and she’s off!

We were on our way to the airport. It was only 4:15 am. I had a cup of coffee in my right hand, the steering wheel in my left and my eyes fixed on the road – trying hard not to look at Anna. I’d promised her that I won’t cry until she was safely through security.

“How about socks? Do you have the right kind of socks?”


“A hat Anna. You’ll need a hat!”

“Mom, I packed everything on the list. Don’t worry.”

Most parents would have checked their daughter’s suitcase before sending her off for two weeks in the woods. Many moms would have even done the packing for their child. I’d never seen the packing list sent from Outward Bound or glanced at what Anna had in that red nylon duffle bag. I’ve been rather spoiled as a mother. Anna doesn’t require much hand holding. There’s never been a need to go through her homework or her suitcases.

Anna was born strong and independent, but I’d be a fool not to acknowledge that our family’s circumstances have strengthened Anna’s self-reliance. Independence has been a necessity for Anna. She was only six-years-old when Jack got diagnosed and her family scattered. Although we held to our promise that either Dan or I would always be home at night for her while Jack was in the hospital, we were so focused on what was happening in room 505 at Columbia Presbyterian, that Anna didn’t get much of our attention. Thanks to friends and family, she was surrounded by love and support that spring and summer, but she learned that she needed to take care of plenty on her own.

Now that we’ve taped our family back together, we’re so accustomed to her independence that Dan and I assume that Anna will manage the school/packing stuff without much help. And, she does.

Her room is nestled on the third floor of our house. When I climb those steep stairs to check on her, I’m always amazed at her nest. Like all teenagers, she has trouble finding the laundry basket and her bed never seems to be made, but her closet is organized and she has a large whiteboard calendar hanging above her desk where she lists everything she needs to accomplish for the next month. Her grades are a reflection of her hard work and organizational skills. Bioengineering is her goal, and I imagine that’s where she is headed. She’s the smartest person I know.

Although Anna doesn’t require much in the way of homework or packing help, she gets more than her share of love and attention at home. Even her silent brother gives her constant feedback (with those magical brown eyes and wide smile) about her school endeavors and successes on the lacrosse field. And, we all have opinions and advice when it comes to her social life — 11:00 pm is late enough and shirts should not be smaller than bathing suits.

Outward Bound sent us a note yesterday afternoon informing us that all of the campers had arrived safely. I smiled, when I noticed there was no mention of any missing necessities in our daughter’s luggage. As much as I miss our Banana, I’m certain that she woke up this morning with a smile on her face, ready to face the challenges of the next two weeks. Thank goodness she remembered the hat.

Anna sent me this before she hit the trail and her phone went into quarantine.


a banana goes into the wild


Anna leaves next week and I’m in a panic.

It’s not the first time that Anna has gone away to camp, but it’s the first time that we’ll likely not hear from her for two weeks. As parents we need to be willing to let go, but it’s hard for me. Our house is so quiet when Anna’s gone. People assume that Jack is the center of our family, but it’s really Anna who holds everything together. It’s her school projects and social life that are the main topics of dinner conversation. And, it’s her curfew that’s the main source of weekend arguments. When she’s gone, the laundry is cut in half and so is the energy at 26 Clinton Ave.

Dan and I agree that summer is time for adventure and Outward Bound caught Anna’s attention as soon as she opened their website. She leaves Tuesday to go backpacking and whitewater canoeing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for 14 days.

The idea of living outside for two weeks makes me shudder. Add to that the absence of toilets and showers, and I feel sick to my stomach. So why are we sending our precious Anna? Because she’s a Torrey. It’s in her blood.

Anna’s great, great grandfather, Raymond Hezekiah Torrey, was the founder of the NY/NJ Trail Conference and one of the original pioneers of The Appalachian Trail. He also wrote a weekly column for The New York Evening Post called Outings and The Long Brown Path. Anna’s grandfather, Raymond Joseph Torrey (PopPop), followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and completed The Appalachian Trail last year. As we celebrated this milestone (near the memorial for Raymond H. Torrey engraved on Long Mountain in Harriman State Park), I could see in Dan’s eyes that he longed to continue the family tradition. As soon as retirement starts, I’m sure the woods will call Dan. In the meantime, Anna will fill his shoes – not on the Long Brown Path, but in the beautiful Southern Appalachians.

Anna has seen a lot for a 15 year-old-girl and she understands more than most people twice her age. I hope this experience will add to her already broad assortment of accomplishments. We are all so proud of her. I know I’ll need to fake a smile when I drop her off at the airport next week. I will squeeze her a little too hard as I start counting the hours until we see her again. Then I will drive home and try to fill my days with projects. Thank goodness Block Island will keep us company for much of the time.

We will all miss you Banana, but are excited for you and can’t wait to hear the stories. And, if we get a few postcards, we might consider changing your curfew to 11:30.

Love, Mom

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the weather inside is frightful


I hadn’t realized how hot the house had gotten until Dan got home and questioned why it was 89 degrees in our bedroom. I thought I was sweating because of all the adrenaline following the Blogher15 Conference. I checked the thermostat and sure enough, something was wrong.

A series of fiddles and phone calls and it was confirmed that the central air was indeed broken, “Sorry lady. Just turn it off and we’ll see you in the morning.”

I knew this news was not going to go over well, and struggled to keep a smile on my face.“Won’t it be fun to camp out in the basement? It’s nice and cool down there.”

I would love to share that my entire family was excited and happy with the situation. I can’t – we are a NORMAL family. There was a lot of storming around the house and dinner was completely silent (following the rule that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all). We did manage to get the basement set up without killing each other and then discussed bed assignments. The original plan was that Dan and I would share the pull-out couch, Jack would take the blow-up bed and Anna would sleep on the floor. She’s heading to Outward Bound next week and it seemed like good practice.

An hour into our camping trip, I realized both of the children were still awake and I told Anna to take my spot. I would share a bed with Jack to try to calm him. Jack doesn’t have the ability to easily shut down for the night. He gets distracted and fidgety. Brain damage is strange. I spent the next several hours trying desperately to get Jack to go to sleep. Just when I would think he was out, he would sit up and attack me with his elbow, leg or his entire body. At one point, he fell asleep with his body folded completely over me. I was so tired that I just let it be and closed my eyes. When I woke up a couple of hours later, I realized that he had peed on me.

I know that more than one of you are saying to themselves, “Last time I hung out with Jess, I did notice that she pees an extraordinary amount . . . maybe . . . ”

It’s true. I am a pee-er (spelling?). I’ve been told my issues are a little gift from the ALD gene. Woman (generally) don’t develop major symptoms, but they do tend to receive an assortment of little reminders that the gene is lurking. I don’t have much to complain about. Some numbness in my feet and a bladder than doesn’t work perfectly. My Fitbit tells me I wake up 4-5 times a night and walk approximately 170 steps. During the day can be even worse. My family is accustomed to many unexpected stops while on the road.  Dan knows to ask, “Should I wait for the next rest stop or just pull over?“  – I always have a roll of toilet paper handy and my husband it a good man.

I do admit to my “issue”, but last night was all Jack. I still love the boy, but I don’t like being peed on.

Love, Jess