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The Camp Blog PART ONE: 5 Things I've Been Doing Instead of Packing The Trunks

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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.

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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

My friend:

 “Did you get Ben a chair yet?”

Me:  “A chair?  He needs a chair?  For what?  They don’t have chairs at camp anymore?”

My friend:

 “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?

Me:  “Huh?”

(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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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?



Just to let you know..this is where you leave a comment.

47 responses to “The Camp Blog PART ONE: 5 Things I've Been Doing Instead of Packing The Trunks

  1. A chair? Really. We used a towel to keep dry or we got wet. It’s camp, not the four seasons. :).

    1. I remember so well that first summer when your cousins went to camp for the first time. They boarded the bus with no trepidation while I fought to keep the tears in my eyes where they belonged, not on my cheeks where they were headed. Ben will do fine…and eventually, so will you. It’s called “being a mother”…your feelings are absolutely normal…and he will have fantastic summer.

  2. Everything is so true!!! Every year though I’m the schmuck that spends thousands of dollars on my daughters wardrobe… I hit every store and every website that the stores in NJ have bc according to my 9 year old, all her friends had it “last year” I try and explain that that was last year and there will be new stuff but no, I get the old stuff, the new stuff, even order stuff that hasn’t come out yet,..
    And then guess what, I scour the pictures like everyone else does and find my daughter in everything but her OWN clothes!
    And then she tells me she has nothing to wear and likes her friends clothes better!!

  3. omg – you are too funny!!!!!! i have 4 kids going to camp and 8 effin trunks to pack and I am doing EVERYTHING but packing – whats wrong w me ?????? I am non stop thinking about non-packing of course, even started watching the Bachelorette with my girls, not to mention 24 is back on !!!! hilarious bout Target, and Bed&Bath – you could be me!
    feel much better after reading this article – i am not alone!
    thank you – off to clean my basement

    1. caseybodes: i don’t have a basement, but rest assured if I did, I’d be cleaning it out too! Good luck to you and your 8 effin trunks!

  4. Couldn’t love this blog any more even if I tried!!! Especially the part about the rug (which of course I bought)- when we went to camp you got out of bed and put your feet on the floor, tough if it was a cold morning- you had to deal!!!
    But more importantly, when is the next part coming!!

    1. Couldn’t agree more about the nightmare of packing ! Feel like I’ve been packing for a month

      1. Can’t wait to read your blog about Banshee! Best show ever! Dying for Season 3 to start ( not sure what that says about me 😉

        1. Joanne: It says that I just confirmed why we are friends! Back off Lucas Hood though, he’s all mine!

          1. LOL!! I think he’s too short for me anyway! And as far as women go Nola and Rebecca are more my type!!

          2. I’m a mother of a 12 yr old daughter who attends the camp I went to. I learned how to make my bed from camp, and not my mothers housekeepers. Hospital Corners, stuck in my mind from camp. I try to teach my kids at home but not the same. I guess I should tell them they win an ice cream social if they have the best corners. I could go on and on but I better hit send first to see if my post even works. Thanks so much for writing this as it made me appreciate the packing!

  5. Although I am not there yet I can imagine. Make sure to save 1 clean uniform for visiting day. Life was good when all you needed were a pair of brown shorts, a blue t-shirt, white socks, a specific pair of shoes for every sport, a bathing cap, blue bathing suits, jelly shoes, a lap desk, pj’s warm enough for 50 below and a shit load of batteries because we had no electricity. May he love camp as much as we did.

  6. Now I know what I can do with my summer while my kids are at sleep-a-way camp (assuming I ever get BOTH of their trunks packed…you’ve got it easy with one….just wait!!). I’m gonna binge watch Banshee!

  7. This is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I couldn’t agree more and look forward to your post about visiting day in all it’s riduculousness. I love camp.

  8. Awesome! Brings back some amazing memories of my experience ! Can’t wait for him it’s going to be fantastic! Xo

  9. As always I thoroughly enjoyed your blog! Every year I say the same thing – what’s worse packing or unpacking? I’m sure you will hit upon that subject in one of your later camp blogs!!! Can’t wait! Xoxo

  10. I hate to bring you bad news but at the end of the summer those items that actually do come home are disgustingly filthy. But, camp experience is great and worth it all

  11. Rachel, my living room looks like a brown and blue bomb went off so I can appreciate what you’re going through. FYI, if it makes you feel any better, CP no longer provides the white sheets and rough wool blankets that we grew accustomed to back in the 80s. My daughter started there last year and we had to buy the blankets (but at least they’re soft fleece) as well as the sheets – and yes, you can have crazy patterned ones!! Anyway, you will feel a huge weight off your shoulders once you finish packing and zip that sucker up! Good luck!

    1. But wait, when a senior, in just a few years, you get to buy a comforter, so blankets are just a great souvenir. Is this Pam Gladstein by chance???

  12. rach, this is hi-sterical!!!! loved it. and i hear ya…. zoie is going back to cp as a counselor then headiing to college. i have a war-zone room divided among the two. oy! finally bit the bullet yesterday. time for you, too! as your counselor (hee hee) i must tell you its time for some bunk ordering/packing! 🙂
    wheres he going? maybe ME????
    xo’s to one of MY fave campers!

    1. Emily.
      Ellie Vine, my daughter, has your daughters clothes, thanks to Leslie Becker who sent them to me! Sharpies, name tags, whatever, love the Vintage CP wear! The packing is a bitch, not going to lie!

  13. Hilarious post Rachel! I was packing yesterday and was overwhelmed with all the crap. And I don’t even have a chair or a rug….

  14. I packed my own trunk! I don’t remember a brochure in our day- just a slide show on the living room wall that Werner did with a bit of commentary . I’m so glad that my parents made me go- I wouldn’t have met you if I hadn’t.
    Here’s some motivation to get packing…….
    Imagine being Jodi’s mom and colour coordinating a different outfit for every day of camp plus evening activities.
    Not feeling so bad now, huh?

  15. Love it and glad I’m not alone. I have a daughter headed to sleepaway camp for the first time this summer (going to a Maine Camp Experience camp). I can’t get to the packing either. Reasons to add to the list about why I can’t pack: town sports games, the town 5K run, dance recitals, bday parties, Father’s Day, and on and on (you name it – I’ll cite it). Maybe packing under pressure will work best – like I do the night before or morning of most of our family vacations (has gone pretty well except the year one daughter had no pjs and had to sleep in beach coverups or another year when another daughter had no socks during a cold/rainy beach week). I’m jealous that you’re cleaning – I’ll save that daunting task for while they’re in camp. Thanks for the inspiring advice about the Nambe and the silver sharpie.

      1. Rachel – great! I thought that was the case when I read comments about CP and brown and blue :-). Love that camp and so many others in Maine – the beauty, the traditions, etc. I actually work with 33 of them as the Guide for Maine Camp Experience ( I guess I can say that’s been part of my non-packing hold up. I’ve been helping people find the right camp for their kids, including planning tours for this summer to check out camps for 2015. Good stuff! Wishing your son, my daughter, and all the first timers an incredible experience!!

  16. Loved this, so funny and so relatable! So glad to hear I’m not alone on this! I live in an area where no one sends their kids to camp longer than a week…so it’s nice to hear relatable stories from other moms that are going through this kind of stuff as well.
    This summer will be my oldest daughters sixth and final summer at Fernwood and my middle daughters second summer there as well. Every year I get more and more relaxed on what I pack, how I pack and how I label and most important, when I pack. And we are leaving for vacation in a few days, so yes, more packing…lol. Not complaining, just more procrastination! 🙂
    Thanks for the laughs and for sharing and helping me feel connected to other camp moms!! Hope your son has a great summer!!
    PS. I read that article also on hiring packers, my first thought was no way, but now that I’m in the midst of packing for two…I get it! I would never do, but I so get it 🙂

  17. So overwhelming……. but also not your first time around ? Correct? To this day after 6 summers, I still will order labels….but I️ refuse to waste 2 on a pair of socks ?. The sharpie works just fine ….. and it doesn’t fall off in laundry.
    Children today do not even realize how fortunate they are to be able to live this experience … well, the parents today have forgotten the actual purpose of this experience…..
    I️ hope he has a memorable summer ?

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