by Tevya parent and alum Julie Grasfield Weil

Originally published in the Sharon Advocate in July and August of 2014

Two Happy Campers Equals Two Happy Parents

I’d like to say that my two boys, ages 8½ and 10½, acclimated immediately to life at overnight camp, but I’d be lying if I did so. Truth is, it was their first time away from home, spending three and a half weeks at the same overnight camp I attended in the 1970s, Camp Tevya in Brookline, NH. My husband says, “One took to it like a duck to water; the other, like a fish to land.”

Steven has a theory that if you offered summer camp to any adult he’d jump at the chance. “Let’s say someone said to you,” he would start, “I’ll give you a three-week vacation on a lake in the mountains of New Hampshire. You can rest, swim, do crafts, and play tennis, basketball, and softball…. All meals will be prepared for you by a kitchen staff from Johnson and Wales. You can nap after lunch. At night, we’ll provide some cultural entertainment. You can retire to a rustic cabin. Sounds pretty appealing to a grown-up. But, offer it to a kid who’s never been away from home before and he’ll answer, ‘What, are you crazy? I’d rather cut off my right leg.’”

I thought that we had laid all of the groundwork. I brought the boys to a Family Day at camp last summer, where they made tie-dye t-shirts and played games with CITs while we grown-ups were taken on a tour. In January, we attended an open house in our friends’ home, where we watched a camp video and met the director and head counselors. In May, we went to a Cohen Camps New Camper Orientation event where psychologist Chris Thurber spoke to us about homesickness and preparing kids for camp while the kids played. I contacted my friend’s son, a nice counselor, and asked him to come over a week before camp to answer the boys’ questions. The Saturday just before camp started, Camp Tevya had a reunion to celebrate its 75th anniversary. We walked around, showed the camp to Steven (who was riding in the PMC last summer when we visited), played tennis, and had two barbeque meals made by the kitchen staff—a professor and his students from Johnson and Wales. The boys joined in pick-up soccer games.

I recall Allan Sherman’s 1963 song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A letter from camp)”: “Hello, Muddah! Hello, Fadduh! Here I am at Camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining, and they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining. I went hiking with Joe Spivey. He developed poison ivy. You remember Leonard Skinner? He got ptomaine [food] poisoning last night after dinner… Wait a minute! It stopped hailing. Guys are swimming. Guys are sailing. Playing baseball. Gee, that’s better. Muddah, Fadduh, kindly disregard this letter!”

That’s really the anthem for my boys’ month at camp, if you replace rain with tears. As I predicted, they were sad only when they had down time—which unfortunately coincided with rest hour, when they wrote letters home. The first few rivaled those that I had sent 40 years ago to my folks. “I don’t like camp. I cry constantly. Come get me!”

Letter content soon became more informative. “Archery is fun! I got a bull’s-eye. In animal care, the bunnies are so cute.” and “We launched today in rocketry. Yesterday, we took a field trip to Water Country. I chose not to go on the 100-foot water slide called ‘Geronimo’. I went on the ‘Lazy River’ and some other slower rides. I ate pizza.”

Finally, I received a letter with, “Here’s a joke I heard.” and one that said, “Mommy, remember those socks I showed you in Sports Authority? Can you send me a pair?” I knew that they were alright. Their latest letters came today, dated three days before the end of the first month. They both said basically, “I can’t wait to see you when you pick us up. I’ll tell you all of my stories then.”

At pick-up, I leaped out of the car to envelop two grinning boys in warm hugs. Amazing counselors had helped them transform. They now speak a foreign language, peppered with private jokes and slang. They have a repertoire of card games and songs, some of which I recall from four decades ago.

On the car ride home, they spoke exuberantly about shared experiences and campers’ and counselors’ antics. One of my sons expressed his sorrow about leaving camp as, “I feel like I just picked a whole bunch of blueberries, and when I started to wash them they all fell to the ground.”

To spoof the MasterCard “Priceless” campaign: One pint of blueberries: $2.99, one tank of gas for the minivan: $65, one bottle of laundry detergent: $7.79, two happy campers returning from their first month away from home: Priceless.


Julie Grasfield Weil

A Camp Tevya parent and alum

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