Visiting Day for a Chubby Kid

On the morning of the most anticipated day of the summer, there is, quite literally, nothing that can hold us back. We’re like Beatle’s fans breaking through the barrier, and all attempts to keep us in order are futile.

From the top of the hill we can see cars pulling into the parking lot at the bottom, one after the other, a parade of tri-state area license plates. “There’s my mom” someone would yell and go bursting down the hill into the arms of their parents. “That’s my dog!” Another one.

Visting Day at camp was a day like no other. Smack, dab in the middle of the summer, it was like what visiting hours must feel like at a prison or hospital. Now, don’t get me wrong, camp was like Disney–“the happiest place on earth,” but it was rather odd to have the real world infiltrate for a day, glamorous, Jewish mothers, cigar-smoking fathers, luxury cars and jewelry, a stark contrast to our tube socks and sweat-shorts. And then, there were the brown paper grocery bags.

To be honest (and camp friends feel free to dispute this) Visiting Day was about FOOD. PACKAGED, store-bought FOOD. We judged the luckiest, most-loved kids by the number of bags their parents carried, (didn’t we?) For those of us who had been bunkmates for years, we knew who would get the best stuff and who would share and who wouldn’t, who would hide their shit and who would dump it on their beds and divvy it up among us.

There would be Pringles and Freihoffers and Yodels and fruit pies and tuna and cup a soup and squeeze cheese and Ritz crackers and candy and the ripest of peaches and plums. My friend Robin always got bakery cookies from a family-owned bakery in a box tied with red and white string. It was a magical and heady day.

But here’s the catch: I didn’t get that stuff. I was a bit of a formless and overweight kid and my parent never really let me forget that, even for a day. (My camp friends and I recently discussed this impression that I’ve had forever of myself as this lumpy behemouth of a pre-teen and teenager. What they said, and I loved this, is that I’ve grown curves. I’m no longer formless. I’m all curve. Or something like that.) At home, sweets were hidden from me (not very well, I might add) and I was forced to try things like Alba 77 for breakfast (who remembers that?)

Anyway, I would get some fruit and some books. Maybe some lifesavers. I MAY have gotten cheese doodles one year (but it could also be that I’m conjuring those up because I’ve been wanting some for weeks.)

But, I will NEVER forget the one year, that my dear, always-sweet-and-kind brother Mark, when his day off as a counselor fell within a day or two of Visiting Day, sat down with me on the steps of my bunk with a brown, paper bag. What I remember is that with great fanfare, Mark pulling out a big bag of Tootsie Pop Drops like it was serious contraband. I rememeber thinking that this was the kindest gesture that anyone had ever done for me (and his wife has outdone even that by doing an overnight feeding for me when Amelia was an infant). It’s been a lifetime of kind gestures from Mark, but, in his way, he was saying that I was worthy, just like everyone else, of a special treat on Visiting Day.



  1. hmmm….not so sure i was the 'norm'….actually, i NEVER was….visiting day for me, was about hiding hickeys and sulking…..oh, yeah, the food, burr pond, lunch anywhere i wanted experience was awesome….but i didn't want my summer disturbed by MY PARENTS… goal all year was getting to CAMP DELAWARE….it was my life…where people who GOT ME resided…..and in the middle of my reverie i was interrupted by visiting day… hiss!! my packages filled with all you mentioned you wished for, came by amil and that was good enough for me!!thanks for posting….you are delicious!xo

  2. Gina, you and I lived totally different lives. I wasn't getting hickeys until well into my 30s! Listen, there is no other place in the world where any of us have felt more "gotten" and that was, and still is the beauty of camp. Trust me when I tell you that June 5th in Winsted will be more magical than you can ever imagine.

  3. Visiting Day… the day when all the other kids' family arrives 2 hours earlier than mine!!! Since my family were all alumni, they wanted to spend their time hanging out on camp grounds talking to all their old friends while my sister and I wanted to go out and get some food!!!! LOL! Gayle, you are so right, visiting day was about two things – food, and getting some cash!!! You also forgot to mention one very important camp food staple – Pop Tarts!!! I remember kids auctioning off a single Pop Tart for 3 bucks – and 3 bucks for an 11-year old in 1978 was a lot of money – but certainly worth it!!! My favorite though was when someone, anyone, got some Hebrew National Salami. Slap a bit onto a ritz and it was like yeah baby! Andrew

  4. Maybe Pop-Tarts was a boys side thing…and certainly we girls weren't "betting" on them! The closest thing to that was trading stationery. I do remember salami…it was always hard to track down a knife.

  5. visiting day was a day of dread for me. I had to yo yo between my divorced parents who wouldn't talk to each other. I couldn't wait for it to be over

  6. wow…sorry to dredge that up, but whoever you are, maybe you got double the stuff so your parents could one up each other?

  7. It WAS all about the food, wasn't it? I never got any either. My European parents didn't know from all that junk food. Didn't know what it was. Didn't know that ALL the other kids were getting it. I remember being suprised and embarassed by their accents after not hearing them for a year and I remember feeling sulky and grumpy a lot. I also remember that there was a distinctly different feeling between the weeks before Visiting Day and the weeks after, something like BC and AD.That Mark….what a good brother!

  8. Brought back great memories! Your memories are a little sad and very touching. And, you are very lucky to have such a good brother!Kenny

  9. What was Visiting Day like for you, Kenny? Life is filled with both the good and the bad.

  10. What I remember most about the food stuff of visiting day is fluff and drink mix. Kids would walk around with red and orange tang-colored index fingers, like there was nothing unusual about this. And fluff would be consumed in giant spoonfuls, completely solo. Visiting day was so bittersweet. I love your account of it, Gayle.

  11. getting to go to ABC Pizza. Would beg my parents to take me off camp. Definitely all about the food. I don't remember getting very good food packages either. Gayle, did you get new music or tapes?

  12. I do remember you being on the top bunk with your banana yellow cassette player playing I am the Walrus over and over again. Bunk K u might have been wearing dr. dentons

  13. Yes, the food was the main attraction on visiting day. I remember my parents would take us to Betty Crocker in Avon CT. My Aunt & Uncle owned the bakery in Brooklyn that's why I always got the cookies and a birthday cake!! I hope I was listed in the sharing category. Also,I remember Bumble Bee tuna was also part of my visiting day package.

  14. Is that pretty little girl you!? Now I don't believe a word you say about yourself. You look just like Amelia. All I remember from camp was peanut butter and red juice.

  15. The blobbiness came later. The "red juice" you refer to was called "bug juice" at our camp.

  16. First I have to thank Lauren Cantor for bringing this oasis to light. You have talent. You also have beauty and since I have known you (as a child and adult) I always have thought of you as beautiful ( in so many ways) – so dont every sell yourself short.I remember Visiting Day. It sucked for me because my Mother worked at camp and for the longest time I tried to figure out who the hell would be visiting me? That is when I would see my grand parents roll (shuffle) up. I think the best I got was a few pairs of tube socks and underwear, and the occasional Gram Crackers.I do recall all the brown bags of food food food. There was the drink mix, Cookies, Candy, Donuts, Pizza, Salami, can cheese (mostly American but if you were really special you got the Cheddar). I hated the auctioning off process because it was always rigged with friends giving to friends – "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10". I do think it was the closest thing to having true POWER that most of us would ever experience.For the record I was the FAT KID – like Vern in Stand By Me. Unfortunately – I did not grow up to be nicely cut and marry a model but my wife is still very beautiful and I do love what we have (most of the time). So I understand what you were experiencing even though girls are SO MUCH CRUELER THAN BOYS to each other.Your Brother Mark will always have this special place in my heart. He is one of the greatest persons I have ever had the honor to me and get to know as a friend. But this also translates back to the fact that the APPLES do not fall far from the tree. You my dear are just as an amazing person as your brother!I wasn't looking forward to the reunion this year due to way way too much pain going on in my life but after reading this and being taken back for a few moments I would like to offer you the First round of drinks come June 5, 2010.Thank you again – you made my day.All the BestBryan Bowden

  17. OK Gayle, Did it again – I'm tearing up at my desk…… and yes I SO remember Alba 77 ……xoxoCarla

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