I was never a camper, happy or otherwise. No lanyards, or singalongs, or bonfires, or mosquito-plagued cabins with chums. The only “camp” experience I recall was day camp the summer after fourth grade in Ardsley, NY. The main takeaways from that were the lime-green-and-white polka dotted shorts I was so proud to wear (thankfully no photographic record exists), and the discovery that if you froze a can of Coke and put it in your brown bag, it would thaw by lunchtime.
Most summers after my Nana died (she had always treated us to time in Normandy Beach, NJ), my primary July/August memories involved excruciating boredom (they say it’s good for kids to be bored sometimes; I’m here to tell you: NO!!!!) I’d return to school in the fall able only to recite from memory the tabloid accounts of Liz Taylor’s 42nd remarriage to Richard Burton.
Nowadays, several friends are helping to make sure their grandkids have a wonderful summer (ultra-challenging with all the COVID limitations on our normal activities). In Georgia, Angèle is running “Camp Mémé,” complete with special T-shirts and a cool treehouse for her grands. In Seattle, Perrin and Pat are leading young Giles and Malcolm through “Granny and Grandpa Camp” (lucky for them, Grandpa is a marine biologist, so searching for sea creatures in tide pools is both fun and educational).
Looking back, I’m not sure what my parents could have brought to the table as camp counselors beyond advanced cigarette smoking techniques; perhaps it’s just as well they didn’t try.
As for Steve and me, we have Aiden and Peter for several days here at the Delaware shore, and we’re loving it. The boys and their parents have been down a lot in the past few weeks, but this is the only time we are the sole caregivers on duty, so that Mama and Baba can prepare a livestream piano-violin-flute concert from Oreland for their fans tonight.
So far, so good with “Camp Nana-Pa.” Thursday night was ice cream and storybooks and watching sunset from the porch. Then Pa organized a Friday morning adventure for just the three guys, hiking and exploring Cape Henlopen State Park. Afterward, late afternoon beach time and the Pixar movie “Cars” (which they’d never seen). Baths, dinner and the boys were in bed before 8; we weren’t far behind. As I tucked them in, Aiden said, “Nana, we love being with you and Pa.” I'm telling myself this was not inspired by the ridiculous amount of sugar we’ve allowed them to consume.
In this incredibly difficult time, it’s great to know that our little ones are surrounded with multi-generational love. Those who can’t interact face-to-face are making an extra effort with calls, notes and FaceTime. We recognize that, even if the kiddos aren’t fully aware, this is not the summer we would have wished for them (or anyone). And so we are doing our best to make a bit of magic.
Actually, we could all use some of that right now.