04/16/2014 11:46 am ET Updated Jun 16, 2014

Summer Camp: Now and Then

Lori Ferraro

It's mid-April.

Spring break has just ended... winter break is long gone.

The after school conversation between me and the other moms I hang out with on the playground once again has turned to the dreaded, inevitable topic of summer.

Summer break, summer vacation and what hell is going to happen all summer long.

I think this conversation is dreaded for me... not for them. They all seem to have a plan in place, which of course makes me more full of dread.

I work part-time -- I start my day at 7:00 and get off at 1:30, which is ideal for picking up the boys after school. But summer... yeesch.

In previous years, we've been able to make it work; one year I gladly paid a girlfriend of mine who was out of work to watch them. Last summer, my husband worked from home while my younger son was still in daycare. I would swoop in at 1:45 and summer outside magic would happen. Ice cream! Parks! Sprinklers!

There's also much talk between me and other parents about camps... there are all sorts of wonderful camps out there! Day camps, zoo camps, art camps, computer coding camps.

Hello, summer camp? This is Lori. We need to talk.


A few years back, I sent my 7-year-old to Lego camp. He had a blast, and that of course makes me very happy. But I gotta say, I am confused as to what the words "summer camp" mean anymore, because it sure as hell means something different than it did back in 1970-something.

He went to camp for one week in a beautiful community center with a pool, pristine classrooms and it's own café (!) from nine until noon with a break and a snack. When I dropped him off, I didn't want to leave. This one week worth of camp cost me just under 200 smackeroos.

Five days.

Nine until noon.

You call that camp?

I went to summer camp for the summer. Like, the whole summer.

My camp was held at Roosevelt Middle School in Ossining, New York and let me tell you, there was no fancy Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool or café available for me to take a dip or purchase a pre-camp scone and steamer. Oh no, no, no.

My camp was in the smelly cafeteria and extra-smelly gymnasium of the town middle school and it was AWESOME. I walked there from my house, which was about a mile away, either with my friend Susie or by myself, no big whoop.

Here are things that we did at camp:

  • Made elephant trunks out of paper towel tubes.
  • Had parades where we traipsed through the town wearing our elephant trunks while making elephant noises.
  • Made caterpillars out of egg boxes, paint and pipe cleaners.
  • Had movie nights where we watched scary movies.
  • Made ashtrays for our parents out of clay.
  • Dodgeball.
  • Macaroni-art, macaroni-art, macaroni-art.
  • Sang the entire Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
  • Played on the giant, metal playground.
  • Traded/flipped baseball cards.
  • Snuck across the street and down the block to get a Slush Puppie at the deli.
  • Threaded colored beads through our sneaker shoelaces to make a pretty pattern up by the toe.
  • Used a microphone plugged into a shoebox-sized tape recorder to document what an awesome time we were having, giggling and falling over like a bunch of drunkards.

All of this was friggin' awesome, a young girls dream!

Lunch was Goober Grape sandwiches, a room temperature carton of whole milk and a popsicle that permanently stained your lip/chin area for the entire summer.

It was delicious and again, awesome.

Basically ,we hung out at the school, with a few various planned activities thrown in. Camp was a time to hang out with friends and just "be." Even if that meant just sitting on your butt on the hard concrete playground, solving the worlds problems like, which Kissing Potion should I put on -- watermelon or bubblegum? Or who was cuter, Scott Baio or John Travolta? (John Travolta, duh.)

Last time I'll say it -- awesome.

I guess I'm taking out a second mortgage to send the boys to a week-long camp this summer. I know they will cherish camp memories and tell their kids someday what summer camp was like way back in 2014, how different it was and how much better it was back in their day.

But I kind of secretly wish that they were making crummy crafts, playing dodgeball and eating Goober Grape sandwiches in an old cafeteria.

Lori's website, Drawn to the 80s, is where her five year old draws the greatest hits of the 1980's. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog, Once Upon a Product, where she discusses important topics such as beauty products, Mick Jagger, and Goober Grape.