May 12th, 2007 07:03 EST
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Camp I Go
IS going to camp really the way to go?I was a ten-year-old only child! My parents worked very hard to make our life better each day. Every time we moved, it was always to a better apartment. Years later, when they bought a car, it was always a nicer one, then the last one. Therefore, in the summer of my tenth year, my folks decided it was time for me to go to camp, far from Brooklyn, New York. It was a Catholic camp whose name escapes me, so I will call it "The Place to be Camp = TPTBC".
I remember the day we had to be interviewed for placement in TPTBC. We got all dressed up; I wore this dorky purple dress. It was 1953, the hem was very near my calf, and the bottom of the dress was scalloped! On my feet were patten leather Mary Jane shoes and white socks with purple flowers! (Honest to God) On my hands were little white gloves and, yep-- you guessed it, little purple flowers! My mother was dressed up, too. Hat, high heels and gloves that also matched her dress.
Off we went. First, to the subway, that would take us to the Rail Road, that would take us to the cab that would take us to TPTBC. It was in a place just above New York City, called Hastings-on-the-Hudson! Pretty ritzy name for a town, huh? The train Station looked like a blow up of the model train station my cousin had. It was old, very old and it was built in heavy stone. It had a sign that was made out of wood and had gold letters that said "Hastings-on-the-Hudson".
After what seemed like hours, we arrived at the Camp. It didn't have Tee Pee's or log cabins. What it did have was brick buildings, chapels, and lots of statues of Saints. We were brought into the Mother Superior's office and we sat very still and straight. I was told all the way up from Brooklyn to sit with my knees together and hands folded on my lap. I was also told to be quiet! My mother would answer all the questions.
As I listened, I found out that I would learn to speak French, to play tennis, and how to socialize. I started to squirm in my chair, all I wanted to do was play Hide and Seek, read a comic book and stand on the corner with my Brooklyn friends. Having past that interview, we were on the long ride home. I took off the gloves and relaxed my legs.
On Monday, my mother went to my grammar school principle, Sister Mary "I have a ruler on my hand," and asked for a recommendation to go to the camp. I think the only thing that assured my acceptance was that the check did not bounce. Off mom went to buy a black marker and iron-on labels for my name, a tennis racket, writing paper and many stamps for my letters home. I also got shorts, tee shirts, new sneakers, pajamas and toothbrush. I had so much stuff; I even got a trunk to put everything labeled "Carolee Laino" into.
The day arrived for me to leave for TPTBC. My dad rented a car so that I could arrive in style. I was allowed to have one of my Brooklyn friends, Eileen, come along for the ride. We were all dressed up again. Mom and dad had their Sunday best on, and I was dressed in another dorky dress. This time it was plaid and had a large white color. Eileen was also dressed up as if she was going to a Broadway play.
I don't remember the ride up, but soon we were at the pearly gates, I mean the iron gates of TPTBC. It was high in the hills overlooking the Hudson River. Eileen and I went to see all the Saintly statues, while my parents checked me in. This was the Thursday after the 4th of July, and I was going to stay five weeks. I finally got to see the room I was to share with two other girls. The room was just three beds and three small chest of drawers. The bathroom and showers were down at the end of the hall! I meet my roommates, who were from different parts of New York State and they were pretty nice.
After a luncheon for the parents and guests, they left and we were to start our camping experience. The first thing I did was mail all the letters I wrote to my Brooklyn friends. I wrote the letters before I even left home, I thought I would be so busy at camp that I wanted to make sure they all knew I was thinking about them! Well, Thursday ended with a campfire and we got to sing camp songs. Friday was church, breakfast, crafts, French, lunch, tennis, swimming, manners classes and dinner. Prayers and more camp songs then bed. It was OK.
Saturday was more of the same. Sunday was parent’s day. Therefore, my folks rented a car again and made the trip to see their little darling. Bad move!! One look at my Dad and we both started to cry. He missed me and I was not a "happy camper". As my mother went to tell the Mother Superior I was leaving, my dad helped me pack. Into the trunk went clothes I had yet to wear, a tennis racket that was hardly used and many unused stamps. I said good-bye to my roommates, and they looked like, "Where the Heck are you going?"
To that, I would have answered: back to the corner of Ave D and Norstand Ave.Back to my friend and the candy store. Back to watching the Early Show on TV while we eat dinner. Back to learning how to play Stick Ball. Heck, I was back to Brooklyn before the letters I sent from camp arrived.
It is many years later and I was thinking about what lesson is to be learned from this experience. Well, there is the old corny one: "There is no place like home". However, I think it was something else. It was: I am who I am, not white gloves and patten leather shoes. Not tennis and French. My mother wanted me to be a social butterfly and I was still a caterpillar. I was not ready to learn how to cope without my daddy and my friends. I was happy getting up at 10am and sitting on Eileen's stoop telling jokes with my friends. Hey, that is social right?
If you wondered what happen to the tennis racket and the stamps, I gave the racket to my grammar school and my mother used the stamps for bills!