In 1981 I was given the gift of Sleep-away camp. For six summers after that, the gift kept on giving. Without a shadow of a doubt, the weeks of Sleep-away camp were by and large the greatest times of my entire childhood. As unpolished as I may be, I can honestly say that most of the polished parts of my personality were shaped from the experiences I had and the life lessons I learned at camp.
You can’t necessarily teach someone how to be a good friend, but there’s something about bonding with other kids at camp that automatically makes you want to be a good friend; And not just a good friend for the summer, but a good friend forever.
I’d bet most people who loved Sleep-away camp as much as I did would agree that there’s something truly magical about what it all represents. Regardless of which camp you went to, if you’ve drank the Sleep-away
Kool-aid Bug juice, then you know that camp is synonymous with everlasting friendships, leadership and sportsmanship skills, teamwork, character building, camaraderie, the sense of belonging, etc. etc. etc. Those philosophies have always remained constant and are still the universal commonality for the foundation that is the essence of Sleep-away camp.
This summer I’ll officially be passing the baton as I give the gift of Sleep-away camp to my eight-year-old son for the very first time…. IF ONLY I COULD GET THE GODDAMN TRUNKS PACKED!
For such a lover of camp, you would think I’d be a bit more enthusiastic about getting my kid ready for the big send off. The truth is, getting him ready is the biggest pain in the ass. I’ve been avoiding it like the plague and have come up with a million and one other things to do instead of packing the trunks.
Here’s a list of the top five things I’ve been doing instead of packing the trunks:
1. I Don’t Have Time To Actually Pack The Trunks Because I’m Too Busy Complaining About Packing The Trunks
“Did you get Ben a chair yet?”
Me: “A chair? He needs a chair? For what? They don’t have chairs at camp anymore?”
“Well, at assembly or evening activities all the kids sit on chairs. Also, what if it rains? You know, the ground gets wet so they need something to sit on.”
Me: “The ground gets wet so they need something to sit on??? Are you kidding me??? When I went to camp if the ground was wet, MY ASS GOT WET. You’re really telling me I gotta get a chair and pack it in his trunk? Give me a break.”
(A different) friend:
“What bedding did you get Ben? Did you go with the Miami Heat or the New York Giants? You got him an egg crate, right?
(That same different) friend:
“Ohhh you gotta get him the sports bedding. All the kids have personalized bedding with their favorite teams. And the egg crate. And a rug too. They love to have a rug next to their bed.”
Me: “Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK are you talking about? The camp doesn’t provide bedding? For seven summers I used the brown piece of shit nubby wool camp blanket that came with the piece of shit metal cot and THAT was my bedding. What the hell is an egg crate? And STOP IT with the rug. I didn’t have a rug. I stepped on the cold, damp, wood, bunk floor with my bare feet and didn’t think twice. A rug is total bullshit. He’s not getting a rug.”
The friend who asked me about the chair:
“Is your camp uniform? Did you order the uniforms yet?”
Me: “Well, get a load of this racket. Technically it isn’t a uniform camp so you can wear whatever you want but somehow my American Express bill would beg to disagree. I just spent a fortune on the ‘required official uniform clothes.’ I don’t know how that even makes sense. They should just say it’s a uniform camp.”
My chair friend who is now annoying me about the uniforms:
“Is the uniform company gonna label the clothes for you? You should order extra name tags so you can iron them into the other stuff too.”
Me: “Wait, did you just say I should iron them into the other stuff too? Do you even know me? I don’t own an iron or an ironing board. If I need something ironed I convince myself that it’s dirty enough and send it to the dry cleaners. I’m using a Sharpie to label the clothes and that’s that!”
2. I’ve Been To Target and Bed Bath & Beyond Twelve Times And Have Managed To Buy Everything Except What I Really Need In Order To Pack The Trunks
I saved up a dozen 20% off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond so that I could use them to purchase the camp toiletries. I must have gotten distracted because I came home with five packages of paper hand towels for my powder room, a piece of artwork for my backyard and a neat, little grilling basket to use on the barbecue. The good news is that I saved $24.00.
I wasn’t any better at staying on target at Target. I bought the wrong goggles, forgot the toothbrush holder and couldn’t cross flip flops off my list because I didn’t know my son’s shoe size. However, the entire back corner of the store was packed with cool pool accessories so I picked up a few new floaty noodles, a raft and some plastic barware.
3. Camp Headquarters (A.K.A. My Office) Looks Like A Bomb Went Off But The Rest Of My House Is Spotless
Okay, I admit it. I’m dealing with the fact that my kid is leaving for the first time by not dealing with it at all. I’m completely aware that I’m in denial so instead of packing the camp trunks I’ve taken on the monumental task of de-cluttering the house. I’ve already cleaned out the playroom from top to bottom and organized the linen closets, kitchen cabinets and the entire pantry. Remember those Nambe´serving bowls and platters we all registered for when we got engaged a million years ago? Yah, well I found a bunch of mine tarnished in the bottom of a drawer so I chucked them along with hundreds of mismatched tupperware lids and containers. It was quite liberating actually. I can’t pack the trunks tomorrow because I plan to tackle the garage.
4. I’ve Been Busy In Banshee
Instead of packing the camp trunks I’ve been busy marathon watching the Cinamax original series, Banshee. This show is so good it really warrants an entire blog entry of its own but for now you need to trust me when I say these two words: ANTONY STARR. I don’t care how many British or Australian male water-ski, camp craft or land sports counselors with awesome accents you flirted with when you were twelve years old; ANTONY STARR BLOWS THEM ALL AWAY! He is one smokkkkinggggg hottttt mother fucker and totally worth the procrastination of whatever responsibilities you have to push to the wayside to watch him in action.
Fellas, don’t fret. I got you covered too. Banshee’s bombshell will make your head spin. Both of them! If you don’t believe me, check out Ivana Milicevic. She might be the sexiest woman evvverrrrrr. I had an innocent girl crush for about the first three episodes but now that I’m knee deep into Season Two, I’m pretty much stalker-level obsessed with her! I’m not kidding. Watch the show. You’ll thank me.
I promise to write a real, unpolished Banshee Blog and fill you in on all the grit. It’s coming as soon as I finish the last few episodes. Hell, it’s a damn good excuse to keep me from packing the trunks!
5. I’ve Been Trying To Forget How Much $LEEP-Away Camp Is Co$ting Me Because If I Stop To Think About It I Will Die And Then Who Will Pack The Trunks?
As a camper, you can’t put a price tag on what you gain from the Sleep-away experience. As a parent, that price tag is astronomical. When the owner/director of the camp we selected came to our house for the initial “home visit,” I remember my husband (whom unfortunately never drank the camp
Kool-aid Bug juice) asked point blank, “So what’s the bottom line? How much is this gonna cost?”
THE BUGLE IS BLOWING AND HERE’S THE WAKE UP CALL: The tuition price printed on the sheet in the fancy brochure that comes in the glossy camp folder has nothing to do with the bottom line!
The best analogy I can use is like when you buy a car. There is the advertised sticker price that is appealing enough to get you in the door but that’s just the base. You need to consider the price for all the extras. Airfare, baggage delivery, uniforms, gear, hotel accommodations and car rental fees for Visiting Day Weekend. Blah, blah, blah. The list goes on and on and on and on and on. When it’s all said and done, I’m pretty sure I could have bought a really nice set of wheels with all the bells and whistles!
Although the perspective has substantially shifted now that I am no longer the camper, I know that as a parent there is nothing more rewarding than being able to provide for your children to give them every possible opportunity to have the best experiences that life can offer. I feel so blessed that I am able to give my son the gift that is Sleep-away camp. I can’t say I won’t be a nervous wreck and that I won’t be eating Xanax like I would a bag of M&M’s the day he gets on the airplane, but at the same time I am also so excited for him to embark on the most fabulous adventure which will enable him to grow leaps and bounds as an individual. In order for this to happen, I guess the only thing left to do is pack the goddamn trunks! I don’t know what I’m waiting for so I better get on it. Clearly, I have a lot of work to do!
JUST TO LET YOU KNOW… About a week or so ago there was an article in the New York Post that circulated around the internet about Manhattan Moms who drop major coin to have someone other than themselves pack their kids’ camp trunks. When I first read the piece I thought it was utterly absurd and I couldn’t believe that someone would actually admit to being that entitled or that lazy or both!
As the days went by and I slowly began to think about gathering all the shit I need to pack up the trunks I sorta had a change of heart. Don’t get me wrong, I still think these Moms must live on another planet where money grows on trees but I guess if I had that kind of cash to burn I’d pay someone else to deal with it for me too. On the other hand, with the price of tuition and all the extra accoutrements that add up to a small fortune, maybe the camps should consider offering a “professional trunk packer” as part of the experience! Can you imagine? It should be included, right? It’s not such a bad idea! Whaddaya think?