July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Who can remember the days of summer camp? Apprehension for new campers, making new friends, roughing it, bug bites, writing letters home and, ultimately, a summer full of fun. As a mother sending five children to camp, I knew it was to my advantage to send them with clothing which could come back in worse shape than when they left (if at all). It was one duffle bag that we would bring when dropping them off, as most years, our kids went to camp in the Catskills when we were in Canada. (Yeah, Sternberg, Mogen Av and HASC.) Some requested books to bring along. There was no food, no snacks, no phone, and always a can of bug spray, and some stamps and stationery to write letters home.

Fast forward to 2024 and I see and hear what the “necessities’’ are for the average camper. Drawers are of the utmost importance! Cubbies of wood where clothes were placed in the past are now considered inadequate. I have seen the search in Amazing Savings for the proper drawer space. I have to admit I was certainly shocked when I heard of a camper who requested a small carpet in front of her bed so that upon rising her feet would not touch the floor (chas v’chalila). I watched a camper member of my family equipped with a brand-new pink neck pillow for the bus ride. (This year, for the first time, one of my daughters presented me with my very own neck pillow prior to my flight to Eretz Yisrael. I think the distance is slightly farther.)

Back in the day, camp blankets, pillows and linens were the oldest I had in the house, and they would be washed and recycled each year for the following year. Recently I heard that “cutesie” bed pillows and quilts are what is in. No one, when I posted pillows to give away, which I indicated would be perfect for camp or in a guestroom, seemed interested, except for one person. Nowadays, why bother with used when we can go and buy “cutesie?” The pièce de résis​tance which boggles my mind is that some camps have air conditioned bunks. I guess that rustic and roughing it have different connotations these days.

As a colleague mentioned while discussing this subject, eventually camps will be held in hotels so there will no longer be the “downer” of having to walk to the lake, the cheder ochel (dining room) or the pool (which will be in the hotel anyway), and kids will be able to plop themselves in front of their various electronic devices as long as they stay “out of the hair” of their counselors.

The time goes by more quickly than some wish and before you know it campers are returning home to, in many cases at least, a month before school begins. Then the panic starts as to how to fill their time. B”H for day camps, basketball camps, travel camps, arts and crafts facilities, cooking and baking programs, etc., which are all thriving as parents are faced with unstructured days and nights. Many working parents do not relish this time, as they cannot afford to take time off from their jobs to be with their kids. They need to save the time for winter break or Pesach, where they sign up for programs that have outstanding teen and kids programs in order to keep their offspring occupied as much as possible so they can rest and relax.

As a child, my family (my parents and my brother) spent many wonderful days and nights taking road trips. I have memories of visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, with pictures of my brother and I sticking our heads in the stocks. The times that we drove through South Carolina and Georgia and observed the horrendous shacks that were the homes of Black people, the signs on bathroom doors indicating which was for ladies and which was designated for maids. The excitement of taking the swan boat on the Charles River in Boston and visiting Cambridge and feeling so “grown up” among the myriad of students attending Harvard and MIT, and visiting the college bookstore was a special treat. Sitting and having ice cream together with laughs and jokes.

What great times we had as a family unit together. My father would always include us as much as possible in his business trips so we could observe many different types of people and cultures. How many families today take road trips together and find it exciting? We did not have iPads, phones or anything to keep us busy. We watched the signs as we passed by and carefully scrutinized license plates and wrote down the names of the states they represented. Would we ever find a vehicle with a car from Alaska, Hawaii or even New Mexico? Everyone was on the lookout. I do not think I knew what the word bored was. I did not feel as if I was missing anything.

I was so fortunate to have parents who relished the time we had together on these trips. The only downer for me was developing a distaste for art museums as my parents would visit every one within many miles of where we were headed. My father’s interest always piqued due to the fact that he sold and published art books and prints. I remember schlepping to the Guggenheim way before it was what it is today and their old building was not air conditioned. Oy, it was not pleasant. Ask my children if I have ever taken them to an art museum and I am sure the answer would be in the negative.

I know we are living in a different world. However, there are times when I truly believe that some of the charm we have lost from the way things used to be needs to be revisited. Taking the money one would spend on sneakers for their children (instead of Air Jordans try Keds), and if all of their friends would agree for one summer, think about how mindsets could be changed as to what is really necessary for camp. Perhaps next summer they will learn to use the same “cutesie” as this summer, and they can step on the floor with their Crocs instead of having a carpet in front of their bed!

Generations survived without these frivolities. How about putting them to the challenge?


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected]

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