I remember sitting in front of the TV watching an advertisement for Young People’s Day Camp (YPDC). Pictures of children swimming and playing games accompanied by music and a floating, yellow smiling balloon. The camp looked like a lot of fun, and I asked my mom if they could send me to summer camp. I was happily surprised when I found out I was going to summer camp!
The next year, my best friend K who lived across the street came to summer camp with me. Instead of YPDC, we went to Sand and Sea Day Camp. K and I would wait on the steps of her apartment building. Most mornings, we played cards, like Go Fish, Rummy, War, or Uno. I seem to remember playing a lot of Rummy. I remember being fascinated and frustrated with Rubik’s cube. Weaving bracelets with colorful plastic strands was also popular with the girls in the camp.
Our driver, Pete, a lanky camp counselor with dark hair and an Adam’s apple, would pick up kids in his station wagon before driving us all to our morning destination, usually either Eisenhower Park or Jones Beach. We listened to a lot of rock and rock and New Wave music on our rides to and from camp. I remember Angel, a younger boy, with light brown skin and blue eyes. The difference was striking, and he was also a cutie pie. I remember holding hands with another boy, Chris, with whom I had a mutual crush.
For part of the summer, the camp was divided into two teams: red and white. We competed against each other in races and other camp competitions. I remember picnicking on scrubby sandy dirt, sitting in the searing hot sun, walking barefoot on concrete sidewalks that roasted your feet, swimming in the Atlantic ocean and in pools, and making friends.
I also remember the bully who picked me, another girl named Randy. Randy was part of a three-girl popular clique at the camp that included Lisa and Kim. Randy was athletic, Lisa was large and loud, and Kim comported around a rather large bust and wore braces. All three were attractive, and I was simultaneously jealous and afraid of them.
I remember being teased and taunted by Randy. I hated confrontation, and still do, but once in a while I defended myself. One day at a pool, Randy threw my cards into the pool or onto the very wet ground. Without thinking, I angrily grabbed my book and thwacked Randy over the head with it. She was stunned not only that I hit her, but that I had stood up for myself at all.
By the time I turned 16, I was no longer interested in camp. I was not interested in becoming a counselor in training (CIT) and felt like I was too old for camp, as if summer, sun, ice cream, swimming, and friendship were things I would ever grow out of.