Welcome to February! I have many reasons to like this month. This year, I’m not sick of the weather – yet. Usually, I take a few days of vacation in February, whether it’s a quick getaway to warmer weather or an escape to a spot with welcome snow for sports and no pressure to shovel. And in February, I also find myself able to focus on brighter times ahead because we publish Jewish Rhode Island’s annual camp issue.
When we start to plan this issue, we just can’t help but smile. We sort through photos of happy children playing in the water and engaging in camp activities on green grass under blue skies. It looks so warm and bright in those photos that it’s the perfect antidote to winter’s gray skies. Even the indoor camp activities look like summer to me!
This year, we traveled down memory lane when we asked people around our offices about their camp experiences (read about them, starting on page 18).
All this got me thinking about my years at camp.
Like many of you, I come from a camp family. My parents went to camp, as did my siblings and I. We did not all go to the same camp, or even the same type of camp. But each summer there was some kind of extended activity away from home.
And while I often protested about spending eight weeks at an overnight camp in Maine while my friends stayed home and spent lazy days at the local swim club, I think camp was the right place for me. Camp is the place where I got my start in journalism, editing the camp newspaper with several other girls.
Two of us graduated from camp to a summer university journalism program – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Like everyone we asked, I still have some vivid memories of camp all these years later. Here are a few:
Boston. A group of girls flew together into Boston, a place I’d never been, followed by a long bus ride to Maine. Yes, we were met at the airport by counselors. No, I do not believe we were accompanied by an adult on the plane. But there was a bag lunch to look forward to on the bus, including Hood milk. We didn’t have that brand at home. Years later, here I am with Hood milk once again.
Hoodsies. Somehow, I remember those traditional camp favorites. According to Hood.com, those little cups of chocolate and vanilla ice cream have been around since 1947.
Sports. I’m not much of an athlete, but everyone participated in sports at camp. This is where I learned to play tennis – which I still sometimes play, albeit not very well. Also, swimming was required. There’s nothing like an early morning swim in a freezing lake in Maine! I also remember the leeches that lived in the lake – probably the reason I’m not a big swimmer to this day.
Songs. There were many. Somewhere, I still have the songbook.
Traditions. Again, many, including campfires where you had to dress properly and color teams. I was on the gray team.
Uniforms. Yes, that’s right. Saddle shoes and wool shorts and blazers. A trunk was sent every summer. Nobody would believe that today. But it made getting dressed each morning very easy, and there wasn’t an ounce of competition in the outfit category.
Trips. We took a lot of them, to places in Maine and New Hampshire that I’ve since revisited as an adult. As we got older, the trips got better: hikes that I’d never do again since I developed asthma as I got older, and lots of ice cream on the way back to camp.
Arts and crafts. I still have etchings and photos from camp, tucked away in a box. I learned to develop photographs at camp.
These are just a few of my favorite memories.
On Facebook, I’ve connected with a number of the “girls” I spent summers with. We went to camp in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At the time, few camps were co-ed. My camp, which dates to the early 1900s, is still in business and still all-girls. They hold adult reunions every so often.
Someday I will go back, but for now, I will enjoy the memories and smile when I see campers in our hallway at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center. Yes, they are rambunctious and excited. But they are making memories every day.