What few dim memories I have of my own summer camp experiences are for the most part worth forgetting, especially considering how much has changed in childcare and political correctness since the mid 1960s. As I drop off my daughter each morning at her day camp, I always have an idea of what she’ll be doing that day (thanks to a handy schedule they send home every week).
My time at Wassaqui Day Camp consisted of sitting under a picnic pavilion while it rained. We wove colorful plastic strands into essentially useless lanyards and key holders, an effort by camp counselors to demonstrate to parents they were getting a return on their investment in day camp. Some kids always got theirs to knot tightly in color coordinated columns. Other kids (like your truly) ended up bringing home craft projects that defied description: “Uh, jeez, son. This is really nice. What is it supposed to be?”
Your Mother could always tell when it had been a popsicle-stick-and-glue day. Sticky hands (“Oh my God! Stay right there and don’t touch a thing!”) and crude projects didn’t quite have a chance to dry before you dragged it home on the bus. “Uh, jeez, son. This is really nice. What is it supposed to be?”
Summer day camps today have changed in many ways; they’re remained the same in many others.
Our first popsicle-stick-clothes-pin-and-glue project arrived home last week.
I heard myself say, “Uh, jeez, honey. This is really nice. What is it supposed to be?” (A helicopter, in case you were wondering.)
One day she came home with a paper airplane she’d made as a full-fledged activity that day at camp (I kid you not). It was rendered inoperable, though, because she had stuffed it into her backpack.
Two aspects of her summer camp experience now stick with me:
There is a sign posted on the other side of a small meadow next to the driveway, indicating a path leading into the woods on the day camp’s property.
I point it out.
“That sign says Tick Trail?”
“Do you ever go over there?”
“Hmmm. Do you know what Tick means?”
“Sure, it’s like a clock: Tick, tock, tick, tock.”
“Honey, a tick is a bug — ” Stop. She’s already creeped out by bugs. No use making it worse.
We now check her regularly for ticks.
They also play the standard kid games, like Duck, Duck, Goose. (“While we were sitting on the ground, an ant crawled on me!”)
I asked which camp game she likes the best.
“It’s the one where we race each other, to see who can run the farthest and scream the loudest.”
“At the same time?”
“How often do you play that game?”
“Nearly every day.”
Hmmm. I see.
I’m impressed. Camp counselors today demonstrate they’re more clever and resourceful than they were in my day.