Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bear attack

I have been hanging by the phone, waiting for my son to call.

He is away from home for the first time, at an outdoor adventure center in the Poconos. I had the usual low-grade anxiety such an event might occasion (Will he clean his teeth? Wake up in the night? Change his socks?) but there was no real fear involved.

Until I spoke to Thaddeus.

Thaddeus is a colleague of mine. I mentioned my son's trip to him. He looked at me, shock in his eyes, hesitated for a moment, and then started laughing.

Fear was now very much involved.

Thaddeus began his tale.

"I went on one of those trips. Bears attacked the camp. Went for a pee in the woods, turned around and there's a bear, staring me straight in the eye. We all had to run for it. Tore my pants in the panic. Berman, there are TONS of black bears upstate."

My stomach acid lurched into immediate overdrive. But Thaddeus wasn't finished.

"Best thing was, all the girls were so frightened, they were allowed to sleep in the guys tents that night..."

At this point I almost vomited. My son is 10. If the bears don't get him, the girls will.

Since this worrisome download, I have been sitting by the phone waiting for a call. Preferably from my son, but most likely from the police or the principal.

Eventually it rang.

"Hello mummy."
"Hello love! I was hoping it was you! Are you alive? I mean, having fun?"
"Is the food OK?"
"Are staying within sight of a teacher, a parent chaperone, and an armed forest ranger at all times?"
"Er, yeah."
"And you're definitely still alive?"

I let it go.

There will be bears. There will be girls. There will be many other things to turn my hair white and put holes in my stomach lining. I may not be ready for them. But he will be.

Still, there will be no peeing in the forest. Ever. That's just asking for it.

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