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Posts Tagged ‘summer camp’

How was your childhood?

In behavior, children, domestic life, family, parenting on April 19, 2013 at 4:04 am

By Caitlin Kelly

I loved this recent special issue of New York magazine focused on childhood in New York.

Barbara Walters’ dad ran nightclubs?

Chevy Chase got stabbed in the back by a mugger?

Matthew Broderick in Sweden to promote Ferris ...

Matthew Broderick in Sweden to promote Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew Broderick was robbed constantly?

The black and white photos are fantastic, and the memories, of New York and childhood, lovely.

I was born in Vancouver, and lived in London ages two to five, before moving to Toronto where I lived to the age of 30.

My childhood was a mixture of material comfort and emotional chaos. We lived, until my parents split up, in a large, beautiful house in a nice neighborhood. We had a huge backyard, a maid named Ada and I walked to school. But my parents were miserable and I used to hide behind the living room curtains as they shouted at one another. It was a relief when they divorced and my mother and I moved into an apartment in a downtown area much less charming.

I was at boarding school at eight, and summer camp all summer every year ages eight to 15. So I didn’t see that much of my parents. I was then an only child, so grew used to amusing myself with books, toys, art, sports.

I spent my school year awakened by bells: 6:55 wake-up; 7:05 walk around the block, regardless of weather; 7:25 breakfast. And so on. We wore plaid kilts and ties, in the Hunting Stewart tartan, and black oxfords and dark green knee socks. In summer, our camp uniform was yellow and blue, white for Sunday chapel. I spent most of my childhood surrounded by strangers — room-mates, cabin-mates, teachers, housemothers and counselors.

In retrospect, it was a distinctly odd way to grow up.

But it’s what I knew. I got a terrific education, made some wonderful friends at camp and developed my athletic skills. Camp was my happiest time and forever shaped my love of nature and outdoor adventure. I learned how to canoe, water-ski, swim, sail, ride horses. I collected badges and awards and prizes, at school and camp, for my talents, whether athletic or intellectual.

Every summer I would act in a musical, Flower Drum Song or Sound of Music or Hello Dolly!. I usually won the the lead, so knew from an early age I could win and hold an audience. I wrote songs and played them on my guitar, singing before the whole camp, an audience of 300 or so, strangely fearless.

I felt loved and safe at camp, while by Grade Nine I was always in some sort of trouble at school — my bed was messy, I talked too much in class, I sassed teachers and got into radio wars with room-mates. When my neatness scores (!) fell too low, I’d be confined to campus on weekends and had to memorize Bible  verses to atone. (“For God so loved the world…” John 3: 16, kids.)

We were only allowed to watch an hour or so of television on Sunday evenings, although we were taken to the ballet and the Royal Winter Fair to watch horse-jumping. Every Wednesday night, after filling out a permission slip, we could go out for dinner with a friend or relative — the lonely kids left behind were fed a comforting meal of fried chicken with cranberry sauce and corn.

Privacy was an unimaginable luxury when you always shared a room with four or six others. There was nowhere to shut a door and just be alone in silence, to exult or cry. I was sent to my room at school, as punishment, for laughing too loudly. We were constantly told to be “ladylike.” In both places, we ate our meals communally, at large tables, consuming whatever food was served to us whenever it was offered.

Many decades later, I’m still seeing the many ways this has shaped me, for better and for worse.

How was your childhood?

Summer Sounds

In beauty, culture, domestic life, family, life, music, urban life on July 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm
Glass of iced tea

Ice tea....aaaaaah! Image via Wikipedia

I listen to NPR every day — and they’re running a lovely series called Summer Sounds. The one I heard yesterday was “screen door slamming.” So true!

Others have included golf, a steel drum and firecrackers.

Some of mine include:

The clang-clang-clang of a metal halyard against a sailboat mast

The gluoup sound of a canoe paddle digging deeply into cool, dark lake water

The lap of water against stone at lakeside

The haunting call of a loon

The clink of ice cubes in a glass of ice tea or lemonade — or (oooh, yes please!) a Tanqueray and tonic

The crunch of bus wheels on gravel, the sound of arriving at summer camp one more time, eight weeks of joy ahead

The gentle murmur of voices on the patio in the dark

The low steady hum of the air conditioner

The whine of mosquitoes (and the slap of getting one!)

The sing-song tune of the Good Humor truck

The sizzle of food cooking on a grill

The flapping of flip-flops

The farting noise when you try to squirt out the tube’s last little bit of sunscreen

The roaring buzz of cicadas

The splash of someone diving into a pool

The roar of a motorboat engine

How about you?

When Ares Makes You Do It — Kids Act Out Greek Myths At Book Camp

In behavior, culture, education on July 17, 2010 at 11:00 am
Combat de Zeus contre Typhon

Image via Wikipedia

I love this story!

As an only child whose favorite book, at seven, was D’Aulaire’s exquisitely illustrated book of Greek myths, I find the idea of a whole new generation of kids geeking out over Hephaestus and Zeus and Hera and Aphrodite so cool.

From The New York Times:

The oracle sat with her back to the hill, a breeze riffling the ruby scarves tied to her folding camp chair.

One by one, the 12 boys approached. They stood straight as the oracle lowered her sunglasses and looked them over. Sorting through a pile of paper slips with burnt edges, the oracle, a middle-aged woman, selected one for each child.

“I will prophesize your quest,” she told Tom Leier, 9, before reciting a mysterious poem that would guide him for the week ahead.

That morning, the boys had been regular Brooklyn elementary school students at a summer camp in Prospect Park. But now each had been revealed to be a half-blood, with one mortal parent and one who was a god of Greek myth.

Children have always sought to act out elements of their favorite books, becoming part of the worlds that the works create. Now, organized role-playing literary camps, like the weeklong Camp Half-Blood in Brooklyn, are sprouting up around the nation.

Even though I don’t have kids, or even nieces or nephews, I think this is great. One of the trends that makes me despair over kids’ lives today is their attachment, literally, to technology. They don’t play with one another face to face. They don’t play outside. They don’t need to use their imaginations because so many buzzing things will do it for them.

The myths I read over and over as a child are as powerful as anything I’ve read since. I often wonder how the Fates are doing with my life — the one who spins, the one who measures and the one who cuts the thread of our lives. I loved the stories of Persephone and the harvest, of Hercules and of the Minotaur. Even then, perhaps, I knew there was another layer to these ancient tales and characters, that their struggles and quests might echo in my life as well. As they have.

I later read (and loved even more) the Norse myths — Loki is a hoot!

Is there a myth or a god that resonated for you?

Mosquitos, Black Flies, Leeches, Hunger — The Benefits of Summer Camp

In parenting on January 28, 2010 at 9:53 am
Campers and staff of Camp Becket of the Becket...

Image via Wikipedia

Need a break? Not you, your kids. Send’ em off to summer camp, says author Wendy Mogel:

Mogel has gained a loyal following as the consummate anti-hyper-parent since her 2001 book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. The book draws on the teachings of the Torah and the Talmud to encourage parents to back off, let kids make mistakes, endure bad moments and learn self-reliance.

The event this Sunday will be her first time speaking in Canada, but she has delivered her message to camp organizations across the United States.

“In an era when the default position is overprotection, over- indulgence and overscheduling … camp is a wildly potent antidote,” says Mogel.

She broke her leg riding bareback at camp one summer but stayed and learned to fish.

As Mogel wrote in a 2006 article in Camping Magazine: “Kids, at camp you will get all kinds of valuable gifts; you will get homesick, other campers will be mean to you, the food won’t be great, you’ll be cold and hot and hungry … I hope all of this will happen to you because otherwise you are deprived. Of life. Of its thorns and its roses.”

I grew up in a non-hot-house family and in a time when kids were actually allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, our young lives filled with boredom and empty hours — that we learned to fill with our imaginations or own activities.

I went off to summer camp, every summer all summer, from the age of eight to the age of 16. I loved it.

I attended three different camps, all in northern Ontario, and am still friends with a few of the girls I met there. I can think of few life-shaping, character-altering experiences more powerful than finding a sleep-away camp you love. I discovered a deep, powerful and abiding devotion to a life spent often outdoors; learned how physically strong and capable I am; learned that I could make new friends. I even learned, at 16, I had leadership skills when I was elected by fellow campers to a role that demanded planning, ideas, creativity and motivating dozens of girls my age and younger.

Every month, we’d put on a musical and I usually won the lead role — anyone want a chorus of “Just In Time”? I played my guitar and sang songs I’d written at our Sunday evening talent shows. My confidence speaking publicly is a direct result of stepping onto a stage year after year, building my skills and starting to trust them. Unlike boarding school, where the focus was on obedience and endless achievement, camp was a place to test new ideas, skills and muscles, to renew and deepen friendships, to learn to trust our counselors. We earned and won badges for our skills — J-stroke, jibing, canter — but the larger point was trying, not winning.

When you’re out on a week-long canoe trip, in the rain on an enormous lake with a headwind, what choice do you have? Whine, bitch, moan, give up? No. Paddle hard, belt out some great paddling songs, and get to the next campsite. Nature is becoming an abstraction for many kids now, spending 7.5 hours a day attached to media-providing devices.

Nature is powerful and beautiful — and can kill you. But not if you learn to read a map and compass, how to give CPR, how to do an Eskimo roll or shoulder a 60-pound canoe over a muddy mile-long portage. Camp can teach you that.

Loons, Lakes and Lily-Dippers: Lessons Learned at Camp

In culture, women on July 22, 2009 at 9:12 am

300px-wooden_canoe_sharbot_lake_ontario1I work every Tuesday night at The North Face, selling tents and sleeping bags and hiking shoes to people sometimes as passionate about the outdoors as I am.

Last night, it was a 12-year-old boy with a blond bowl haircut and his mom. The boy, just back from summer camp in New Hampshire, needed a backpack to replace the one he had shredded hiking 4,000-foot peaks. Total strangers, we chatted like old friends about camp — my memories more than 20 years old, his from last week. We had plenty to talk about: mice, bugs, bears, buying candy from the camp store twice a week, (and making sure it didn’t attract bears), how to use a signaling device when you’re lost.

You learn a lot at camp, as much about yourself as anything. I spent eight summers at sleep-away camp (a redundancy for many Canadians), at three in northern Ontario, beginning the summer I was eight. I went for eight weeks every year, trading boarding school and its bells and shared rooms and meals for a bunk bed, spiders and a fresh batch of kids.

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