We were kind of astounded when we heard that kids today are bringing drawers and chairs and lamps and who knows what else to make their camping experience more comfortable. Doesn’t camp mean rustic? We remember packing a large duffel bag filled with clothing to which Nina had the annoying task of ironing on name labels, and that was it. Recently we have seen several pictures of suitcases filled with snacks arranged in orderly columns that it seemed to us would take about a year to finish. We think we remember that when our son Akiva went to Magen Av we were not allowed to send any food items with him nor were we allowed to send “care” packages. It did make sense to us, as there were for sure some kids who would not receive packages. Yes, there was a canteen, but there were no individual accounts awaiting the arrival of the camper. You gave your child $10 and that would suffice until visiting day, when you would give them a few more dollars.
Further, the electronics that accompany each camper are probably far more sophisticated than anyone over the age of 50 could even understand. Aren’t we sending our children away to absorb the country air, and participate in friendly activities including sports, arts and crafts, drama and a myriad of other things? Rumor has it that today camps have to take trips in order to hold the attention of their campers. Florida is probably much too common for most. It has to be something really different and special. What happened to trying to keep the bunks bug-free by giving each camper some bug spray? What happened to lights-out, which meant no lights on? What happened to enduring camp food without any supplement packages of challahs from Zadie’s or Zomick’s? As impressive as it is that camps are going out of their way to hire nutritionists and dieticians to ensure that camp food is healthy and appealing, parents still feel the need to supplement.
Camp used to be the opportunity to send your children’s oldest clothing and shoes since you knew that it would return from camp needing immediate fumigation and probably disposal. We remember opening up the duffel bags on our back porch and working on getting the mud and sand off the clothing before it entered our house. Today there are so many “requirements” in our children’s minds of what they definitely need for their four- six- or eight-week sojourn that Target is blessing the Jewish camps each year as well as any store whose brands are “in” that particular year.
As crazy as it all seems to us, we acknowledge that nothing stays the same. We cannot imagine what camping will be like in 20 years. Wouldn’t it be a panic if the quaint idea of sleeping in tents would be suggested? Perhaps there will be a resurgence of a canteen strung across a camper’s shoulder, a very simplified way to carry a water bottle—the most obvious change being that the water would be poured from the tap. Another change: campers arriving with enough water bottles to sate their entire bunk for the entire summer. Wow—that is a lot of plastic bottles.
So far we have not heard of families sending up a cleaning person to spruce up their child’s bunk every week, but no doubt it has already occurred or will happen in the future.
Do kids still catch tadpoles and watch fireflies? Are they fascinated by a shooting star skydiving through the sky? We hope so. For us, the beauty of camp is the simplicity of being able to give up the day-to-day turmoil of regular life and just appreciate the very slow pace of the camping scene.
Have fun, parents: your vacation has begun even though you might still have little ones at home. Time goes by so quickly. Take advantage of getting reacquainted with each other. Before we all know it they will be displaying school supplies in all the stores. We always found that so depressing when it is done beginning mid July. Enjoy the moment.
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick