Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Camp Redux

I have posted before about summer camp, but was reminded today by a ridiculous NYT piece about folks taking private planes to camp (does the NYT have a thing for making camp seem so extravagant) and by a FB status of a friend that today is actually the 35th anniversary of my first day at camp.  Today is the first day of the second four week session at my old camp.  I started in the summer of 1976--yep, the bicentennial year.  I went for four weeks for each of my first couple of years and then entire summers for the rest of my teens (and then some as a counselor).

A friend of mine reacted to the NYT story on FB by pondering whether parents still forced their kids to go to camp.  I had a quick reaction to that, not only because I had so much more fun and, well, self-esteem at camp but also because the next generation seems to be having the same experience.  As I mentioned in the previous post on this topic, I lived for summer as I did not enjoy my school growing up and never felt like I fit in.  At camp, I certainly did, especially as the years went by and as I developed friendships with not only the kids in my age group but also the counselors and administrators that saw me as a fellow lifer.

My daughter has posted a series of videos people made at camp, and it is hard to imagine that there would be that much joy in a similar video made at school.  It is not just the absence of work, but the shared community that makes the difference.  Plus the absence of bullies (at least in the Saideman experiences), the reduced barriers among cliques, and the opportunities for extreme silliness.*
* The night that Sky Lab was due to crash, my unit of 12-13 year olds (five bunks of campers) was having a sleepout in the gym down at the bottom of the hill.  The counselors thought it would be fun to throw pebbles onto the tin roof to make it sound like the pieces of the space station were hitting the camp.  Much chaos ensued, including the throwing of watermelon rinds.  I believe it became known as Rino night, but I could be wrong.   
I guess some folks did not enjoy summer camp, but the repeaters almost always did so.  Sure, for eight-weekers, the seventh week tended to drag (hot Maryland August did not help).  Anyhow, it is pretty easier to fall into a state of nostalgia during the middle of the summer, thinking of great summers long ago, especially as various deadlines start to approach with the new school year.  Where did the summer go?

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