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Sending Zack to camp: Am I up to it?

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Blessed with motherhood at the age of 40, I assumed that by the time I was ready for a face lift, my son would be ready for sleep-away camp. I could do it while he was gone, have plenty of time to recuperate, and Zack would be spared the awful truth. Upon his return I would merely look "well-rested," which would be understandable after his long absence.

Little did I know back then that camp would cost as much as plastic surgery, so I couldn't possibly have both. Thus I was faced with Andrea's Choice: I could look my true age while raising a happy and healthy child or look fabulously youthful while harboring a cloistered computer addict. (All right, so maybe Sophie's Choice was tougher.) I chose camp for Zack and veils for me.With his departure still 24 days away, but who's counting, I thought I'd better write this column early, since when the time comes I'm sure I'll have to be sedated.

The camp idea started one snowbound day in February when I was down with cabin fever and, in my delirium, I started wondering how Zack would spend his 82 days, but who's counting, of summer vacation. The best we had come up with involved a charitable neighbor who offered to set up a pup tent in her back yard, adding that for a nominal fee Zack could bring a friend. Obviously we were in trouble.

I suggested swim team. He lobbied heavily for a new computer, announcing his intention to avoid sunburn and heatstroke by staying indoors and playing extremely violent computer games. The phrase, "I sure could use a bigger hard drive, Mom," kept me up nights. When I could sleep, I had dreams of Zack becoming a Nobel Prize-winning assassin. It was about that time I started thinking seriously about camp.

"Forget it, I'm not ready!" my husband sobbed. But Zack was. For some reason we couldn't fathom, he found the prospect of being away from his parents for five weeks appealing, saying, "Try to think of it as 35 days. It's shorter."

That did sound better, and so, ready or not, we started to shop around. After some phone calls, promotional videos began arriving for our viewing pleasure. They were quite entertaining, albeit some were in the horror genre; I think I even recognized Eva Braun as head counselor in one of them. After screening several, we agreed to narrow our search to someplace where the children are fed periodically and not beaten.

Finally we made a selection and began the painstaking process of "getting ready for camp." I was surprised that such a huge undertaking could turn out to be a one-person job, which brings to mind two questions: Guess who that one person is, and why was I surprised?

Packing for a weekend trip has always given me the willies, but I just found out that packing for five weeks gives me the creeps. Not only do I have to include everything Zack could need for every sport and life situation imaginable, making sure to factor in bad weather, rare flashes of generosity and mysterious disappearances, but each item has to be labeled. (FYI: iron-on name tags are definitely not the way to go, and indelible marker is sometimes delible.)

Besides the packing, another scary part of all this is that for the first time in 10 years, my husband and I will be left alone together. For five weeks. (Make that 35 days.)

This fact was brought sharply into focus when Mitch, leafing through Zack's baby album, cried, "What are we going to do without him?"

"Have fun?" I said invitingly, hoping to distract him with my few remaining charms.

"I suppose," he sighed, not distracted in the least.

Which makes me think that perhaps I should have chosen the face lift after all.