As the baby of three, I grew up watching my older brother and sister hop on the big yellow bus for day camp almost every summer morning, right outside our front gate. Mom would blow them a kiss and yell with a cheerful smile, “Watch out for the bees!”, while I waved excitedly and smushed my nose against the window.
Mistaking my enthusiasm for jealousy, my mom reassured me that I too would be going to camp when I was old enough. I smiled and shook my head. Not a chance.
Instinctively, I knew that big yellow bus held no promise of anything good for me. I heard stories of forced sing-a-longs (how many times can you sing “This Land is Your Land?”), swimming in an ice cold heavily chlorinated pool (with a swim cap no less, as if!), horseback riding, bees, dirt and dust. Yet, each morning my brother and sister ran out the front door, going back for more. The sweet fools.
Why would I trade the comforts of home, cozy time with mom, and the chance to eat my cheese sandwich (crustless triangles of course) without having to swat away bees? Why go to camp when I could happily follow my mom around all day (marketing and laundry were my favorites) or be daddy’s little “assistant” at work? I didn’t need to go to camp to have fun.
The lazy summer days and weekends were glorious. I played in the backyard with my siblings, cousins and neighborhood friends. Our favorite game was “Camp-Getaway.” My sister and I took turns with our BFF from next door pretending we were bossy camp counselors or bunk mates at a sleep-away camp. There would always be the one kid that cried and wanted to go home whom we had to cheer up.
Boom boom! Ain’t it great to be crazy…?
We made an exciting schedule of activities. We built forts, competed in dance-a-thons, drenched each other in balloon fights, swam and sang “Boom Boom Ain’t It Great To Be Crazy”, at the top of our lungs. We’d pretend to sleep on chaise lounges in the back yard until about 9 PM then go inside and make Smores over the kitchen stove and eat Oreo slushies. Followed by an hour of a Mad Libs marathon. Eventually fatigue would set in and the sleeping bags would come out. There was no fighting for the best bunk. There was plenty of room on the living room floor.
My parents did make me try day camp, once. They promised that if I went for two weeks and still didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to go again. I agreed, as long as I didn’t have to get on the yellow bus. So my mom drove me somewhere high in the hills with lots of tress and bees. I had my sack lunch, bathing suit, cap and towel, and was ready to go. “Just try not to get burned,” she said. And there was always some kid I was warned to stay away from who was trouble. I barely lasted the week. What can I say, I’m a homebody.
The following summer, my parents knew better than to send me to camp. They sent me to summer school instead. After six weeks of Folk Dancing (what were they thinking?) and Science Exploration, I was dreaming about Mad Libs, dance-a-thons, balloon fights, Mom, and wishing I were home.
Fast-forward thirty years later. I have kids of my own, and like a lot of parents, I put a nice spin on my camp experience (did this with Sunday school too). But somehow, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. They hated camp too. For this family, home is where it’s at.
Were you a happy camper or a happy homebody like me? Did your kids turn out the same way?