retro-summer-camp-vector

The newspaper I work for is putting out a Summer Camp Guide for local parents, and it made me think of how badly I wanted to go to camp as a child.

From grades 5-7, I was really good friends with a girl named Leslie.  Her parents were divorced, and her mom lived in this beautiful old house in the heart of town. It was fun to hang out with her because the park and the candy store were all within a stone’s throw to her house, whereas I lived at the far end of town close to nothing fun at all.

You could say she was privileged, even though it must have sucked to have parents that were divorced. Her mom was out a lot and they had a live-in nanny, who never seemed to be around any time I slept over. She would be “in the house” but usually was up in her room on the top floor, which was creepy to me.

Her dad lived in New York City, and every now and then we’d have a sleepover at his apartment, which was both a thrill and completely uncomfortable. I didn’t know the father all too well, hence my discomfort.

But every summer, for at least 3 weeks, Leslie would be shipped off to summer camp. I saw it as this magical place where nobody knew you, and any stigmas that might plague you in your hometown, simply vanished. You could be anyone. You were brand new.

She would come home with tales of juicy social interactions, clandestine meetings with crushes, and long nights gossiping with girlfriends. And I was pea green with envy. All I had done was hang out at the Leonia pool, trying to dodge insults while using the diving board…from my future husband.

The following year I begged my father to let me go with Leslie, even if it was for just a week. But there was no way…her camp was just too expensive. I understood, but it was still disappointing.

I especially get it now that I have kids. I would have loved to be able to send either of my girls to summer camp, even a day camp, to give them a fun summer experience while mom and dad were working. I looked into it a few years ago, but just about every camp was way out of our price range.

And it is glaringly evident if you attend one of the summer camp expos in the area. Impeccably dressed Moms and Dads usher their children with straight, white teeth from table to table and try to decide which soul-enriching camp their lucky little offspring will spend their summer at. Because money is no object.

But it’s okay. My kids have great memories of summers hiking up to Blue Hole to swim in a mountain pond, and jumping off the dock at Lake Monticello. Trips to King’s Dominion, Disney on Ice, and weeks spend in Florida visiting my dad.

Yeah, camp would’ve been great for them, and maybe even for me. But I don’t think any of us suffered greatly in the long run.

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