The Dansville Online
  • Jeff Vrabel: Camp isn’t what it used to be (I think)

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  • Growing up, I had a lot of things in common with Charlie Brown: the giant head, the being shockingly miserable at baseball, the dog who talked to me and occasionally performed show tunes about his supper dish. I also had about one shirt, a couple of wiry hairs sticking out of the front of my head, friends who didnít really like me and a generally bleak outlook on life and, wow, I had a screwy childhood, and also how in the heck is Charlie Brown funny? Jeez, I started this paragraph to write a showtune-dog joke, and now Iíve just depressed myself. Which is also something Charlie Brown would do. Kind of starting to worry myself here.
    Anyway, I had a lot in common with Charlie Brown, with one exception: I never went to a summer camp. Our family was not what you would call ďoutdoorsy,Ē and by that I mean I never saw my dad fish, never saw my mom spend more than five minutes in a space that might have included a spider and never actually slept in a tent until I was 32 years old. For a few years, my dad and his brothers split some small camper on some small lake in some small town in rural Indiana. As I remember, it was a cramped box about the size of a Dr. Pepper can that smelled like egg-water; if I recall correctly, I slept in a bed that folded out of the dining room table. We were terrible at camping, is what Iím saying.
    So when I make all the following jokes about pinhead moms paying ďprofessionalsĒ up to $1,000 to pack their kidsí bags for summer camp, I do so from some distances. I never had a camp bag, and Iíve certainly never had a professional help me pack anything. Iíve never had anyone help me pack anything. Iím pretty sure when we went to the Dr. Pepper can in North Basketballington, Ind., or wherever, I packed my own socks in my own duffel bag.
    Look, if weíre used to anything on the Internet itís being amazed at the things adult humans will spend money on, particularly if it saves them a couple of precious minutes in the raising of their children, but letís just get this out of the way: If you canít pack your own kidsí bags for the place youíre shipping them to avoid hanging out with them for the summer, procreating might not have been the best call you ever made.
    But letís just read some of the details here, to feel better about ourselves. According to the New York Post, a company called Resourceful Consultants is one of many such fielding requests from parents who light their cigars with $1,000 bills while diving into dollar-sign shaped pools.
    Page 2 of 2 - And this is not a little job, people. A well-appointed trunk takes three to four hours to pack, especially when it needs to contain just the right kinds of soaps, scented candles and sheets. Iím not making those up to make rich-person jokes about scented candles; this is what these kids are all bringing to camp. Which begs the question: If all of these kids are bringing soaps and sheets, how are campers supposed to know who to beat up?
    Some people request not just the trunk-packing, but a solid re-creation of their childís entire bedroom, so they can feel ďcompletely at ease,Ē or at least as at ease as one can feel when their entire bedroom has been spectrally relocated to the middle of a forest. ďItís really about bringing the feel of home to camp,Ē said one organizer to the Post, which is of course the exact opposite reason most parents send their kids to camp. Camp ó at least Iím told, mostly by Peanuts cartoons ó is where kids can find a measure of independence, a change of scene, experiences they might not have elsewhere. Like sleeping in a 500-thread count sheet someone has dragged through a bed of poison ivy.
    Jeff Vrabel was also a World War I flying ace. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com and followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.
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