All posts tagged: Camp

Hey, it’s Juice! How My Camp Nickname Gave Me Confidence

(Photo: Courtesy Neil Kramer) When I was eight years old, I attended my first year of Camp Kinder-Ring, a sleepaway camp in upstate New York. Our first breakfast of the summer was served in a wood-framed dining room, where bunkmates sat together at large oval tables. The waiters, 16-year-old campers, served us soggy scrabbled eggs and individual boxes of Kellogg’s cereals, my favorite being Sugar Pops. In the center of each table was an aqua blue plastic pitcher which held the watered-down orange juice. “Can you pass the juith?” I asked another bunk member. “The juith?” he asked, and the rest of the table laughed at my slight lisp. “Do you mean the JUICE?” For many, an alias allows someone who is normally a Clark Kent to find their Superman. Now I know some of you are already gripping your easy chair, preparing for an unsettling Lord of the Flies-type essay about mean boys and the bullying of the weak, but that is not the story here. I was lucky that the story veered off …

Wish You Were Here: Campers, Glampers & Me

(Graphic: Kat Borosky/TueNight) People can be divided into three groups: The Campers, The Glampers, and the “I Won’t Go Anywhere Without Hot Water, Flushable Toilets and Soft Beds.” The Campers are an amazing bunch. My father-in-law Steve and his wife Jill are in that group. They pack their tent, their bikes, some water and some power bars and head off, sending us pictures of the Appalachian Trail, the Mason Dixon Line and Civil War historical sites from the road. They look so blissed out, relaxed and in love. Their missives to us are like siren songs from the natural world: gorgeous, live, oak trees and shade giving sentinels, weeping willows bending and dipping so gracefully, Spanish moss that makes me feel damp just to look at it, pine needles on the ground that we know smell of dirt forest floor, and lakes sparkling in the sunlight just begging you to take a dip. “Wish you were here.” The Glampers, God love them, are seen in super porny shots in magazines and travelogues — their pimped …

The Microcosm of Bunk Life

The author, third from left. (Photo courtesy of Amy Barr) In many ways, life inside a summer camp bunk is a microcosm of the adult social world, especially for females. The atmosphere can be simultaneously congenial and competitive, intimate and exclusionary. In a space the size of typical two-car garage, a variety of personality types are thrust together, forced to navigate an often-complicated jumble of events and emotions. And, if you were like I was some 40 years ago, you loved it. For me, camp was a place to both be myself and test myself, to slip into my beloved pair of broken-in Tretorns even as I tried out new skills. Those dusty, musty cabins provided us temporary inhabitants with stability and solace even as we pushed boundaries during the day. At camp, there are no parents around to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, or catch you when you fall. It’s a place to figure out stuff on your own, be that how to soothe yourself to sleep on a homesick night …

Q&A: Rachel Sklar, Entrepreneur and Diehard Camper

If Rachel Sklar is putting on a show, you’d probably find yourself asking, where do I sign up? The co-founder of Change the Ratio and The Li.st, a “visbility” network for professional women, has a knack for rallying colleagues. The same is true for motivating campers. This summer, after an 18-year hiatus, she returned to her beloved Camp Winnebagoe to direct two plays and assist with the Ontario-based camp’s overall Drama program. We chatted about what it was like to get back to a summer of sing-a-longs and s’mores, and the life lessons Rachel’s learned on the campground. Why do you love camp? Camp was a huge part of my life growing up, and a huge part of shaping me into who I am today. I spent 12 summers at Camp Winnebagoe — four as a camper and eight as a staff member. Camp was the locus of all my early creativity — it was my musical theater school, my songwriting lab (I wrote the opening summer theme songs, all day program songs) and gave me intense training in interpersonal skills. It …

What I Found When I Unpacked My Kids’ Backpacks

(Photo: Nancy Gonzalez/TueNight) It’s always fun to unpack the kids’ backpacks after a day at camp. Here, some of my findings: My son: Exploded ketchup pack, possibly multiple packs Several rocks. Important-looking Candy wrappers, various Muddy socks, heavily worn, freestylin’ in the main compartment Rain poncho from yesterday, still wet Favorite baseball hat with ketchup damage Three napkins, unused My daughter: Upside-down water bottle, half full, half of contents in formerly dry change of clothes One clean sock Wildflower book. Not ours Rain poncho, wet Uneaten yogurt from two days ago hidden in a secret compartment Random sticks One makeshift white headband Three napkins, one obliterated And this:

Front to Backlist

Camp: It Was the Best and Worst of Times

(Photo: Nancy Gonzalez/TueNight) Recently, an Australian author I interviewed told me that the American concept of sending children off to summer camp is entirely foreign to her fellow citizens. “We just don’t do it,” she said, “but to me, it sounds like a very good thing.” A wholly unscientific rifling through my mental file drawers leads me to believe that a random sampling of TueNight readers would find that just as many of us think summer camp is a very bad thing. It’s not all s’mores and pillow fights; there are just as many miserable meals of mystery meat and choky, smoky campfires to endure. Thus, this week’s Front to Backlist brings a recent novel about the best of camp, and another recent novel about the worst. I recently wrote about one of Meg Wolitzer’s earlier works, but her latest novel, The Interestings, set the bestseller lists on fire when it was released in 2013. It seemed everybody and her grandmother was reading this hefty novel about a group of creative, talented teenagers who bonded at their artsy New …

If You Were at Camp Kweebec, You’d Be Home By Now

The author, front row, third from the right. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Young) “Welcome home.” You’ll find this simple greeting on a wooden sign at the end of a short and very bumpy dirt road in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. Schwenksville (zip code 19473) is as epic as it sounds — it’s a hilly, leafy town in the exurbs of Philadelphia that had a small cameo in the book The Corrections. Schwenksville is also home to Camp Kweebec, an overnight camp for boys and girls founded in 1935, and, for more than a decade, my summertime “home away from home.” I both attended and worked at Camp Kweebec in the 1970s and 1980s, spanning ages nine to 19. Once school was out every June, I jumped on the camp bus from a Lord & Taylor parking lot in suburban Philadelphia and never looked back. My sister and both of my brothers went to Kweebec, as well. So did at least five of my cousins. I’m not trying to one-up my fellow campers, but I also got married at …

My Wet Hot American Playlist

Scene from Wet Hot American Summer (Photo: Eureka Pictures) I’ll be the first to admit my obsession with all things camp is a wee bit weird. I watch informational videos about other camps. I troll camp websites. I’m hooked on movies about camp. (Meatballs is one of my all-time favorites. But I also recommend Wet Hot American Summer, Camp, Indian Summer and Little Darlings.) Yet music is the art form I associate most closely with camp. I hear songs on the radio, at a wedding or in an elevator, and I am immediately transported back to my summers in Schwenksville at Camp Kweebec. (Also included in this group of memories: the one summer I spent on an all-camping teen tour out West with one of my bunkmates, and the summer she and I don’t like to discuss because my parents sent me to a “nicer” camp under duress.) So here is my camp playlist timeline,  starting the summer when I was a junior camper and ending when I was a group leader and counselor. Ah, …

My Kids’ Camp Re-Entry Period

Coming back from camp means loads of laundry. (Photo courtesy Wendy Goldman Scherer) My baby, Max, is 15. Well, almost 16. When he asked to go to leadership camp for five weeks this summer, we agreed, with the caveat that he pay a portion of the tuition. After all, we all appreciate things more when we have skin in the game, right? We drove him five hours north to Lake Como, Pennsylvania, in the Pocono Mountains. He’d packed a huge duffel bag, a sleeping bag, some stamps and stationery. The teens learned how to lead meetings, how to communicate with parents and community, how to lead social action. They learned how to motivate their peers. They bonded. My son had an amazing, all encompassing and life-changing experience — so much so that he did not have time to write home. Did I mention there was no cell service? I did not hear from my child for five weeks. Five weeks! The camp smell is definitely not a smell that translates to home. It needs to …

How I Tried to Get Kicked Out of Camp — And The Life Lesson I Learned

I was six years old when I first went to camp. It was a month-long sleepover camp in Canada, hundreds of miles from my house. It was also my very first time away from home. My best friend was going, so of course it was all that I wanted in the whole wide world. For God knows what reason, my Mom said yes. I was all big glasses and big heart and I couldn’t wait for camp to start. My mom and I bought a trunk. We neatly packed summer clothes. We hid contraband Twizzlers and other sweets that wouldn’t melt. We packed stationary, stamps and addresses. Once we arrived and my cabin was assigned, I met my fellow campers and got the grand tour. Everything seemed a-ok. The first few days were filled with meeting new people, playing games, going to free swim and electives like arts & crafts. But starting around day six, I got tremendously homesick. It started as a small trickle at first. I missed my bed, my house, my mom. …

Margit’s Note: Are You My New Bunkmate?

For some, camp is first-time-away-from-home ecstasy; for others, it’s the ultimate bug-juice-induced torture. And this week — as former campers and parents of campers — we cover the gamut. I happened to experience both. The first camp I attended, around the age of 12, was a quaint Poconos Lutheran camp where we crafted rainbow God’s eyes and sang vaguely religious campfire songs. It was also the site of my first massive crush — a stone-cold-fox boys’ camp counselor who always wore a red flannel shirt and black sailor’s cap. Now, he was heaven. The hell: At 13, I found myself in a much fancier Chesapeake Bay camp featuring the nastiest bully I’ve ever encountered, albeit one in a monogrammed pink polo. She slept in the bunk below me and would nightly shove her feet repeatedly in the back of my flimsy bed and call me Fatso as I flew into the air. Thankfully I bonded with an adorable Swedish sailing instructor who spoke little English. “Ja, ja, ready about, hard alee!” Sigh. A camp crush can heal …

Real-Time BFF: A Blissful, 20-Something Bond

Best Friends Forever (Photo courtesy Shira Mizel) I met Emma during a pop raid at a Wisconsin girls camp. Camouflaged in black, we crept stealthily toward the vending machines. I don’t remember what movie line I whispered, but it prompted Emma to ask shyly, “Isn’t that from Garden State?” Instant connection. We talked for hours that night on a tiny twin bed. I admired her bottomless cheer, compassion, artistic skills, cheekbones, and spot-on impressions. We were attached at the hip for the next three summers. The staff referred to us as “Shira n’ Emma.” They commissioned our antics to write songs and emcee talent shows and didn’t question our schedules when we attended every activity together. Emma played with the worms as I fished. She laid on the tennis court as I practiced my backhand and whenever a ball hit her, she said, “thank you, may I have another” to no one in particular. In the arts and crafts building, I haphazardly slid beads onto string as Emma made intricate lanyards and stunning paintings. Saying …