Thursday, August 27, 2015

Letters from Camp, Part Two

Earlier this week, I complained about having never gone to sleepaway camp. (Complained? Exulted more like it.) But, my sister, brother and I did go to daycamp several summers in a row. 

The only one that really stays with me was the summer before I started sixth grade. Even though we were practically teenagers (no one had coined the word "tween" yet in 1973), they made us take a nap each afternoon. There were these scrawny little mats and after lunch the counselor would turn off the light so we could sleep. Of course, none of us did sleep. So, instead, she read aloud from Judy Blume's adolescent classic Are You There God? It's Me Margaret.

We were fascinated! 

The whole getting-your-period thing seemed incredibly mysterious and grownup. The counselor (who, at nineteen, was also incredibly mysterious and grownup) had fun with it, taking us to the pharmacy around the corner and showing us pads and belts. She also warned us never to use a tampon or we wouldn't be virgins anymore. One of my fellow campers (a girl far more informed and precocious than I) asked the counselor if she herself was indeed a virgin. I don't know whether the older girl was caught off guard or just eager to share, but nap time became a lot more interesting after that.

My own daughter went to a number of daycamps over the years. She started when she was three years old, attending camp at her preschool (which was pretty much exactly like preschool but over the summer). Then she moved on to gymnastics camp at the local YMCA.

Soon, of course, she wanted to attend horseback riding daycamp, and she did so for a number of years. This was considerably more expensive than any other option, so those first summers we switched off — a week with the horses a week at the gym. (You can probably guess which weeks were her favorites.) Right before she entered middle school, she and a BFF went to "Adventure Camp," where they hiked, canoed and rock-climbed. 

It was all very ... well, adventurous.

Our daycamp days are behind us. In fact, these days, my daughter helps run a camp. But, the past few weeks have been a trip down daycamp memory lane for me. Each day when I arrive at the Y for Zumba or Dance Mania or Yoga, I'm confronted by tiny armies of campers. 

And not just any campers.

There are kids dressed as Harry Potter with his signature round glasses, striped scarves and magic wands. There are girls in long gauzy dresses and sequined crowns. There are older kids in lab coats with bright red "blood" stains.

The Y has really taken the concept of camp to new and exciting places. Why just go to "camp," when you can attend "Princess Training," "Treasure Hunting," "Hogwarts 101," "Superheroes," or "CSI: Forensics." Of course, there are plenty of fitness programs represented as well: "Sportsmania," "Soccer," "Dance" and "Making Waves." But, I love it that the Y has created camps for kids who may be more bookish, imaginative or just plain nerdy.

After the most grueling classes, I emerge sweaty but smiling. A quick look around the Y and one might think the inmates were running the asylum (maybe next year, they'll add a "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" theme). The kids are having a blast and isn't that what summer should be about?

The counselors (gamely dressed as evil queens, mad scientists or the faculty from Hogwarts) seem to be having fun too. At least as much fun as my old counselor did.

And hopefully they're not sharing quite as much.

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