For a few summers in the early 1960’s, my brother and I suffered the indignity of having to go to Day Camp.
Looking back on it, I can understand the ’Rents wanting us to be out from underfoot. Our father spent long days in the office, and our mother, if left to her own devices, would much rather be free to swat the dimpled ball around one of the courses at Bethpage State Park than to ride herd on a couple of obstreperous prepubescent boys.
And thus it was that we would be picked up by The Guy in the Van every morning, to be schlepped the ten miles east to Captree Day Camp.
Truth be told, Day Camp really wasn’t all that bad. The counselors were reasonable, by which I mean they were not complete assholes, and there were plenty of activities to keep us busy in a Day Campy sort of way.
We did Arts and Crafts. This included useless activities like the Obligatory Fashioning of Lanyards out of Braided Gimp, but there were other projects that I found fascinating. We learned how to make enamelware by creating a design on copper using colored glass powder, then melting it down in a white-hot kiln. [There’s something about the phrase “white-hot” anything that is irresistibly fascinating to young boys.] We learned how to make mosaic tile coasters, and it is there that I first became exposed to the Miracle of Grout. It’s knowledge that, to this day, could be turned to good purpose if I were to get off my lazy ass and redo the shower stall in our master bath.
We learned how to shoot. Okay, our weaponry consisted of mere CO2 pellet rifles shot from the prone position, but we learned about gun safety...and I was, surprisingly, a reasonably adept marksman. And there was archery, too. You developed a lot of respect for the medieval-era footsoldier when you realized just how difficult (and painful) shooting arrows could be.
We played baseball. Not wimpy-assed softball, but hardball, played in the hot, green fields of a Long Island summer.
I discovered by observation that if you ate a whole mess of spaghetti for lunch and then threw up, the spaghetti retained its original squiggly form. Horrifying, yet fascinating.
And I discovered the Elusive Puffball.
There is a kind of fungus that grows wild in the Long Island climate, a fungus that, when mature, consists of a little brown leathery bag about the size and shape of a golf ball. We would take great delight in plucking these from the earth and then running around squeezing them, which would cause them to emit a smoke-like puff of spore-dust. I have no idea why we found these little Wonders o’ Nature so entertaining, but I suspect it was because we were pre-Gameboy-Era kids.
It’s almost forty-five years later, and there are times I miss those Day Camp Days. Something to think about as we get ready to head off to a weekend at Camp Bloggy Drinkalot.