Well, I grew up in New York City - a city kid, for all intents and purposes. And as such, there weren't too many places aside from public concrete parks, municipal pools, or crowded city beaches a kid could find solace from the grueling city heat and have some fun during the two months of school vacation.
My mother worked full-time and couldn't afford to take time off to stay home with a child during the summer months, so until I was seven years old she had to hire a babysitter to watch me and make sure I stayed safe. The woman who did watch over me had five other children of varying ages to keep watch over so activities were mostly television viewing, eating lunch, and if we were lucky, playing outside on the street for an hour when the temps weren't scorching so much you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.
Not exactly a Leave it To Beaver or Brady Bunch existence.
The summer I turned nine, though, is one I'll remember forever because I finally got to do something I'd never done before: go to camp.
It wasn't sleep away camp like you see in the movies where kids are transported to idyllic locations in the deep woods, surrounded by a pristine lake for water activities, and staffed with camp counselors whose very existence is to make kids happy. No scary stories told around the campfire or marshmallow s'mores. No sleeping in tents or wooden dormitories.
No, I went to a daily camp where I was picked up by a giant rambling school bus every morning at 7 am and transported to the wilds of Brooklyn ( and that's a joke for anyone who knows Brooklyn!), namely Sheepshead Bay, to attend CYO camp. Many may recognize those initials. For those that don't they stand for Catholic Youth Organization camp.
From the name you may be picturing Sister Act nuns in thick black habits with gold crosses dangling from their necks and rulers in their hands ready to give a thwack to anyone who gets out of line; hours spent in silent reflection, on knees that are numb from kneeling, and continual prayer.
CYO camp was the opposite of what you're thinking. It was actually loads of fun.
The counselors were all older teens and college aged kids who themselves had attended CYO camp in their younger years. We had daily Mass first thing each day yes, but that's where the overt religiosity ended.
We swam in the ocean every day for two hours; we made lanyards into bracelets, necklaces, and even pins. We had daily arts and crafts. We learned how to cook a few things - then ate what we'd made. Maybe that's where my love of cooking started, because until then I'd never been allowed to make anything more than a bowl of cereal at home.
I learned to swim, really swim, that summer. If you've ever swam in the ocean with the currents tugging at you, you know how different it is from swimming in a calm pool. I turned into one strong and confident swimmer that year and to this day ( 5 decades later) I'm still a strong swimmer.
The sense of camaraderie was strong at CYO camp. We were with our own age group, all mixes of nationalities and races, and all levels of intelligence. I had cooking class with the loveliest girl with Down's Syndrome. My swimming partner was a boy whose family had relocated from Haiti. My best buddy during arts and crafts was an Asian girl named Lili.
That summer was one of the happiest in my memory bank in a childhood that didn't have too many happy stories.
Did you go to camp as a kid? If so, what are your happy memories of those times?
Now, since this is a writers blog, I must ( I simply must!) promote my current release which just so happens to take place in SUMMER in the Seacoast of New Hampshire, surprise, surprise. Hee hee
VANILLA WITH A TWIST is part of the One Scoop or Two Summer series from the Wild Rose press and tells the story of ice cream parlor owner Tandy Blakemore and the man who walks into her shop one summer day, changing her life forever. It's a sweet, small town romance and I had to do a lot of vigorous research eating all kinds of ice cream to get the flavor for the story just right. ( hee hee!)
And, please don't forget out monthly giveaway.
Until next month, peeps, enjoy the long days of summer and never forget the fun you had as a kid ~Peg