Friday, March 27, 2009
I went to camp for the first time the summer after fourth grade. It remains a magical highlight of my summertime memories--a week of living in a cabin with a bunch of other girls. We swam, canoed and rowed in the lake. We learned useful skills like how to stay afloat beneath a capsized canoe. We studied oil painting and drama. We perpetually smelled like OFF and campfire smoke.
I spent my week of camp at Lake Ellen, and I fondly recall the good food served up in the cafeteria--the buildings looked just like the ones in the original Parent Trap movie--all pine floors and beamed ceilings. A little camp store sold t-shirts and candy bars where each camper could blow the $20 their parents had packed in their suitcases. I slept in a bunk, shared my cabin with 7 other girls and a teenaged counselor.
According to my mother, my first nights there were terrible--I sent a letter home begging her to pick me up. In the olden days before text messages and cell phones, that letter mailed via the U.S. Postal Service didn't reach her until the day before they were supposed to pick me up. It couldn't have been that bad, they figured (correctly) and when they did arrive on the assigned date to retrieve me, I was tanned and happy. Camp was good.
Idyllic memories indeed. I listened to Mary Lou Retton win a gold medal at the summer Olympics on a radio through a window screen at camp. I remember packing my suitcase, each neatly folded outfit laid in with anticipation of a nature hike or a skit I'd participate in while at camp. I returned home with that same suitcase--all the clothes as neatly packed as when I'd left because I'd spent the entire week in my swimsuit. I still have a rock I painted with a scene of pine trees and mountains. I still recall the songs we sang at night around the fire. My family eats caramel sticky buns* on special occasions--the recipe? From camp. Friendships, homesickness, gossip, adventure--under the blue mosquito-infested skies of Michigan.
When I started high school my family moved to a house on a lake across from a summer camp for wealthy Jewish boys from Chicago. I'm not certain that it was actually called that, but all summer they overran their side of the lake with kayaks and waterskis. Some of those boys spent their entire summer break at that camp--they had horses to ride, an archery range and even a computer lab (it was the mid 1980's so it must have been a pretty nice camp). They'd take trips into town and watch movies at our local one-screen theater--I'm sure it was quaint and exciting for city boys. While I'd outgrown summer camp by then, I was filled with nostalgia whenever I thought about those boys going through their own camp rituals and traditions every summer.
(Holy crap! It's still there! But it's co-ed now, I guess.)
Mr. T is begging to go to camp this summer--I've paid the deposit for his spot at a camp in northern Wisconsin with anticipation that he'll love it as much as I did. I didn't know about the Spy/Secret Agent Camp until I saw this website. Shhh! Don't tell him! I'll never hear the end of it!
Reader, were you a camper? Will you send your kids away for a week or two this summer?
* Bundt Caramel Rolls from Lake Ellen
In well-greased 12" Bundt pan put 24 (or fewer) frozen bread rolls. Sprinkle on box of regular (not instant) butterscotch pudding mix over rolls. Melt 1/4 C butter or margarine and mix with 1/2 C brown sugar and 3/4 t cinnamon. Pour over rolls. Let stand overnight. Bake @ 350 for 40 minutes. Turn out of Bundt pan onto serving plate right away.