When the Oh So Feisty One told Smartmom that she didn’t want to go to sleepaway camp this summer, Smartmom wasn’t all that surprised.
OSFO had already endured two sleepaway summers — and lived to tell the tale. The first camp was, Smartmom now admits, a tad too rustic. It was the kind of place that Smartmom might have liked as a girl, so she thought it would be a life changing experience for OSFO.
It was an all-girls camp in Vermont with wilderness training and bunks that were basically lean-tos (no windows, no doors). Suffice it to say, they told parents to pack mosquito netting.
Mosquito netting. Get the picture?
Oh, and it was a politically progressive, feminist camp with a daily Quaker meeting. Smartmom was excited for the spiritual enlightenment that would arise out of a summer like this.
During those two weeks, Smartmom got not one letter from her child. She worried. She stressed. She wondered if she had been killed by a band of mosquitoes.
When OSFO got off the bus in Manhattan after two rainy, mildewy weeks at camp, Smartmom could tell that her experience was less than stellar.
“We’ll talk about it later,” OSFO whispered as they got into a car service to take them back to Brooklyn.
In the days that followed, Smartmom heard more and more about this special camp. According to OSFO, the food was “delicious,” the lefty folk songs were “fun to sing” (Mom, did you ever hear of Kumbaya?) and the backpacking adventure on the Appalachian trail was “a highlight.”
So what was wrong with the place?
Smartmom isn’t sure. But she wasn’t crazy about her bunkmates and the girl she met at camp from Cobble Hill was unbearably homesick and that can be contagious. There was also that bear-sighting that scared OSFO out of her mind.
All in all, it was not OSFO’s kind of place — and she would not be returning the next summer.
The next year, a friend suggested a well-regarded YMCA camp in Rhode Island. OSFO checked the pictures on the Web site to make sure the bunks had windows and doors.
Window and doors: Check.
It wasn’t a feminist place or politically progressive. It didn’t have a spiritual component like that Quaker meeting thing that gets Smartmom and other parents so excited.
In short, it was your basic fun camp with your basic fun activities: swimming, dodgeball, tie dying and archery. And there was other fun stuff, too like color war, dress up days, jacks and bunk-wide pranks.
Most important, the girls in OSFO’s bunk bonded, and nights were like an endless slumber party complete with spider sightings, shadow puppets and sharing someone’s box of Cap’n Crunch.
So why didn’t she want to go back? Smartmom isn’t really sure. A good camp friend couldn’t go the same weeks as OSFO so that might have put a damper on it.
The Park Slope buddy who she went to camp with last year chose a different camp this year. Maybe that was the problem.
Or maybe she just forgot how much fun she had last year. Twelve months is a long time.
Whatever the reason, Smartmom wasn’t going to force her little baby to go anywhere she didn’t want to go.
No, no, no.
Except for one huge problem. Smartmom was so eager for OSFO to return to that camp she’d paid for the camp in full. In December.
Smartmom was stressing. That was $1,200 bucks down the drain — money out the window if she didn’t talk her daughter into camp.
And what about Smartmom’s solo writing week on Block Island, the week in heaven that was contingent on OSFO being at camp? Surely, Smartmom couldn’t go away by herself if her daughter was hanging out with nothing to do in Brooklyn.
Well, Smartmom tried and tried and tried but she couldn’t get her feisty daughter to change her mind. The more she told her that she was going to be oh so bored, the more determined OSFO was to prove her wrong.
So Smartmom did what any smart mom would do. She called the camp and very nicely asked for her money back.
And guess what? She didn’t get it all back. But she did get half back and the other half is a campership for some kid who really wants to go to camp, but can’t afford to pay full tuition.
Smartmom thought the camp director was unbelievably nice and reasonable. She thanked him profusely.
So the matter was settled except for one itty bitty problem. What was OSFO going to do while Smartmom was in Block Island for eight days?
She came along.
And that, dear readers, is the topic of next week’s column.