I never went to sleep-away camp, and to be honest I probably would have said no if my parents had offered to send me when I was the appropriate age. But in recent years I've harbored a kind of nostalgia for something I never actually experienced. (Is there a word for that?) Living in a cabin in the woods all summer, learning the finer points of short-sheeting a bed, paddling my own canoe - that's what I want to do.
Wouldn't summer camp for grown-ups be a huge success? I'm sure something like this must exist. Just as I'm sure the reality of camp would have included such perils as homesickness, bad food, too many rules, and being stuck in the woods with a bunch of capricious fellow preteenagers. The formula is really better suited to adults. All the same activities and opportunities for goofing off without the early-morning rising and forced participation in competitive sports.
I felt this way back when I was of camper age, too. I didn't want to take the risk of actually attending camp, but the summer that the T.V. movie "Poison Ivy" aired, I taped it and watched it again and again. I wasn't so interested in the stilted love story between camp counselor Michael J. Fox and camp nurse Nancy McKeon - it was the adventures of the campers themselves that transfixed me.
My own experience of camp was a Chicago city-run day camp, at which my best friend and myself would sit in the grass of the public park making daisy chains all day long while the more active children played baseball. Truly, this was the extent of the planned activities. If the game of the day were Red Rover, we might participate. (Less athletically demanding.) On the really hot days, the counselors would lead us all in long, wavering lines along the sidewalks of Lincoln Park to Chicago's North Avenue beach where we'd splash in the murky waters of Lake Michigan. Occasionally they'd bring the gang of us over to the movie theater at the nearby Chicago Historical Society to see odd, out-of-date movies like the original "Freaky Friday" and "The Thief of Baghdad."
To be honest, this lack of structure suited me just fine. I had previously attended a more rigorous day camp run by a local school - archery, lanyard-weaving, forced competitive sports - and I HATED it. (In fact, I ended up being a counselor at that same program years later and offered endless solace to the girl campers in my group who hated all the same sports and activities I'd suffered through at their age.) I may have enjoyed it more if there'd been a lake and canoes, but it's probably just as well I wasn't sent off to the great north woods with a sack lunch and a bag of clothes stitched with nametape. Nevertheless my summer camp memories lack the allure of Color Wars and midnight canoe trips to the boys camp across the lake.
These days, when summer rolls around, I find myself seeking out lakes fringed in evergreen and looking up places to go canoeing, and rental cabins with knotty-pine walls. We visited friends in Maine this weekend and swam in a pretty near perfect summer-camp-style lake, with cute yellow canoes going by every few minutes. We played a few games of Yahtzee, and cooled off with margaritas instead of bug juice. Summer camp for grown-ups. If a moose had wandered over to our picnic table, it would have been pretty near perfect.