When I was getting married at the age of 20 and still in college, my husband joked, “I don’t know if I should take you on a honeymoon or to camp!”
That’s because I had spent 10 summers in camp, and my marriage ended my camping days. I did go on a honeymoon, but I’ve always loved the carefree memories of my camp days.
My children spent their summers in camp, and now my grandchildren are doing the same. This past weekend was visiting day at their day camp and sleepaway camps. What a love fest it was!
Three of my grandchildren spend seven weeks at a sleepaway camp in Pennsylvania, a three-hour trip away. As I made my way through Bear Mountain and onto single-lane roads through the countryside, I felt like I’d never get there.
We had a quest though to bring 9-year-old Jonah his favorite Subway sandwich: salami and cheese on whole wheat bread with lettuce and black olives on the side, and red Gatorade and Doritos. But there were problems. We left at 8 a.m., and the three Subways near my house, each of which were supposed to up and running at 8 a.m., weren’t open.
We hit the road and began looking for a Subway sign. We took the food exits twice, only to find that the Subway stores we were looking for had been closed and were now Dunkin’ Donuts locations.
By the fifth try, and minutes ticking away from our 11 a.m. arrival time, I texted my daughter Elizabeth that we had failed. I’d bring Munchkins instead. But just minutes from the camp, there was another Subway sign on the road and I wanted to bring him his favorite sandwich. I took the turn off the road and — hooray! — there it was tucked inside a gas station minimart just a turn off the road. Victory! I felt giddy as I ran through the store with just washed floors and got his drink and favorite snack, too.
We quickly got back on the road and got to camp a few minutes late, yet just in time to see 9-year-old Morgan in her dance performance.
I was amazed that in a few short weeks, her group had learned the dance routine. With huge smiles on their faces, they performed perfectly, even when the recorded music suddenly stopped for a moment. Like true professionals, they knew their steps and carried on without the music. They were great!
I went on to see Jonah water ski on the lake near his bunk. I remembered last summer my daughter Elizabeth had laughed hysterically when she had gone on a rubber tube, loving every second. I had hopes Jonah would be the same.
I joined her and 7-year-old Addy in the boat to watch Jonah riding a board, holding onto the rope attached to the speedboat with all his strength as the boat shot off from the dock.
He held on and made it around the lake as I looked on, my heart bursting with pride and joy. His smile as he came back onto the dock competed in size with the Grand Canyon.
Then he, along with his mom and sister, were off to the pool to play water basketball and kept their laughing faces.
The dining hall offered lunch to all of us. Guests, campers and staff enjoyed a seemingly endless buffet of salads, lox, bagels, whitefish, hummus, knishes, sliced cheese, tofu, vegetable platters and a chocolate fountain for pretzels, cookies and marshmallows. I looked but couldn’t bring myself to indulge. I did fill my plate from the cutout watermelons overflowing with fresh fruit salad and cookies. The camp fed over 1,500 people effortlessly — very impressive.
Blake, my 12-year-old camper who had spent the last five summers at camp, seemed so much taller and thinner. He told me how much fun he had as a defensive soccer player, even playing other camps to a 10-0 victory. He was in his glory, and deservedly so.
This summer, the camp added a music studio, and both Blake and Jonah had already written and recorded songs. I was impressed with the computers where the kids designed graphics to create T-shirts and also learn how to use and make objects at the three-dimensional printer.
I now know my kids are designers, musicians and dancers — and that’s in between all the gymnastics classes, baseball, basketball, golf and (everyone’s favorite activity) rock climbing that they’ve enjoyed. Oh, to be a kid again!
During the week, I also visited 7-year-old Addy’s day camp in Glen Cove. I got there in time for her rock climbing class that included a trek way up the vertical wall, then transferring and walking on a tightrope. She then scaled a balance beam, then went down a zip line all while tethered to a rope. My stomach was in knots as I watched her fearlessly and joyously accomplishing the tasks while cheering on her bunkmate, who was frightened. Addy lives with me and is constantly amazing me.
There was a photographer, Noah, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, who was assigned to take pictures of the kids in their activities. The parents can access the photos from home. Noah shared with me how Addy loved having her photo taken, then organizing the kids in her group for photos even positioning them for a fun shot. Being a leader seems to be in her DNA!
When I said my goodbyes to the kids at camp, I squeezed them with all my might and held back tears, remembering how I cried so hard when my parents left after visiting day. But I must admit the my grandkids were joyful and anticipating the water fight they would be having after the last parent left the campus.
What a wonderful world to be young and joyful and innocent.