Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And Away We Go...

I keep thinking about Marilyn’s post from either last week or the week before where she talked about what it was like to grow up in Los Angeles before it became “LA” or the “Left Coast.” A much simpler time, she would often take a book, lounge under a tree in front of a stranger’s house and relax for an afternoon. I commented that we used to get thrown outside for the day after breakfast—and without sunscreen (that’s how long ago that was!)—and play with the twenty or thirty kids in the neighborhood, careful of the ones who had their licenses and tooled around the hood in cars or even worse, motorcycles. One summer, during an Olympic year, we set up an elaborate obstacle course and held Olympic trials that everyone participated in and which included such events as the limbo, the hide-and-seek tournament, and the hurdles. Everyone took turns and almost everyone bettered their score as the summer progressed. Elaborate scorekeeping was definitely part of the process.

Our kids are heading off to camp. When I was a kid, nobody I knew went to camp. With twenty or thirty kids in the neighborhood, who needed camp? We could run around outside, unfettered, for hours. Danger didn’t lurk around every corner like it seemingly does these days, and everyone had a great time. But now, once the winter semester is over, mothers (mostly) talk about what their kids are doing for the summer, who knows the best camps, where you can find the most reliable transportation to camp, who’s going to Bronx Zoo camp, who’s going to sleepaway camp for seven weeks, etc. For the past few summers, child #1 has been going to sleepaway camp for twelve days with her best friend, whose brother joined them last year. And this year, child #2 will join the group and attend with them for mini-session #2, which is a twelve day stay at a very rustic, yet charming, camp on a lake not terribly far from here.

God bless hubby’s heart because he’s done most of the camp preparation. Camp preparation includes stamping every piece of clothing—and that includes EVERY sock—with the child’s name, just in case they send their laundry out during the twelve days that they are at camp. A trip to Target last week netted a cache of $337.00 worth of camp supplies—body wash, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, a new trunk for child #2, extra bathing suits, extra underwear, and extra socks—most of which I’ll never see again, I imagine. Right now, husband is washing sheets and pillowcases so that they can be stowed in the trunk. They will return as they have in the past, but I guarantee you that they will smell like a combination of earth, mud, moisture, and sweat. Everything that returns from camp does and has to be washed repeatedly until it smells like home again.

The kids return smelling that way, too, incidentally.

Child #2 is very excited but if not a bit nervous. But being as he is extremely gregarious and would talk to a brick wall, I’m not terribly concerned. I keep telling him, “It’s twelve days. It’s not even two weeks. And you’ve got your sister, and her best friend, and her best friend’s brother. You’ll be home before you know it.” Maybe I’m just trying to convince myself?

The camp phenomenon is relatively new to me. I do have good friends who attended camp every summer, all summer long and they are wistful for their time there. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything but when my friends get talking about “color wars” and camp sing-alongs, I wonder what it must have been like to pack up at the beginning of the summer and leave home and kin to spend the summer with people who they still remain friends with.

Did you go to camp? What are your best memories? What, in essence, did I miss?

Maggie Barbieri


  1. I did not go to camp.

    I think the key to either the non-camp or camp summer experience is simply the kids. Summer camp usually sounded, and sounds today, like the same things we did all summer anyway, but with a layer of organization on them and on a different geography, with different "adults" supervising it all. The kids and their interaction and friendship building and energy is sort of static, it seems to me. They always adapt to what's in front of them and in the case of camp, that is some newer faces, some different authority figures, and different trees, dunes, or water-features.

    Camp seems more structured and managed to me, probably in great part because people are entrusting their dear children to mostly strangers, but it's just a summer of play and talk and fun and to the kids and that's got to be the part that matters most, right? The only real difference I can think of is that there has got to be some impact in kids not being at "home" and with all their more familiar things. That probably starts out tough, but the kids adapt and learn and grow, and then it probably becomes a real bonus to going at all. (In my case, this reminds me of college and moving into a dorm, etc.)

  2. I went to church camp as a young teen and it seems finding a boyfriend was my goal though I never did. Always made a ton of friends and had a great time.

    My girls went to Camp Fire camp, youngest son went too when he was 12 and took the girls on nature hikes...he was the only boy there and loved it.