It started a few weeks ago. A flyer here, a brochure there. Soon my mailbox and my daughter's backpacks were being inundated with the surest sign that, despite what the snow in my driveway indicates, summer is just around the corner... CAMP BROCHURES.
Tennis Camp! Chess Camp! Science Camp! Space Camp! With photos as lovely as any touting a Tahitian island or as exciting as an adult oriented Outward Bound trek, camp brochures are selling hard. And just like the Tahiti trip or rock climb in the Amazon, kids' camps no longer come cheap. Varying in length from two weeks to two months and with prices ranging from the mid-hundreds to high thousands, what use to be reserved mainly for scouting adventures and rich kids, a la Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap, summer camp has grown into a mega-industry.
Whether your child loves the simplicity of the great outdoors or the intricacy of deciphering computer code, there is a summer camp made just for them. Does Jenny love playing model and dress-up? Then sign her up for Catwalk In The Catskills! If Johnny is a whiz at Nintendo, then Mario in The Mediterranean is made for him!
Personally, my only summer camp experience, outside that of watching Miss Mills cover her sibling in honey, was a four day trip to Girl Scout camp when I was ten. And no, my parents did not cover the tab. I was one of the many young ladies who both paid for camp and contributed to the mid-70's population weight gain phenomenon by hawking Thin Mints and Snickerdoodles on your doorstep. (Quite frankly, I ate enough of them myself that I should have been on the bus headed for Camp Lardass.)
I remember the hot bus ride, the baloney and cheese sack lunch and the tents with smelly sleeping bags that greeted me upon arrival. (Not exactly the Four Seasons-concierge-type arrival that greets today's young campers.) I was armed with several changes of clothes, a swimsuit, my uniform and the requisite canteen and cooking set. I loved that cooking set. What looked like a flying saucer, opened to reveal a small saucepan, cup and frying pan. I could not wait to sit around a campfire and cook my own... my own... well, whatever it was, I was going to be cooking it myself.
Ha! The closest I got to a fire was a marshmallow on a three foot stick and the only time I got to use my cooking set was to make mud pies back home on a hot sliding board. It is memories like that that make me look at my daughter's brochure for Culinary Camp with envy. Eight year olds being taught how to dice! chop! julienne! And forget the marshmallow-on-a-stick crap, today's kids are mastering the art of the perfect Baked Alaska, en flambe!
Looking through all the colorful, flamboyant and expensive options, I began to wonder. Isn't there a single camp that exists just for the FUN of summer anymore? Swimming, stories by the campfire, lifelong friendships forged over an afternoon spent making a macrame key chain? A place where the emphasis is on camaraderie, not competition? Where the best music possible is the nighttime orchestra of crickets outside your cabin, not the Junior Boston Pops in the next quad?
Perhaps it is simply the extension of how driven our young people are today. Do more, be more, accomplish more... and do it by the age of ten! It is for that reason I am designing a new Summer Camp where kids can and will be kids. Where talents such as water balloon fillation and the Art of the Belly Flop shall be exalted and honed! Where campers will feast on hot dogs and homemade ice cream while making friends that will last forever. And I hereby decree that it shall be affordable. For if we are being honest, the main attraction of summer camp always has been and always will be, the feeling of freedom and the peace and quiet the parents get while the children are away!
Welcome to Camp Runamok... Macrame Class starts in one hour...