In Sharon Olds’ poem ‘The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb’, she states “With a pencil and two Hardy Boys and a peanut butter sandwich and grapes he is on his way, there is nothing more we can do for him” the narrator is sending her son off with what she thinks he will need not only for summer camp but for life. She sends him away with two Hardy Boys books. This is relevant because the Hardy Boy characters are maturing and being aimed at a maturing audience.
She wants him to mature during his time away from home. It may not be right away but she wants him to at least try to. To become more inquisitive when he is on his own. She wants him to learn while he is away, or just have something to do on the bus ride to the camp. She sends him off with a pencil . A writing utensil yes, but also one that allows him to make mistakes and undo or fix them as well. Looking at this from another point of view one could say that she is acknowledging that he will make mistakes in life.
Pen is out of the question due to the fact that ink is permanent and someone would have to scratch out or cover up the accident with it which suggests that she wants him to fix his mistakes. The mother (For the purpose of the analysis the narrator is female) also lists the other things she packed for him. Almost as if she is going over a list to make sure she specifically including those objects. She makes no mention of clothing or things for personal hygiene which suggests that she already knows that he can clean himself up.
Instead she ops for books and food, or knowledge and sustenance. The mother gives him a packed lunch. The peanut butter sandwich and grapes seems like an unfinished lunch, but remember that the mother knows that everything she prepared him for in life will be tested and that she has given him everything he might need. She may have gave him an unfinished lunch so that he may provide the rest of what is needed by himself. So that he can learn a degree of responsibility or how to take care of himself. Something along the lines of make due or improve.
There is no comma’s added when she is talking about the sandwich and Hardy Boy books either. It’s as if they are a set, again specifically added. She’s not hinting at it, she is heavily suggesting knowledge and sustenance. The grapes, a symbol or metaphor for grapes can become wine, as childish thoughts become great ideas. This is a mother preparing for the inevitable. Ones child leaving home, but with small steps. She knows he will be tested by life and just hopes that she has done enough for him.
She says “we” can do nothing more for him as if she is having a conversation with someone. She is including the reader as well, as if they had something to do with raising him. There could be an allusion to everyone’s child leaving home. The fear parents get that they either pampered their child or didn’t teach them enough when they head off on their own. The second image is “The bus gets smaller and smaller, as one folds a flag at the end of a ceremony,onto itself, and onto itself until only a heavy wedge remains”.
The bus being not only the transportation but also the thing that is taking her son away from her. This may happen more and more seeing as to how she compares it to a ceremony. Whether it be weekly or monthly. For analysis purposes the flag is assumed to be an American flag. Lets focus on how she mentions the flag-folding at the end of a event and therefore the end of a “stage” in his life. Onto itself and onto itself also comes into focus as each fold holds a meaning. First fold as a symbol of life, second a symbol of believe in eternal life, and so on.
From first fold to 13th each with a certain significance ceremony wise.  The bus carrying him away is compared to the flag but it is not the main focus. Even though it is something that will happen again and again as is expected. She says folded at the end of a ceremony showing that her son will leave home again and again. Being tested each and every time he is out. The main focus is that the bus getting smaller and smaller as it gets farther and farther away, or until only a heavy wedge remains, as a type of emotional connection, or disconnection between mother and son.
As one would saying “something has driven a wedge between us”. Given that the are separated one can assume that they with grow apart hence wedge. Referring to the flag folds, one through 13 could be the child’s age. 13 being around the time he hits puberty and therefore creating an even bigger wedge between him and the narrator. Most kid’s around 13 have a tendency to challenge their parents, no longer wanting to be treated like a child. ———————– http://www. americanflags. com/whywefofl13t. html