04 June 2005


Still more evidence of my latent Jewishness: My childhood obsession with summer camp.

Oh, how I longed for the quintessential summer camp experience, as gleaned from pre-pubescent books such as Yours, 'Til Niagara Falls, Abby and Darci in Cabin 13. Summer camp ostensibly offered the chance to find bestest friends, kiss a boy and smear condiments all over the nemesis cabin. For me, summer camp tales eclipsed even boarding school stories within my preferred genre of teen chick lit.

As a kid, I never did go to summer camp, proper. I attended a few short-term day camps of varying degrees of nerdiness—drama, biotechnology and yearbook. My social aspirations were not realized at these programs, either; I remained a shy girl on the periphery. Surely, summer sleep-away camp would have been different.

Some kids (and adults) extol the summer camp experience. It is this incomparable experience. My friend's daughter feels this way; camp is where she met her closet friends and had her best experiences. Even at age 16, she counts down the days until she goes again—this year to be a counselor-in-training.

People who love camp say that non-camp people simply don't understand what's so amazing about camp. So says Ira Glass of This American Life. In the episode Notes from Camp they attempt to "bridge the gap of misunderstanding." (Go to the site and take a listen; it's episode 109.)

I feel like I'm really just a camp person who never went to camp. I did catch a glimpse. For a week one summer I was a counselor at a Christian sports camp (oh the ironies!) for 9 and 10 year olds. It was a truly wonderful experience, in which I got to fulfill my childhood camp fantasies of pulling pranks. We stole all the mattresses from a cabin and shaving creamed another. We also sang annoying camp songs that stick with me still. (A yodeler went yodeling on a mountain top high...) The kids loved camp, too; half of them bawled to have to leave at the end of the week.

I guess I'll still look back, wistful for my own youth summer camp memories, but perhaps it's better to imagine it having been wonderful. Chances are, I would have gotten incredibly homesick and/or my expectations would have never been met. I can feed the dreams of the past with Hollywood's illusions—the summer camp flicks it produced.

Next time on A Lover's Quarrel with the World... summer camp movie reviews!

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