I was never much of a summer camp kid. I went, every summer, from around the age of eight or so, but I never really got into it. While I loved the idea of camp, I kind of just preferred being home where I could do what I wanted, on my own schedule. When I was old enough for overnight camp, I went, but never with a smile on my face. I was the one who sent home the weepy letters and made my parents visit me so much more often than they would have liked. I just didn’t get it.
My brother, on the other hand, lived for camp. He was a different person at summer camp, with none of the bullshit he faced in school. It was his happy place. When I met Jeff, I quickly learned that he, too, was a “camp kid.” His happiest childhood memories and very best times all took place there. He went to the same overnight camp year after year right up until college. He still references camp plays and traditions, all these years later.
I hadn’t planned on camp this summer. I’m not working this year and really just couldn’t justify the enormous cost. I could spend my days entertaining the kids and have some help from grandma and a few babysitters. We’d survive. But when we had to cancel two trips thanks to various infections and a scary bout with pneumonia, (Jeff, not the kids,) I became desperate. The thought of another week hearing cries of “he started it” and “I’m so bored” was more than enough to justify the cost. My sanity was at stake here. Camp it was.
Lily wanted to stay close to home and chose an art program down the street. Evan, suddenly the easy one, happily joined her there. Ben was the one who decided on an old school summer camp located a half hour bus ride away. His school friends were going and he thought it sounded like fun. But, I was hesitant. It’s a really long day of swimming and boating and sports and activities and Ben is not a kid known for his stamina. He tires pretty easily and, as the middle child, is the one I worry about most. “Are you sure?” I asked for the hundredth time before writing the check. He was sure, he assured me, and I sent him off with his new Transformer backpack on Monday.
My stomach was in knots all day. Would he get sick on the bus? Be afraid in the pool? Hate having his sunscreen applied? Be freaked out by the unfamiliarity of it all? I could just see him, lip quivering, sitting in the corner all by himself. My baby! I couldn’t wait to pick him up.
But, he jumped off the bus smiling. He told us about basketball and the free water play and the lake that they could jump into. “It’s like school, but only fun!!!” he reported to his wide eyed sister. “Don’t you want to go?” She wasn’t convinced. “I don’t want to take the bus. Or change in front of other kids. Or be there all day. It’s so loooooong” she whined. “I know I won’t like camp. I’m just not a camp person.” He laughed at her and walked away, suddenly the experienced and wise one.
Maybe Lily’s right, and this is the rare instance where she actually takes after me. But if that’s the case, she is surely missing out. Those camp kids are the lucky ones.