April 12, 2016

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bug Juice: A Tale of Summer Camp

For  you, summer may be about fun, sun and happy family vacations. For me, it is about chauffeuring my children all over central Maryland in an attempt to momentarily unplug them.

I was bemoaning this fact to my friend, poet Dennis Kirschbaum. He had one word of advice: Camp.

Dennis -- here is the problem with that idea. I hated camp. I hated being away from home. I hated enforced "fun." I even hated bug juice. (You really want the recipe?)

My father, who grew up in the Bronx, has beyond-fond memories of Boy Scout Camp in the woods of downstate New York, which he attended well into his teens. Therefore, Dad was super excited when Mr. Skip, owner and director of a Catskills summer camp for Jewish children, spent an evening in our family living room, showing off slides of said children sailing, swimming, doing crafts.

Before you could say, "gefilte fish," I was being measured for a green (shorts) and white (tees) camp uniform, the trunk was packed, and I was shipped off.

Camp portrait, 1982, doctored by Julia.
(I am 13 in this photo. Julia is 13 now. She says, "You look nothing like me.")

There were several problems with this set up:
  • I was ten years old and had never been away from home. A night or two, fine. A week, sure. Camp was eight weeks.
  • While my father was Jewish and my English mother had converted to Judaism before I was born, our family was interfaith. That balance of religions and cultures worked well for me at home. At camp, it made me different.
  • I am an introvert. I spent a good amount of those eight weeks with my nose in a book.
The first year was basically me being homesick. I remember one of the first meals we had in the dining hall. It was my introduction to bug juice. Mom had taught me to use a knife and fork Continental style. Oh, boy. Did that catch the eye of the teenage counselors. Eyebrows up, everyone!

The second  year was a little better. I made two friends who I stayed in touch with over the school year.

The third year, my bunk-mates decided that they hated one of our counselors and made her life miserable. Ugh. My best friend that year, Jackie, said, "I am not coming back." This was a revelation. You mean, I can tell my parents I don't like camp?! Wow. I seriously had no clue.

Of course, there are some positive memories about camp. There were some great girls among all the Melissas. (No offense, nice Melissas. This just happened to be the name of several mean girls in my age group.) I chalk all the hard feelings up to a bad fit.

I did learn to look forward to bug juice, which is like watered down punch. I developed a sore throat and a taste for Cepacol. Crafts were fun. In my last year, I was goalie for our travel soccer team and that was pretty awesome.

And, I got to be in the camp musical. One year, it was Annie. Another year, it was Oliver! I never had a big part. There were girls at my camp who lived in Manhattan, took formal voice lessons, and were trying out for Broadway. Seriously.

In Oliver!, I was the strawberry seller in the "Who Will Buy" scene.

And on a rainy day, we got to watch the movie version of Oliver! (and the movie Hair, but that is another, life-changing, story).

One of the most famous scenes in Oliver! is "Food, Glorious Food."

While we're in the mood, here are the last of the Northfield third grade's food poems.

Jade T.

Marble Cake

I wake up. Is it my birthday?
It is! I rush down stairs
To see my presents.
I see my breakfast is ready!
Marble Cake that is gooey.
I sit down and start to eat the cake
With my family. It is delicious!
Chocolate and vanilla every year.
I never get tired of it
because I love it so much.
Some years I help make it.
I love eating the left over
chocolate from the bowl.
My dad makes the cake
and he loves doing it
on everyone’s birthdays.
When I finish I can’t wait
for Next year’s cake.

Chocolate Orange Marble Cake recipe at
Cup of Tea Solves Everything
Andrew F.

Waffle Sandwich

Three slices of waffles
Two slices of bacon
Under the waffles
Two sausages wrapped up in bacon
Ding, it’s ready
Chew goes the sandwich
May I have more?

I don't remember having marble cake or a waffle sandwich at camp.

Sarah B.

I’m in my car going to Grandma’s.
It’s Hanukkah. Yay!
I get to eat latkes and Hanukkah gelt.
At Grandma’s, I grab my plate and pile it
With latkes.
I take a bite. I love the crunch!
Yuck! This needs applesauce.
I go back to the table and get some
Applesauce and splash it on
I take a bite. Yum!
Then the best part comes.
My cousins arrive!
Then we play dreidel!
I spin the dreidel.
I get gimel! I win!
I get all the gelt.
I taste the creamy chocolate.
Rats! Time to leave.
I say goodbye and hop into my car.

Thanks, Sarah. I love so many of our family's Jewish traditions and playing dreidel is one of them. This year, Julia and I had a blast teaching my mother-in-law, who is Catholic, how to play the game, a Hannukah tradition. 

As an adult, I'm not anti-camp. My son has gone to sleep away camp (never for more than a week or so). He'll be away for nine days on a school trip to Italy next month. My daughter is going to an overnight field hockey camp this year. It's her first time away, but she's going with a friend and that's exciting.

The moral of the story? Bug juice is gross, but if your kids like camp they won't mind. If you find a place that's a good fit for them, they may even develop a taste for it.

It's Poetry Friday. I'm sure Amy is cooking up some delicious, summery treats at The Poem Farm. She is hosting our blog-roll today.


Linda B said...

My son, as I think I've told you, went to Boy Scout camp always, became eventually in charge of it, & now is a career Scout-he loves camp, but as an adult, more problems to solve than fun. My daughter never went to camp, but visited long term friends all over the country-her kind of 'camp'-no bugs for her! Fun memories, Laura, and I like that poem about marble cake, my kind of birthday!

Tabatha said...

Wonderful poems (and a wonderful story about your experiences at summer camp -- I'm sure I would have reacted the same way you did, had my parents sent me).

Amy LV said...

"Marble cake that is gooey", a waffle sandwich, and holiday food memories. Now this is a way to start the day. Your camp memories make me think about mine - I loved camp. There were lots of Amys at camp too... I hope that your children have a blast. Mine will be heading out for a few days at different times too. Your blog tag line this summer cracks me UP! Happy PF!

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Those kids must enjoy writing their poems - you can tell they're not forcing the writing. As far as camp...I never had any interest in it. Had I stayed in Baltimore and grown up there, the country life might be an enjoyable diversion - but growing up in the middle of the woods on a dirt road, a trip to the country was (and still is!) the LAST destination on my mind!

Irene Latham said...

8 weeks for summer camp?! NO! I couldn't have stood it. I got homesick at my grandparents' house for just two days. :) And you know, I am just not willing to part with my kids for that long... THAT day is coming soon enough (and has come already for my oldest!). Love the food poems, esp. the waffle sandwich. :)

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

...and by the way, I want what Andrew's having!

Katya said...

I wasn't a camp kid either -- I even hated day camp. My kids, on the other hand, are camp fiends. If they had it their way they would be in camp all summer. Sleepaway if we could afford it.
Funny how that works, right?

Author Amok said...

Honestly, everyone, eight weeks was too long to be away for the first time. There was a single visiting day over the entire summer and I was a slobbering, sobbing mess. Not just seeing my parents, but I'd missed my youngest brother -- who was 2 -- terribly.

Author Amok said...

Amy, I think we had several Amys at our camp too.

Irene, my mother and I have talked about the 8 weeks and how hard it was on her to let me go. Camp was an alien concept for her altogether.

Matt -- I'd be all about that waffle sandwich, if the bacon was turkey bacon.

jama said...

Loved reading your camp memories, Laura -- I agree that 10 is too young to be away for the first time for 8 whole weeks!

I've only had experience with day camp, which was okay, but I don't think I'd like anything longer than a few days. Being able to fit in and making the right friends while there would make all the difference in my mind. And that's always a crap shoot, isn't it?

Enjoyed the food poems, of course!!

Ruth said...

Thanks for your summer memories!
They have me thinking of mine!

Cathy said...

I have to admit that these two words brought me here: Bug Juice. I loved it. I'm not sure why as I really don't like bugs and let's be honest this drink attracted them. I suppose when you spend the day making crafts, swimming, running around, and then finally get to sit down for food and drink everything tastes good.

Speaking of tasting good, how about that waffle sandwich? They should serve that at camp. That sounds like quite a way to start the day.


Mary Lee said...

Not good to come from Jama's butter post to your students' food poem on an empty stomach! *hunger*!!

My girl scout camp story -- all I really wanted out of camp was the horseback riding. The horses got ringworm and we didn't ride the year I got to go to camp.