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Pay no attention to those letters from summer camp

July 7, 2019

“Hello Muddah; Hello Faddah
I am back at Camp Granada
And I’m writing you this letter
Just to say my compound fracture’s getting better.”

Ah, yes, those great letters from camp. And who can forget Allan Sherman’s lyrics to “Camp Granada”? Pretty soon those camp buses will roll into town, taking the young ones to such metropolitan places as Back-stomping, Maine and Gotcha, New Hampshire.  I’m not sure what goes on in that Northeast corridor, but all the overnight camps seem to be located there.

It’s always a scary proposition for parents. What will happen if you are not there to watch over them? On the one hand, you want your child to experience all that Mother Nature provides, yet not quite on a par with the Army’s slogan, “Be all you can be.”  

Most first-time, let’s-send-the-kids-to-camp parents picture their delicate child at the edge of the woods in a shawl singing, “Nearer My God to Thee.” And that’s only a few hours after the bus pulls out. Not so for the legacy parent, though, or at least the ones who are lucky enough that the camp allows them back into the canoe. Experienced camper parents have already booked themselves on a trip to the Caribbean. 

“No one here knows where my trunk is, 
and my bunk is where the skunk is
And this year the food’s improving
All the little black things in it are not moving.”

This is the kind of note that sends parents right to the phone, which never works out there in the boondocks, to check on the little ones. These places are lucky to have a clothesline, let alone a telephone pole.  But most counselors are very reassuring, even though they haven’t found their own cabin yet, have no idea what your child looks like and can’t recall the names of their own parents. Still, they try hard. 

Actually, packing up those clothes is a major task. Names have to be inscribed on all underwear. For some reason, underthings disappear faster than you can pull the plug on a burning piece of toast. Gathering all those clothes is similar to someone deploying for a tour of duty in the Arabian Peninsula. You have enough stuff for a hurricane, tsunami and tidal wave all rolled into one, but can’t find a pair of shorts. The amazing thing is that trunk ever arrives at camp, since 90 percent of the time it ends up across the border in Canada at a yard sale.

The best way to pack for a child at camp is to take the hamper and just dump it into the trunk or a couple of duffel bags. This way the child is reassured just from the smell, much like a bloodhound on the trail. Plus, you know this mess will arrive safely at the camp. Sometimes just watering it down adds to the guarantee.

We know that communication is the biggest headache of all, though. No technology is allowed on the premises, since the idea is to be one with nature. Well, that and the fact that these camps all have names that no one can pronounce and are so long they can’t be written on a standard-size envelope. So it’s up to the little campers to keep those letters coming. This is easily accomplished by the counselors’ adult guidance and encouragement, such as withholding food.

“All the counselors hate the waiters,
And the lake has alligators,
And the head coach wants no sissies,
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses.”

You can forget about your child learning to tie knots and make keychains. They will bring lots of mementos home from camp, stuff like a red rash that looks like an interstate map, and a whole collection of flatulence jokes.

Don’t let letters like this concern you, though, they’re pretty standard:

“Now I don’t want this should scare ya
But my bunkmate has malaria
You remember Jeffrey Hardy
They’re about to organize a searching party.”

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.