Saturday, June 27, 2020

Finding Summer Fun for a City Kid by Peggy Jaeger

This month's theme - Summer Days and Summer Nights - leaves the door open to each of us to interpret just what we want to write about. Summer, obviously. But what pertaining to summer? Hmmm...

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.


No.

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







21 comments:

  1. No camp for me. It's still one of those things "I wish I had," but the opportunity was never there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liz - for me it was only for that one time at CYO but it was wonderful!!!

      Delete
  2. I was a fortunate kid. Even though we weren't wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, we did have a big yard and a small above ground pool. And my grandparents had a place on a nearby lake. So, lots of swimming for us, too. But I did go to Girl Scout Camp one year (day camp also). I hated that we had to wear bathing caps in the water (in a bright color that showed our swimming level - ugh) but I learned to dive that summer and found comfort and peace in the daily rituals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG I forgot abt the bathing caps. those plastic torture devices!! yeah, we had to wear them at CYP camp too and my hair was down to my waist and as curly as crulyfries!! it took two camp counselors to windit up and get it stuffed underneath. From the side I looked like the profile of Alien - you know? That huge back of the head????

      Delete
  3. I hated every camp my parents sent me to, and I finally begged to be allowed to stay home. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. O jenn- that's so sad!!!!! Were they boring, or were the kids just mean?

      Delete
  4. SO happy you have these memories. I went to one sleep away camp when I was 10. Very fun and I’m glad I went. I learned to paddle a canoe, row a boat and get comfy with total strangers. Hated the meals, especially the instant mashed potatoes. Made me wary of most “Instant” foods since then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahaha. Bonnie - I don't blame you. I don't like instant mashed potatoes either - they always taste like carboard!

      Delete
  5. Thanks for sharing such a happy memory, Peggy. I think we should have a Writers Camp. Wouldn't that be fun?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Boy does your post bring back memories. I grew up in the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York. Our community center had a day camp I attended. I was a counselor the first time I went to an upstate camp in Cornwall on the Hudson. Then my mom sent me to East Orange NJ to stay with her aunt Christabel where my sister and I helped plant a garden (no backyards in the projects and you got fined for being on the grass). I got to experience the Deer Park and Turtleback Zoo. When I developed a summer day camp for my church I made sure they went to swim at the Y every week, visit all the borough museums their schools probably would take them to and things as simple as riding the Staten Island ferry. Thanks for the sweet trip down memory lane.

    ReplyDelete
  7. OMG We are sistahs!!!! I grew up in brooklny, staten island then attending college at Hunter in NYC. And I, too, swam at the Y during some of those hot summer day. Anna - thanks for bringing a smile to my face this morning.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I didn't go to camp. Our family went to a "farm" for 2-3 weeks in New Jersey under a federal program for low income families. I loved it. My dad would show up on the weekends after work. I remember the nature lady most of all. Fascinating. Not so much the poison ivy and hornets...

    ReplyDelete
  9. OMG I would have loved that!! well, not the poison ivy or the hornets. Maybe not the mosquitos, either.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I only went to church camp once for one week. I do not like communal living and did not like staying in a dorm. I'm asthmatic and the outdoors made sleep difficult and people teased me that I made "strange noises" at night. Yeah, I did. Gasp, wheeze, cough. My now sister-in-law was my "buddy" and my now brother-in-law was the thorn in my side. Some people are campers and some are just NOT outdoorsy! Guess which I am. LOL I loved your post, though. Wild Rose Press has a camp on alternate years. Once it was in Bandera, Texas at a dude ranch. I'd already been to the next dude ranch over with my family years earlier so I didn't go. I'm sure it was fun, though. I see I do have something in common with a couple of you, in that I was from a low income family. I didn't realize it until later--I thought we were middle income because we alway gave to the "poor" and I had everything I needed.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Caroline, I have to agree with you about the communal living. I've only gone to day camps and to this day I have difficulty in sleeping anywhere that's not my own bed. Plus - the bathroom sharing gives me the creeps. But day camp was great!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was a child of the suburbs in the Los Angeles world of the 1950s. Summer was spent bike riding, swimming at the publc pool, jump rope, hopscotch, and etc. Yes, I did go to sleep over camp in the mountains for one week out of the summer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ilona - sounds like you had some happy times during Summer in the city!!!!

      Delete
  13. Loved the camp and CYO!! Always begged for more. Two weeks was the max. I had a friend who went all summer. I thought she was the luckiest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nora - I went for two weeks, too!! Cried when that third week came and I was back with the babysitter

      Delete
  14. I grew up in New York too, and went to school in the city, so related a lot to your experience. I was fortunate that the principal of the small private school I attended owned a camp in Upstate NY and my mother was a teacher at the school. It was great to have a respite in the summer from steamy Brooklyn where I lived.

    ReplyDelete

Due to the high volume of Spam comments, we are forced to install Comment Moderation and Word Verification. We apologize for the inconvenience.