Tag Archives: camp

Time to Cry Tuesday – Camp Trunks and Badger Tickets

For the past 13 years I have packed 22 camp trunks and duffles. When the kids were young, this was a process that started weeks in advance. I was old school and insisted upon sewing all the name tapes. Clothing and linens lined the living room with stacks of plastic boxes filled with quarters, phone cards (no cell service there), bug spray, bandaids… and every item that I could think of to keep them prepared. (still not sure what the thumbtacks were for)

The ritual of buying toiletries, packing them in plastic shoe boxes and having a ‘family mall day’ to buy new sneakers, socks and whatever else they needed, was part of the June frenzy that parenting spawns.

This year I have one kid heading back up to the Adirondacks for his 11th summer, his 4th as a counselor. The familiar comment, ‘the trucks go out on Monday’ that used to elicit a slight sense of panic deep in my soul was now answered with, ‘hey, maybe we should take them out of the attic’. And that comment was on Friday.

Family mall day yielded one item, a new pair of crocs. No new socks or sneakers were purchased; we have finally learned that 8 weeks at summer camp ruins them both and new ones should be bought at the end of the summer.

My boy has been a counselor of young kids for 3 years and can fold better than I can at this point. He has moved out of a dorm and into an apartment and packed to come home from Wisconsin on his own for the past 2 years. My role in this was more about tradition than real need. And the chance to share an activity that we both knew was probably going to be the last. Bittersweet, indeed.

This morning, that trunk and duffle – packed in under 2 hours – sat in the front hallway and the biggest excitement of the day was his waking at 8:15 to get online for the lottery for Badger season football tickets.

June is a whole different month than it was when they were little!

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Time to Cry Tuesday – There’s no place like camp

This sign hangs on the owner’s house as you enter camp. It just about says it all. It is hard to explain this to someone who has never been fortunate enough to find the kind of connection my family has found to this place. I have written about it before, more than once, actually. But I always seem to find just one more way of articulating a place that has meant as much to me as any other in my life.

It’s not just the camp, although it is sort of the sacred ground of both my own childhood and that of my kids. But the surrounding area is so amazing. There is a clarity about being there. The way the air smells. How the water feels. The chill of the early morning and the hot sun of midday. The stars at night. There is nothing like the great expanse of a starry night in those mountains. It is a sight I will never tire of.

No cell service. Winding roads through beautiful mountains. Clear lakes. It is all so untouched. Or as untouched as it gets these days. Back when we were kids there were party lines and no new houses. Cell hot spots and new homes have sprung up in the closest town, but not a lot. For the most part the place looks very similar to the way it did 30 years ago. What a gift, to be able to visit the scene of your childhood with so little changed. There are no words to explain that elation.

And the best part. The part that I will never tire of being thankful for, is that my kids know the exact same feeling. Their bond may even be stronger. Not just because it is still so current, but because these times allow them to keep the link to all those people so effortlessly.

Life is long and camp is short, but if you are lucky, you can carry it with you till the day you check out.

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Time to Cry Tuesday – 55 precious minutes from the past

These days we take for granted the ease in which we document and share our memories. With digital cameras, smartphones and flip video we can share a moment in real-time with our entire network of friends and family without giving it much thought. Our children do not know a time when photos and videos were not shared before the sun rose on another day.

But back in 1974, just one lone Yale film student was cool enough to have a Super 8 camera at the summer camp I have written about so lovingly before. And that super(8), cool guy just happened to be my husband’s co-counselor and dear friend. As luck would have it, this Time to Cry Tuesday happens to be his birthday. So, Steve, this one is for you.

After thirty-five years, most probably buried in a box at his parent’s house, Steve uncovered an artifact like no other. The very Super 8 film that he shot in the summer of 1974. He burned a bunch of DVDs of that most incredible piece of history and shipped it back east to those of us that he knew would love it the most. Thanks to Dr. Jimmy as courier, we are now in possession of a copy of these 55 precious minutes from the past.

For those who have not read my gushing posts about this very special sleepaway camp, it is a place where 3 generations of my family have attended (yes, my mom went there). So did my husband, his siblings, my cousin as well as both our kids. The friends we made there are counted amongst some of our closest friends today, and their children are friends with ours. Ok, so my daughter’s boyfriend is the son of one of them, too. There it is all out in the open. One big happy family.

We watched this amazing footage with our son the other night. His love for the place is as strong as ours. And there, in silence as there was no soundtrack on Super 8, were the younger versions of ourselves and people we have known for all these years. To see the place in action, as it was back then, was such a gift. Not just to ourselves, but to our son as well. He hears the stories and knows the way we feel about the place, but for him to see that history come to life was such a joy. There we were, his age! Seeing not what has changed so much as what has remained exactly the same – the essence of the place. The traditions. The love. The complete and utter freedom to just BE. And do it with passion.

This young man of a generation that documents every move it makes stopped and sat in awe of a generation that was so very lucky to have that one lone Yale film student who took the time to painstakingly piece together that carefree summer for all eternity. In his own words:

I can’t believe it’s been hidden as if in the Grateful Dead vault for 35 years. But as that was my last summer of camp, it’s frozen in time for me there. I remember the fall of ’74… I spent three months cutting the thin little slivers of Regular 8 film on a tiny film viewer and splicing them together with tape.

Thank you, dear birthday boy, for giving us all back that magical summer, and letting us share it with our children.

Haven’t had enough of me yet? You can also read me at 50-Something Moms Blog. For photo enthusiasts, visitLeaving the zip code, photos from outside the comfort zone.

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Time to Cry Tuesday – Camp is Short and Life is Long

camp-is-short

This little pearl of wisdom spilled out of Gary while he was on the phone. He was explaining how we feel about the kids being counselors at camp. In these times of rising unemployment and stiff job competition it is hard to let go of the idea that internships and job experience are the only route to travel. Unless of course you understand the need they have to fill by going back to camp because you too, have known it first hand.

I have gushed about the way we feel about camp ad nauseam here, but bear with me on this one.

Read the title of this post and really think about it for a moment. If you ever went to summer camp you are smiling and nodding your head. If you have not, let me try to articulate the importance of this statement.

Camp is the essence of the freedom of summer. It is the place where you leave the social and scholastic pressures of the ten previous months at the threshold and you don’t look back for eight weeks. You can breathe and just BE YOU. The sweet core you without the hinderance of all that life piles on you. Yes, even as a kid. Or, in these times, especially as a kid. Sure there are social issues and competition, but somehow the aura that surrounds you at camp is one of tolerance. Kids of all kinds mesh into the fabric of the place.

When you walk into an alumni weekend at a sleepaway camp like we did this weekend, you see droves of young (and not so young) adults converging on the promised land of their childhoods. Some have just begun their journey down the path of adulthood. Some come back with their spouses in tow, trying to show them exactly why this place is so much a part of who they are today. Others are bringing their children to see the place in hopes that they will want to attend next year. And still others, like ourselves, watch our own kids become the leaders of the place.

How’s this for full circle? I watched my daughter tour a prospective camper around the place, giving her the full flavor of why she would want to be a camper there. This 7-year-old? She was the child of a woman who was my camper when she was ten. And the kid looked just like the mom did when I had her.

History. Love. Belonging. A sense of place.

Camp is short. And life is surely long.

Haven’t had enough of me yet? You can also read me at 50-Something Moms Blog. For photo enthusiasts, visit Leaving the zip code, photos from outside the comfort zone.

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Time To Cry Tuesday – Happy Campers

4109 056

No, make that counselors. Yes, after 11 years of writing a check to that haven in the adirondacks I am happy to say BOTH of my kids are staff members this year. 

But the joy of not paying is tempered by the fact that for the first time in 11 years I will not be attending visiting day. And though I am sad that I will not be able to visit with my kids I could be equally heartbroken that I will not be able to eat the best fried chicken on earth and those heavenly little lemon meringue tarts with the little dollop of whipped cream on them.

Seriously, this is Time to Cry Tuesday so let me squeeze out a few tears for you.

We have aged out – for the second time in our lives – from a place that holds such intense memories that its culture is ingrained in our family as much as, if not more, any other piece of us. 

I look at this picture and wonder, how can this be them? Wasn’t this just us? (note the Grateful Dead T) Ok, Gary’s beard was way more impressive (Danny is partaking in the great facial hair experiment). But I look at this photo and I know exactly what they are feeling. How the air smells first thing in the morning. How the lake tastes. The sense of belonging like no other from a place that is rival to none. For us still!

I look at those faces and the passage of time is so evident. (and I think what good money was spent on the orthodontist). Yet I could conjure up what a day at camp feels like as if I attended last year. So could my mom (yes, she went there too). And of course I have that tug at my heart that asks, “what happened to my little campers?”

I know they appreciate every minute. Jana surely did not think she would be there again this year. And they are forever grateful that we gave them this gift.

They are giving it right back with this image. Thanks guys for bringing us back, yet again.

We love you both, more than life itself.

Haven’t had enough of me yet? You can also read me at 50-Something Moms Blog. For photo enthusiasts, visit Leaving the zip code, photos from outside the comfort zone.

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Camp Trunks

camp-trucking

Photo courtesy of Camp Trucking (some scary photoshop work there, wouldn’t you say?). Let’s hope this little plug helps to get our baggage moved with extra loving care.

Jana: Mom, seriously, you don’t need to nametape my underwear. (translation: hanky panky’s or the Gap knock-offs look equally silly with a nametape in them – keep your mitts off them)

Danny: Just let her do the nametaping. She can’t help herself this time of year. It is what she does. (this kid has always fully understood me)

Jana: Mom! We don’t send our stuff to the camp laundry as counselors. I will bring Danny’s into town and have them do it too. They charge like $8.00 for a week’s worth of laundry. (as an aside here I am thinking of driving my laundry up to the Adrondacks at that price)

Me: Danny, how do I nametape the reversible shorts?

Danny: MOM! Stop. You really have to let go of the nametaping thing. (ok, so maybe his patience is not as great as his understanding of me).

Me: Let’s go toiletry shopping. Remember how we always love to do this every year?

Danny: No, YOU love to do it. But you seem to forget that Jana and I did this without you last year because you had a deadline.

Me: All the more reason to do it all together this year.

I guess he is right. I am kind of pathetic around this time of year.

There are households in my zip code that start packing the trunks weeks before they go out. Us? They go out on Thursday.

We are thinking of doing it tomorrow night.

Haven’t had enough of me yet? You can also read me at 50-Something Moms Blog. For photo enthusiasts, visit Leaving the zip code, photos from outside the comfort zone

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Time to Cry Tuesday – An Icon

Sorry, third time in as many weeks that I am posting about loss. However, this one is quite different.

Sunday I had the pleasure (yes pleasure!) of attending a memorial service for someone who helped shape the woman I am today.  Actually, not just me, but hundreds of women through the 60s and 70s. This woman, Alice Sternin, was the director of the summer camp I attended. I have posted about this idyllic place from my childhood before, as both my children are fortunate enough to share in the legacy.

I have never attended a service where there was as much laughter as tears. The essence of this woman was described by countless speakers. Everyone in the room shared the same memories of this tiny woman who was larger than life.

People traveled from all over the country. Family and friends spoke. One after another, stories were shared that sparked long forgotten memories for each one of us . When her famous lines were quoted, the entire room joined  in unison. Treasured camp songs were sung and tears were shed for the loss, not just of this woman, but the childhood jewel this perfect place had been for all of us.

My daughter has had the good fortune to have had this same experience. The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to Jana and her girls at the end of their last summer as campers. This sums up what this woman built. And her legacy will carry on long after she is gone.

You are so very lucky to have this piece of your life. Camp is something that you cannot put a label on. There are no words to describe how you feel when you are with your girls. How the sight of the lake and mountains fill your heart in a way that nothing else in this world truly can. The essence of camp is ingrained in each and every one of you. It is part of what makes you who you are, and believe me, who you will always be. We are all beyond lucky to know these feelings.

Leaving is never easy.  All these years later I still tear up as I walk out of camp and drink in one last moment of the place I love so much.

Never, NEVER, take this place for granted. Hold it close and it will never let you down.  

Today, as I sat with MY girls so many years later, I felt the full weight of those words.

Here’s to you Big Al! The toughest camp director in the East. With the biggest heart! You will be dearly missed, but rest easy, your legacy will never die.

Haven’t had enough of me yet? You can also read me at 50-Something Moms Blog.

For photo enthusiasts, visit Leaving the zip code, photos from outside the comfort zone.

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Who Says You Cant Go Home Again?

The juxtaposition of these two signs struck me as rather ironic. Funny, this was the corner of Peaceful Valley Road and Back to Sodom Road… with a stop sign! Was that to make us think twice about ‘going back’? After all, we were driving down Peaceful Valley, what could be better? And we all know Sodom’s fate.

Surely a municipal group with a sense of humor.

Another weekend in the Adirondacks – for all those that missed me. My son co-chaired the annual charity event at his camp and we went back to spend money and… well, be proud.

For those who have not been reading along, my kids go to the summer camp that my husband and I attended. Besides the fundraiser it is also alumni weekend. Although we were amongst the oldest of the alum (by about 20 years I might add), it still feels like coming home when we are there. (No worries, this is no Sodom. Or Gommorah for that matter) The vibe, the culture, the love of place is so strong. And it feels identical to when we attended so many years ago.

When we hit the mountains, the air is different. It smells like home. It looks like home. In every way it FEELS like home.

So in my book, you can go home again. 

Now file this next picture under ‘these guys really had a sense of humor’. This is the corner of A. Hitchock and Peaceful Valley Road. 

I could not resist walking down this block to look for the Bates Motel.

No Luck.

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Busting Chops


(I’m back – for those of you who might have missed me) Just returned from 4 days in the Adirondacks visiting the kids at camp. No cell service/no internet! More on that at a later date. 

Throughout history there have been revivals of a ridiculous sideburn fashion called ‘mutton chops’ for the obvious reason that the guy looked – well, pretty much like he had a little lamb hanging off his face.

For some reason – probably just because they can (or in some cases, kinda can) – 16-year-old boys at my son’s camp try out the growing of facial hair. Danny embraced this custom with a little more enthusiasm than his genetics would allow. (see above) He made a valiant effort at a goatee as well. Seemed there was simply more space than hair for the poor guy.

That said, on first seeing my daughter and asking how her brother was doing she said, “ his facial hair is soooo not ok.” She is usually very supportive but in this case I have to admit she was not too far off.

When I saw it, I was amused by the fact that my youngest was actually old enough to make this attempt. As the first day of visiting progressed we received all sorts of commentary about ‘Levinson’s Chops’. The older guys and most of his peers were supportive. The girls? Hands down felt they had to go. There were even requests to his counselors to shave him in his sleep (I think that was made by my daughter).

Danny? He appeared to enjoy the discussion without showing any signs of ego. I love this guy. He rises above it all and has a good time with it.

Saturday morning they were gone. I assume he was proud of his first attempt, felt the need to share it with us, but had grown tired of the growing.

This whole thing made me think, wow I am the mom of a facial hair grower. There I was, visiting the place I loved so much as a child. A place where so many rights of passage occurred in my own adolescence. This was our last visiting day at camp! Next year he will be a counselor. And she, well, she may be ready to move on after ten years.

Right there it occurred to me that I was aging out of this camp for the second time in my life.

I suppose you never stop the bittersweet job of growing up.

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