Drooling on the Pillow

Monday, June 06, 2005


I never went to sleepaway camp. In fact, I don't believe I ever spent a day in day camp. My impression, never entirely reliable and murkier every year, is that up until I was 14, I would be released from my educational responsibilities one Friday in June, would walk out the door (the boys door) and would live in the brush like a wolf-boy for the next three months.

I do remember each summer had a theme, but I don't recall how my fellow wolf-lads and I would arrive at it. One summer we spent the entire three months building a fort. One summer we spent every moment of every day playing wiffle-ball. The summer of swimming. The creek summer. That year was all about crawdads and dam building.

It seemed like three months was just enough time to thoroughly investigate these subjects before boredom brought out the latent trouble-making instincts. Any property damage or serious injury tended to happen in early September.

I just don't recall adults having any role to play in summer vacation. We would come in once a day to be hosed down, fueled and thrown in bed. Even then their presence was insubstantial, almost ghostly.

Starting at 14 I had some sort of job every summer. The first on-the-books job I had was as a checker at a local Shop Rite when I was sixteen. I've never been what you would call a whiz with numbers, but I was surprised and disheartened to find that my drawer was short a few bucks every single day. Every single day. Five dollars, ten, three. I was only making $1.25 an hour so the job was costing me money. I quit after about a month and they arrested the manager a couple weeks later. Bastard.

I was much better suited to being an usher in a movie theatre, which I did for a few summers. Come to think of it, they arrested that manager, too. But at least he wasn't taking it out of my pocket.

Grace has been going to a terrific day camp in Liberty State Park for the past three summers. She's likely to spend far less time in summer school than I did as she has an innate sense of obligation and duty that I marvel at. She'll always have adults around during the summer, though, as it's a nastier world we live in now. I'm glad, really. It's not a guarantee no harm will come to her, but it's easier to let her go for the summer if I know there's always someone responsible within the sound of her voice.

I do think there was value in my feral life that she will miss. But I can live with that.
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