This is the time of year that I become nostalgic about my 8 years I spent away at sleepover camp. Certain smells and sounds of the season set off such strong reminders of my 4 weeks I’d spend there each summer. Right now I’m sitting in my (much neater thank you) family room listening to the crickets chirp and I can picture laying out in the big ball field in my sleeping bag for movie night hearing those same sounds. We had some huge trees chopped down in front of my house today and the smell of cut wood reminded me of the new cabins that were built each summer with that same new wood smell.
I loved those 4 weeks away so much. It was weird, it was like I could “re-find” myself while I was there. Not that I wasn’t myself at home but I found I could just let loose and laugh more and easier without the pressures of my hometown… None of my friends from home really got why I went to camp. I had a really close knit group of friends and they all stayed around while I packed up my trunk and left. I never quite knew how to explain (especially when I was really young and heading away) that I had this whole other group of friends. But I loved that I did. Four weeks with all girls (save for the few intercamp “mixers” we had) does something really good for a girl’s soul. And boy do I wish I was still of camp age so I could go Right. Now.
Tim went to camp too but I think it’s safe to say we had VERY different experiences. In talking to him about it it cracks me up to hear the differences between our two camps. So here is my list of the day…
Differences between my camp and Tim’s camp (camp names to be withheld) or Why my kids will more likely go to MY camp instead of HIS.
– My camp did not have ANY electricity in the bunks. We used flashlights to see. It is called CAMP as in CAMPING for a reason. Last I checked tents don’t have electricity right?
– Tim’s camp had full on electricity. Not just a lightbulb hanging in the center of the ceiling… but lamps with shades and recessed lighting.
– My camp had one “wash house” for each “unit” within the camp. There were three units which meant that about 60 or so girls had to share a wash house. We had a big sprinkler sink to wash our hands (and shave our legs as we got older) and we had to wait with towels wrapped around us (often shivering) for an outdoor shower and toilet (only shower was outside). Each cabin was told when they could go to the washhouse in the evening to avoid a complete backlog of showerers and pee-ers. And we’d have to use a flashlight to get to the wash-house at night.
– Each “cabin” ( if you can call it that) at Tim’s camp had a shower and a toilet. I’m assuming there was a light and maybe even an air blower to dry hands in the bathroom too.
– We were awakened each morning by a chosen cabin who could go around and sing to all the other cabins to wake them up.
– Tim had alarm clocks. Or maybe they got foot massages or spritzed with cucumber water.
– We were not allowed to use a phone for the entire 4 weeks to call home unless we were staying overnight in the infirmary and were on our deathbed.
– Tim could call home whenever he wanted at the public payphone (not that HE did) but if he so desired, he could.
– We wore grubby t-shirts and shorts day in and day out at camp. I think I wore the same ones 5 or 6 days of the week. We came with one trunk stuffed with our stuff that had to fit under our bed.
– Tim’s cabin mates wore Fila sweatsuits (to his credit he didn’t know what Fila was when he arrived the first day but his friends sure did! For my readers who don’t know what they are – Fila sweatsuits were those shiny matchy matchy zip up jackets and pants. Think old people in Boca.) They came with unlimited suitcases so I guess they had pretty good storage.
– We had a clothes line hung outside the cabin to dry our wet stuff so if it rained, our towels and clothes just got wetter and wetter and we would actually have to use wet towels after a shower.
– Tim’s stuff could be sent to the laundromat to be dried whenever necessary. I think the towels also were fluffed and sprayed with lavender scent.
– We were not able to keep ANY food in our bunks for fear that we’d have a mouse infestation. We only got our hands on sweets and treats (or anything edible for that matter) on visiting weekend which occurred once and we had to finish all of the treats before our mom’s left.
– Tim’s bunkmates could hoard as much stuff under their bed as they wanted and they could receive daily care packages in the mail from their parents with the goodies.
– The only competition my camp saw was in the “Olympics” which were games between cabins within the age units. We had canoe races, three legged obstacle courses, tug-of-war, tetherball, kickball, etc. The only “real” sport we really competed against each other in was soccer. No prizes were given out… just really loud cheering.
– Tim’s camp had travel sports where they competed against other camps and you had to be chosen to participate in these sports. They actually got to LEAVE CAMP to play sports!
OK… so I just re-read all of these and am thinking most of you will wonder why on EARTH I’d want to go to the type of camp I went to! You will probably all agree with Tim’s comment that my camp sounds more like prison than camp… but that’s what I loved so much about it! It was totally bare bones FUN! Each cabin grew so close and learned so much about each other because there was no FLUFF. I think that’s what camp should be about. Forming new, wonderful relationships in a place where you don’t have to worry about all the superficial stuff. Not that a lamp would prevent friendships to be made, but when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to pee and you’re scared shitless to walk 100 yards to the toilet so you have to wake up a friend to go with you and you walk arm in arm with two shaky flashlights until the dim wash-house light was visible… that’s friendship. No? And I dream about my kids going to the same camp I went to and maybe sleeping in the same cabins I did and singing the same songs and making many of the same memories… if Tim will let it happen!