Thursday, June 10, 2010
What Dr. Alice Did On Her Summer Vacation, and Vacations Past
Yep, I'm back from my trip. I went to Brighton to visit my good friend Jess (hi, Jess!) and returned sooner than planned due to a few reasons. I got bronchitis; Jess got sick, too; I decided I did not want to go on to Paris as I had originally planned. I switched flights and came scooting back to Southern California like nobody's business.
So the rest of my vacation will be spent here, and I am fine with that. My first homecoming challenge came via email from my sister; my oldest niece has gone to sleepaway summer camp for the first time. I was invited to send a letter and perhaps a care package to said niece. Back in the last millennium when I went to camp, care packages were not common things; we got letters and the occasional newspaper clipping/comic strip and that was the end of it. But now, care packages are apparently so common that they are sold online - that is just WRONG! What's the point of a care package that has not been lovingly put together by hand (she ranted pointlessly)?
Food is verboten in camp care packages, that is the other thing. I can understand this as otherwise kids might be living on chocolate, popcorn and potato chips for a week. Can't have that. When I went to summer camp, I will never forget two standout food-associated moments. The first was the morning we had corn fritters and maple syrup for breakfast (still one of the highlights of my life). The second was the night we had "Swiss steak" for dinner, smothered in tomato sauce. I found it rather dry and crumbly but forged on. Suddenly my dining companions began to gag and scream, "This is LIVER! I can't eat it!" (Since my mother cannot stand/will not eat liver, I had never had it.) I ate it, but I still can't say whether or not I like liver since all I could taste was the tomato sauce.
But back to the care package. I went to my trusty local supermarket with a big toy/personal care section and hunted around. I found hand sanitizer in a "crisp apple" scent, hair elastics and glittery bobby pins, waterproof sunblock and a note pad and pens. All of this I have packaged up and sent off. I feel so... parental.
With the package I sent my niece a letter with my recollections of summer camp from 35 years ago. Some things have dated. For instance, back then we drank water right out of a mountain stream without treating it (this was in a remote part of the Rocky Mountains). Thanks to the ubiquitous Giardia, such a thing is no longer possible unless you want to have a nasty case of diarrhea. But I have to say it was the most delicious water I have ever tasted.
We also camped out next to the stream one night, and it was the coldest night of my life. But it was worth it... the stars were beautiful. I stared overhead at a fuzzy part of the sky and finally realized I was looking at the Milky Way. Part of a galaxy. As a suburban kid I was stunned. Sadly, light pollution is so common that I have only seen the Milky Way three times in my life (the third time was last year). But that was the first time, and it really blew my mind. Early the next morning I opened my eyes to see a pair of deer in the meadow perhaps fifty yards away. Again, for me this was an amazing sight.
Camp activities included archery and riflery. Yes. I, a twelve-year-old, shot bows and arrows and a .22-caliber rifle. And I had a lot of fun, and there were kids younger than me shooting rifles too. Safety regulations were strictly followed and nobody got hurt. Sadly, I think any camp allowing riflery now would be viewed as a Waco cult waiting to happen. We were also allowed to dig around in a 60 to 70 year old trash dump and found neat rusted junk and china fragments dating from the early 1900's (or so we hoped).
We also had crafts which mostly involved sprinkling enamel powder on copper pieces and baking them in a kiln, or building rockets from Estes kits and setting them off. Or of course the inevitable leather embossing. There was an AM radio in the background playing a loop of Top 40 hits. I think the "Theme from S.W.A.T." has been burned into my memory as well as "The Night Chicago Died." (I realize I am completely dating myself by mentioning these songs.) But iPods, CD players or even Walkmans were completely unheard of. And there was no television available, let alone DVD or VHS players.
Camp memories... on the one hand I thought posting this would be indulgent rambling. On the other hand writing this made me realize how much things have changed since I was a kid. Reader, any thoughts/memories you would like to contribute?
I don't remember much except for horseback riding and making these really ugly potholders on a loom type thing, but then I only went to day camp.