In the blink of an eye…we have come full circle in our opinion of Spy Camp at the Montalvo Estate in Saratoga. I’m thrilled to report that Charlie rated the camp experience a “10” today.
1. Code Names – Each camper came up with his or her own Spy Code Name. Charlie’s is “Sly Rye.” Other names that were bandied about the spy camp grounds: “Fat Monkey,” “Doctor Pickpocket,” and “Mr. Secret.” (Code names are right up Charlie’s alley. In fact, as he explained to me, one whole day could have been spent on Code Names…because you have to keep changing your own code name and a real spy has to memorize the code names – and changes – of all his allies as well as his enemies. It requires many hours of mental work.)
2. The young spies built Telegraphic Phones. “They really worked, Mom, even if you just whispered!” (Earlier, this morning, Charlie had been toying with the idea of bringing some of his own spy tools from his prized collection – voice changers, recording devices, secret camera watches and the like – and I was concerned that bringing spy gadgets onto the scene might not go over very well with the counselors. What’s more, I worried that he would lose some of the more “valuable” pieces, which might, in turn, only increase his resentment toward the whole camp experience. So, I was relieved to find out that the campers actually made their own equipment and that the results were more than satisfactory to Charlie, spy gadget expert that he is.
3. Moreover, the stinky mulch that was being spread by multiple estate workers/gardeners during much of the spy camp session yesterday was all in place today and had lost some of its smelly potency throughout the breezy night and early morning hours. While Charlie (and others he claims) had spent much of yesterday holding their noses to block out the offensive stench, there was no need for that today. The whole outdoor spy experience had been much more pleasant and Charlie reported that today he was able to take deep breaths of fresh air without gagging.
4. Suddenly, the handmade spy tools that the campers had worked on yesterday (crucial spy gadgets such as binoculars made from cardboard toilet paper rolls and magical glasses made from black pipe cleaners) were no longer deemed “stupid” and “dumb.” This time, when I picked Charlie up at the noon hour, he proudly showed Gigi and me his set of spy binoculars. He held the cardboard tubes just so in his hands so that Gigi and I could examine the gadgetry closely. His freshly made binoculars were still shiny and tacky with black paint not yet dry.
Not wishing to probe too deeply and risk popping the bubble of happiness and goodwill that surrounded my newly energetic and pleasant young spy, I asked but one question as we rolled down the curvy driveway of the estate toward home, “What do you think accounts for the 10 rating at camp today, Charlie, when you were so unhappy with it yesterday?”
“Mom, there’s always an adjustment period for these kinds of things. Like school. You have four kids….don’t you know that by now?”