It’s the start of summer, officially, so my thoughts have shifted to childhood and one right of passage – summer camp.
I’ve come to learn that summer camp is much more of an East Coast thing than a West Coast thing. Perhaps because every day in perfect,sunny California is like being at camp. Or maybe it has something to do with Camp David being on the East Coast?
I was subjected to camp three times in my youth. There was the two week sleep away camp which was absolute torture – all “hello motter, hello fotter” without the happy ending. There was a month of day camp which was only slightly less torturous. Finally, there was what my mother called “stay at home” camp. Essentially a full time babysitter who somewhat supervised me and my friends as we enjoyed the idle days of summer.
My daughter wanted to experience camp, I hadn’t shared with her my mixed experience. She learned about camp from books.
Soon after she’d expressed her desire, I was flying back to LA from Florida. I picked up the NY Sunday Times to pass the time as I waited for my delayed flight. Included in that paper was a entire section, a small magazine, devoted to camps! My daughter and I poured over the options, each one sounding better than the next. I requested brochures from five or six, I can’t remember exactly how many. Each day the mail delivered another glossy brochure showing happy, fulfilled children flourishing within the camp environment. Where were these camps when I was a kid? They sounded wonderful enough that I was ready to sign up and give camp another try! Dance camps, horse camps, swim camps, gymnastic camps!
My daughter poured over each one carefully and decided on Buck’s Rock. An arts camp offering a variety of activities in a huge camp nestled in upstate NY. I signed her up for a month and mailed the equivalent of college tuition. The three month option would have absorbed her as yet un-financed grad school tuition!
It was worth every penny and, in retrospect, I wish I’d gone into debt to give her the extra weeks. We said she’d go back the next year but it wasn’t to be. Year-round school in LA killed any hope of summer camp for the next four years and then it was off to college and well, the only way for her to return to camp would be as an employee. She looked into it but they demanded much more from the counselors than having a BA or having been an alum. In the few weeks she was there, she performed in a production of As You Like It, crafted jewelry, crafted a wooden salad bowl, used a dark room, worked a loom and even had a chance to blow glass! All that and she enjoyed campfires, hikes, summer rain storms and living with a cabin full of strangers who became friends.
I feel a great regret that her time there was so short but I will instead be thankful that she got to spend any time there at all.