Tag Archives: Overnight camp

If You Really Need To Get There

I am a huge advocate of summer overnight camps for children. Tech has been going since he was 9 years old and he recently hopped on the bus for a 1-month stint. Here is something I wrote when I was longing to go back to camp. In the name of research, I actually had to go and make the trip. It was fabulous.

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If you really need to get there, get on the New York State Thruway and drive pretty fast. Get off at exit #42. Go through the tollbooth. This may take a little while because there are only two lanes, and one is for E-Z Pass users only. In front of you, you will see a Mobil station. To the right, you will see a motel. A few years ago, it was called Gus & Nancy’s. I don’t know what it is called now. It doesn’t matter. The place looks exactly a it did in 1978.

Take a right onto Route 14S. Drive for a while. See Northrup Plumbing, Heating and Cooling. See the Rollerdrome, boasting a new blue awning. If it is summertime, see the yard sales brimming with glass.

See the sign that boasts Geneva is the “Lake Trout Capital of the World.” I used to laugh at this sign, but these days, I suppose it’s as good a designation as any other.

See the houses that sandwich the Sunoco Station that was charging $4.26 a gallon for gas on the day I last passed through. If it is hot, see folks sitting on their porches. And on chairs under trees. See the shirtless boys riding bikes in the road. See the babies in sagging diapers standing on the sidewalks.

If you haven’t been on Route 14 in a while, brace yourself. The old ice cream stand that used to be on the corner of North Street has been torn down. Kentucky Fried Chicken is gone, too. It’s okay. Keep going. Pass “Family Dollar” and a furniture store called Aaron’s. Remember Alice’s Restaurant? It used to be on the left, just before you’d cross over the railroad tracks? Alice is gone, but Nonna’s Trattoria is there, so the décor hasn’t changed much. There are still red, white and green flags flapping in the breeze.

A little further down the road and you are in the epicenter of Hobart & William Smith’s night-life. How do I know this? Because I am a graduate from William Smith. Friends joke that half of the reason I chose William Smith is because of its proximity. They are not wrong. I knew where I was, how close I was. How fast I could get there. Take a right. Any right. They’ll all get you to the right place.

If you are idling in front of the First Methodist Church at Main and Seneca, prepare to take a left. See the multi-colored row houses that flank the left side of the road. Good. Now look quickly to your right.

Pulteney Park, Geneva, NY

Pulteney Park, Geneva, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t look quickly you will miss her: the Lady of the Lake, kneeling in her fountain. If you get close enough to her, you will see that her nose is cracked.

How do I know this? I used to live in one of those faded green apartments behind her. In 1989, my address was 1 Park Place. If I opened my bedroom window and craned my neck, I could see the road.

The road that would take me there.

If I needed to get there.

Keep going. Pass the fraternity houses with their fat pillars, the Deltas and Betas and Gammas and all the other ancient Greek symbols.

See the benches on the left.

On a clear day, it is there that you will catch your first real patch of blue: Seneca Lake stretching out before you. I spent a lot of time on those benches. But in a car, things happen fast. The lake is a blur.

Keep going. Pass Geneva on the Lake on your left, promising waterfront lunches on the porch for $15.99. Pass the American Legion Hall, situated right in front of the historic Belhurst Castle. I ate at The Castle once, with someone I loved. A bat flew about the dining room as the waiters haplessly tried to catch it by throwing tablecloths over it.

See the Seneca Lake Country Club. See Geneva Rod and Gun. A little more blue, a place where the sea gulls cluster. See Kashong. Say it a few times aloud because it feels good, the way it holds in the back of the throat. Suddenly, there are wineries, stalks attached to wires training branches to go this way or that. There are the old wineries — Fox Run and Wiemer — which have been joined by Seneca Shore and Anthony Road and Prejean. The buildings are huge, a little industrial, and you can feel their newness. Just when it starts to feel uncomfortably new, pass Darryl’s Garage. Little Green — the camp truck — had lots of sleepovers there. But Little Green is gone too.

See the ‘T’ in the road. Mr. Twistee’s on your left. And that light. That flashing light. You have a choice. Only there is no choice.

You know where you are going.

You could go left to Dresden. You could go right to Penn Yan. Maybe stop at Lloyd’s for a free poster and some chicken wings. But you don’t.

You know how close you are.

If you are a die-hard, your heart, you’ll feel it. It pumps. It pumps.

If you wait to see the mailbox, you’ve almost passed Camp Road, that beautiful, awful, bumpy road. The road that separates real life from camp life. If your windows are open, close them. Because no matter how slowly you approach, your wheels will kick up dust that settles everywhere. And if you are lucky, that crazy, magical camp dust will surround you, envelope you, get inside you and make you fall so in love with a place that, upon leaving, you will weep for missing its dust.

See the bee boxes. See the Mennonite children running in the fields, the girls in their long blue dresses and thick black boots; the boys in their white shirts and suspenders. See the corn. Notice how short it is in June. Remember how tall it will be in August. Pause at the railroad tracks. (Everyone knows someone who knows someone who almost got hit by a train.) Turn down the music. Look to the left, to the right. Cross over to the camp side of the tracks. Pass Gypsy camp. Bear left. See the green fence and the slightly ominous sign that reads: “All Visitors Must Check In At The Office.”

Am I a visitor? Am I family?

My heart. It pumps. It pumps.

You can’t tell me I’m not home.

What do you think about the idea of sending your children to summer camp? Have you ever gone back as an adult to visit a summer camp that you loved? How did it feel? What did you remember?

(For more on why I think summer camp is fabulous read THIS and THIS.)

tweet me @rasjacobson

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Why Overnight Camp Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

This is the 1st in a three part series about why I send my child to summer camp.

photo by Jill Butin Neuman

It happens each summer. People ask about our plans, and when certain folks learn that our child spends several weeks each summer at overnight camp, I am met with looks of incredulity and sometimes horror.

More often than not, people gasp and say things like: “I could never do that,” as if to imply that I somehow force my son to pack his trunk and duffel and get out of our house. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if I didn’t let him go, he would consider that the biggest punishment – ever!

Sometimes I get a variation on the theme: “I would never do that.” This response is extra excellent as it is packed with a little judgment, which I really appreciate. This response implies that I am somehow harming my child, perhaps inviting trouble into his life because I won’t be there to oversee his every move 100% of the time. (Can you imagine?)

When people respond this way, I sometimes get a little snarky and say, “At least this summer he came home with nine fingers.” (Insert a dramatic pause.) “Last summer was a disaster.” I know they are imagining pedophiles lurking around the showers or picturing their own children drowning, their heads being held under water by rowdy unsupervised troublemakers.

These are their issues.

For me, overnight camp was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me, and I feel fortunate that my husband and I are able to pay this gift forward to our child. Here’s what overnight camp gave me and continues to give children who attend each year:

1. Continued Independence. Each August, sonny boy and his posse of buddies hop on the camp bus and return with a kind of “we-can-survive-without-our-parents” vibe. I once asked my son if anyone ever gets homesick. He shrugged, “Usually, our counselors keep us too busy to even think about being homesick. If it does happen, it is usually the new kids – but once they get into it and get comfortable with the routine, all that homesickness goes away,” then he added, “Plus, we take care of each other.”

2. Benefits of Communal Life. Living in a bunk with 8 or 9 “summer siblings” affords kids the opportunity to develop some amazing problem solving skills.

If there is an argument, instead of a parent swooping in to the rescue, the boys generally have to work it out by themselves.

That means using their mouths to directly communicate their feelings. Sometimes they aren’t so great at expressing the subtle nuances of their emotions, but – again – they have each other to lean on. If things ever escalate, they have counselors and Unit Heads to help them.

There are other benefits of living in a large group. The boys learn to respect each other’s property, tolerate each other’s quirks, and appreciate each other’s boundaries. Everyone sees each other at their best and their worst selves. Summer camp goes a long way towards undoing that horrible “entitled” attitude. The spoiled girl quickly learns when her peers have had enough of her whining. Kids are patient to a point, but when an entire bunk is angry at you, it is time to take a look in the mirror. Campers quickly learn that despite the fact that a person cannot always get what he wants, everything usually turns out okay in the end.

3. Time Away from Technology. Okay, so when I was young, there was less technology, but I still missed Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and General Hospital. These days, chances are that your children know how to do things on your computer and cell phone that you had no idea could be done. During the school year, older kids are addicted to their social networks (Facebook and MySpace), their email accounts, their Apps, the Internet, and IMing. They are used to the constant buzz-ping of each new text message as it arrives. Being unplugged from most technology allows kids to connect with each other, a valuable skill that seems to be getting lost a bit these days. My son reminds me, “We’re not totally cut off. We can have iPods (there is no Wi-Fi access), so if someone needs some alone time, he can just pop in the ear buds.” But staff members have told me that after a few days, many kids begin to prefer people to gadgets, and rather than tune out, they start to look for other campers to “hang out with.”

4. Connection to Nature. While our family is fortunate to live in an area with plenty of access to great parks, during the school year, many children just do not have a lot of spare time to go outside and play. My son says, “At camp, we are kind of forced to appreciate nature. It’s easy to forget, but once you start walking around, you can’t help but remember.” Camp Seneca Lake has over 200 acres to explore. Trails to blaze. There are squirrels, field mice, lots of ants and millipedes; there are raccoons and skunks and deer. There is a beautiful lake with a beach that consists of zillions of flat shale rocks, perfect for skipping. What more could a kid want?

5. Opportunity to Try New Things. I like to think of CSL as a “liberal arts” camp.

Unlike sports camps where kids learn the skills necessary to specialize in one venue, at CSL kids have the opportunity to try new things simply because they have access to so many opportunities they may not have at home.

The “non-jock” can try floor hockey or excel at Ga-ga, a weird game I’ve never seen played outside of summer camp. There are plays in which kids can perform; an art barn where children can make jewelry, throw on the potter’s wheel, batik, make candles, draw, paint, make just about anything. (A far cry from boondoggle – although they have plenty of that, too.) At Athletics, they can practice archery, basketball, tetherball, softball, tennis, ping-pong – and any other land sport you can think of. The waterfront offers canoeing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, sailing, banana boating — even opportunities to swim-the-lake! Picky eaters might even try something new because the kids work up a real appetite trying all these incredible activities.

There is more to say, and I will, but I would also love to hear from you.

Would you allow your child to attend overnight camp for an extended period of time? Why or why not?