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.