cream. We patted and hugged him.

He’s 24 now, and he doesn’t seem to suffer from issues of abandonment.

My advice if you took your kid to camp is to check the calendar. Then check it again.

My second piece of advice is — if you forget him, don’t ever tell a soul.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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