I’m a big kid now. . . . Where are they, already?
Straddling that divide between adolescent bravado and childhood neediness, Supermen and Flappers prepared for a midsummer return to being sons and daughters for two days.
During the week before Parents’ Weekend, a circuit-riding Pine Bush barber arrived with scissors and combs, a rotary buffer polished bunkhouse floors, irons with thick fabric cords pressed white shirts and blouses, and extra energy went into rehearsals of almost-memorized musical production numbers. Somewhere in that busy time, a local photographer shot group and individual portraits for sale to the upcoming visitors.
By mid-Saturday, cars filled the ball-field, lipstick decorated cheeks, Brownies clicked and counselors told parents about their angels’ perfect behavior.
For their part, campers showed off arrow and BB holes in paper targets, colorful lanyards, copper pins with baked-enamel designs, plaster of Paris figurines, ceramic ashtrays (yes, kids made smoking accessories then) and Red Cross water safety certificates (“See, I’m an Intermediate already!”)
Fess up now: How many moms—or you—still have camp crafts in a closet, drawer, trunk, basement or attic?
Joyous reunions sometimes had to await agonizing driveway vigils when time seemed to stand still.
“I remember waiting and waiting and being the LAST one still waiting, sitting on the big rock at the end of the driveway into camp ’til the big Caddy with Mommy and Daddy appeared,” recalls Leslie (Cooper) Fox, who has raised three offspring of her own. “You can imagine that I felt sad to be the last kid still there. I guess there’s always one who has to be the last one but it’s not a fun moment. In my mind’s eye, I can still see myself sitting on the rock, waiting.”
I, too, remember one heart-wrenching morning that stretched almost to noon before a familiar maroon Plymouth came into view.
Excitement quickly replaced impatience as hand-holding tours, introductions of new friends and open bakery boxes sweetened the day. Confections, magazines, hugs and spending money went a long way toward erasing memories of any homesickness, mail gaps.
Families lingered over lawn picnics, Nok Hockey matches and chats with counselors that were a mix of parent-teacher conferences and end-of-cruise gratuity distributions. (It’s amusing to think how grateful counselors we were for $10 or $25.) Some campers played catch or tennis with a parent, others demonstrated craft-making methods or took a nature stroll.
The luckiest then clambered into the family sedan for dinner at a formica-table restaurant in town or the country-club setting of a big Ellenville hotel where some folks stayed, while most of us had supper at the usual spot—followed by a dazzling array of choices from the lavishly replenished candy box.
On Sunday came the stage production, a promotional message from camp directors Gerry and Ellen Bucky, plus more picture-snapping, cash-passing and teary embraces.
And then we reclaimed our quieter, slower-paced, less crowded campground—while recognizing what else was gone besides our parents.
Their visit bisected the summer. We were at the midpoint, halfway through a stretch of carefree days and nights that had seemed endless at first, and that now were slipping away. How we’d savor the August weeks ahead.