Back in the summer of 1986, my older brother and I attended a sleep-away camp. He was twelve and going with a friend. I was only nine, but after going along on a reconnaissance mission earlier that year, I had decided I wanted to attend the camp too.
It was two weeks long, in some far off part of Connecticut (as far off as you can get in a state as small as Connecticut) and for some reason we would be joining the camp in the middle of the summer session.
It was my first time, and for reasons that will quickly become obvious, my last time, at sleep-away camp.
Not only do these letters chronicle my slow descent into madness, they show how I dragged my older brother down with me during my lonely, terrifying American summer.
Don’t worry. I survived, and even had a little fun.
This is the first one, in which I lay myself bare to my unfeeling parents. How they could resist such a strongly worded and emphatically capped and underlined plea is beyond me!
Thankfully, my brother was around for back up, even if it started out so half-hearted that much of his “supportive” letter home was about needing supplies and confidence about the Yankees anticipated late summer run.
When that didn’t work, he resorted to the unfallible ALL CAPS and ANGRY UNDERLINING and even added an amazing post script to further drive his point home.
My parents – who I presumably chatted with a few times during this trying ordeal – stayed strong, confident that I would get past my descent into the heart of darkness and ultimately appreciate camp. They were right, kind of, which I actually admitted in this last letter! No wonder my parents kept it.
Yes, I ended up having a good time, but it was a few more years before I was able to go away without being homesick. I’ve forgiven my parents despite how alarmed I am that they kept these letters for decades, presumably taking them out on Friday nights after I was asleep and laughing over a bottle of wine. (That’s what I would have done, at least.)
I hope you enjoyed my tale of misery. I’m still scarred from it!
Dad and Buried
P.S. My brother got the yo-yos and Big League Chew and probably even the socks he desperately wanted.
P.P.S Back then, I couldn’t understand why my parents weren’t coming to rescue me. As a parent myself, I now realize why they left me there, and what they were doing while we were away:
4 thoughts on “Bummer Camp”
This makes me really excited to send my kids to camp one day!
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I went to sleepaway camp for 4 summers and hated it every year. Despite the fact that one my longest lasting friendships came out of camp, I was mostly miserable and sent my parents daily, tear-stained letters telling them how much I missed them and the city (I grew up in NYC and went to camp in Maine—I wasn’t used to the dirt and grass). So I can relate!