Reflecting on the Summer of 2020: Losing a Summer at Overnight Camp

Covid-19. We hear the term multiple times, every day. This virus has caused an immense amount of heartache to livelihoods, milestone occasions, and just to life itself. Kids are learning from their bedrooms via a computer screen, parents are working from home, also via a computer screen and people who have never even thought about visiting a food pantry are going there, just to be sure that their families have food on the table. If someone would have told me 9 months ago that this was going to be the way life is in October 2020, I would not have believed them. But, here we are. Just trying to make it through day by day.

The other day, I signed my daughter up for summer 2021 at camp. This past summer, camp was forced to shut down due to the pandemic, so she did not get to spend her summer with her friends at a place she has been going to since she was 2 years old. Camp is a special place. I know this to be true, because I too, went to the same camp from 1985–1990 as a camper, and continued to work there for a few years after. There’s a saying, “You drink the cool-aide and you’re hooked in for life.” You go to camp to spend time with friends you don’t necessarily see during the year. You live with them, eat with them, share your deepest secrets with them, and create memories with them that you will carry with you through your lifetime. You do EVERYTHING with them. They become your family, your summer sisters.

This past summer, my daughter didn’t have that. She was home. She spent a week or two at the shore with her grandparents. She went on bike rides — lots of bike rides. She started a beading business with some of her bunk mates who were also home. It was a summer like no other. She missed camp. Deeply. She missed everything about it. Her friends, her bunk, the cold showers, the traditions of camp like wearing silly onesies to dinner. She just missed it all and it broke my heart.

I know people are probably thinking, at least you get to send your kid to overnight camp. I know. I’m fully aware that many kids are not as lucky to be able to go away from home every summer for two months. And for them, the kind of summer my daughter had this past summer, is another kid’s normal summer. I understand. But, for my child and, for us as her parents, there was a shared feeling of loss and disappointment. Our daughter being home with us for the entire summer was not normal.

But the other day, there was a sense of normalcy again. The notice for early enrollment came via email. If you signed up your child before the end of the month you received a gift, that has come to be affectionately known as the $500 gift ($500 is the deposit that is made to secure your spot at camp for the following summer and this years gift is a water bottle — woo hoo!). Without hesitation, I logged on and signed her up for Summer 2021. Our daughter now has something she loves to look forward to. There’s another saying, “You live 10 for 2.” Meaning, you live 10 (not so exciting) months of the year, for 2 (fabulous) months at camp. This year, the saying is 22 for 2. Yup, it’s a little longer of a wait, but it’ll be totally worth it in the end.

Yes, Covid is still very much out there, and no, it most likely, will not fully go away by the time camp starts in June. But, I can sleep at night knowing that camp is doing everything they need to do to be sure that my kid, and everyone else’s kids, are safe while they are there. When the bus pulls into the parking lot to pick up my daughter, and about 70 other kids, I will, as I usually do, shed a tear. But, this time I won’t be teary that she’s leaving us for two months. I’ll be teary because she is just so excited to get back to camp and to her summer people again.

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Adena Sternthal

Adena Sternthal

Adena is the owner and creator of Comeback, a marketplace to buy and sell preloved and new camp, college and sports team gear. www.ShopComeback.com