Summer Sleep Away



Parents eagerly await their camp's visiting day.  From the moment the kids are shipped off, the parents are already beginning the scavenger hunt for candy and comic books and candy and baseball cards and candy and batteries and oh yeah, candy.  The big day arrives, shopping bags full of snacks and candies are packed into the car and driven three hours upstate.  At Camp X for example, five hundred campers are greeted by around one thousand parents who are delivering roughly two thousand bags filled with approximately 40,000 different snacks and candies. That's just Camp X.  What about the other 2,500 camps or so nationwide?  Are you getting the idea? Do you have your calculator out?


The parents spend the day, kisses and hugs all around and then they leave. Dinner is a joke that night because the belly ache parties are scheduled.  The kids rush back to their bunks and go to town on their food.  Twix are traded for Kit Kats and Twizzlers fly across the room in exchange for Twinkies.  It's raining Skittles and M&M's and Snickers and Milky Ways and Three Musketeers.  Kids are stepping on gummy bears and Oreo's and Pop Tarts and Chips Ahoy and pretzels and potato chips.  The scene is nothing short of an explosion at the Willy Wonka factory. It is an all-you-can-eat buffet of junk food.  But it is over that night and whatever is not consumed is trashed and carted away.  Far away to the garbage cages behind the kitchen where the raccoons cannot get to.    


It is one day, one night, but visiting day is one heck of a boost to the stocks of companies like Hershey's and Frito-Lays and M&M/Mars.  Camp Visiting Day is a nationally recognized holiday affectionately referred to as Candy Day.


With summer camp fast approaching, we have taken out the trunks and begun going through the checklist the camp sends us each year. 12 pairs of underwear, 8 pairs of shorts, 5 bathing suits and so on. Each of my boys takes a copy of the list and starts lining up his clothes, sports equipment, sleeping bag and all the other stuff on the list. The clothes are all marked up with their names or initials and then one by one I help them neatly fold up their belongings and pack the trunk with the utmost of care. The trunks are picked up a few days later and all that stuff starts to make its way upstate and eventually find its way beside their bed in their bunk.

But that’s where the journey only begins. The stuff will be unpacked and haphazardly jammed into a cubby that only holds a tenth of all the stuff. Over the span of the next eight weeks at sleep-away camp, much of the sports equipment will be lost, the clothes will either disappear or be destroyed in the camp’s infamous laundry service and eventually the once tiny cubby will seem spacious. And into that cubby will go the survivors of the summer. The sole pair of shorts, the one sock without its matching partner, the remaining underwear whose rightful owner no one can ascertain. And at the end of camp when that trunk is filled with what’s left of the stuff in whatever condition it’s in, it will bear no resemblance to the neatly packed trunk with all the nice clothes and new soccer cleats and leather baseball mitt and the new tennis raquet that was packed away two months earlier with such care. The trunk that comes home carries the injured, the stained, the ripped and the maimed. I open the trunks to find the broken lacrosse stick, the roller blade with the missing wheels, the sleeping bag with the burn holes, the canteen with the black mold inside and the clothes that have survived the war and have changed color, shape and size.

We take the trunk but we do not unpack it. We simply take out its contents and stuff them into giant heavy duty black garbage bags and take them out to the curb. Then its off to do our school shopping for new STUFF.

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    Ofer Aronskind grew up in a camping family. The Aronskinds operated summer camps in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts for over 15 years. The adventures and anecdotes in this book, although fictionalized, are his boyhood memories. He now lives with his three sons in the suburbs of New Jersey. Ofer Aronskind is the author of “Summer Sleep Away” and “That Same Summer”, and  “Escape From Sunday School”.


    June 2009


    Preparing For Camp
    Sleepaway Camp
    Summer Camp

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