For the second year in a row my daughters headed to Maine for overnight camp for seven weeks. If you gasped at that number 7 I am guessing you were not a camper- me neither. But, my husband was a serial camper, starting at 4 weeks when he was 7 and then 8 weeks when he was 8. And he never looked back. To him, summer meant, and still means, only one thing – camp. My daughters put on their bravest smiles and boarded the bus last year bound for Maine, and we held our breath. Luckily, they inherited the camp gene.
This year, they are veterans. They knew exactly what they wanted to master – long rope water skiing – and what they needed to pack that wasn’t on the official packing list – school spirit attire, jean shorts, neon socks (that’s a big deal at a uniform camp like theirs.) But, seven weeks is still seven weeks. They are only 10, and homesickness is bound to sneak in, especially when it rains for a few days in a row like it did their first week this summer.
So, visiting day is this wonderfully bittersweet break right in the middle. The girls are settled in and have found their groove. We’ve adjusted to the quiet, to the empty fridge, to the laundry and dishes that barely need to be done – and gotten spoiled by the unfamiliar absence of needing to find a babysitter in order to go out to dinner, or a movie, or anything! But, I have to admit, I barely slept the week before visiting day because I was so excited to see them, and anxious to see – were they really having a good time? Did they make friends? Do they seem content? You just never know. And, I should add here that my daughters’ camp does not share pictures. For this I am eternally grateful. There is also no electricity in the bunks, no tech allowed at all at camp, and an adherence to old-fashioned camping skills – canoeing is required, marksmanship and archery are taken very seriously, and it’s all girls.
We don’t own a car, but I was incredibly fortunate to have a car-fairy godmother in the form of the wonderful people at General Motors! They lent us this outrageously fabulous GMC Terrain for our trip. My Super was outside hosing down the sidewalk when we were loading the car and now, a week later, he still can’t stop asking me about that Terrain. First I have to mention that my husband grew up right outside Detroit. My whole family is from Detroit, and I was born there. So, we had an extra hefty dose of happiness driving this American Beauty.
I’m a tech girl, not a car girl – though I realize these things are not at all mutually exclusive – and the Terrain did not disappoint. Pure joy for me was plugging my fully audiobook-loaded iPod into the mp3 outlet and having it show up in the in-dash screen. Plus it had Pandora and Sirius and bluetooth sync and all sorts of fun tech buttons and menus to play around with on our drive. The hours to Maine flew by.
Our audiobook for the trip? Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. I will review that in another post, but if you also know nothing about James Garfield, his assassination, the role of Dr. Lister and Alexander Graham Bell, and the origins of pleading insanity as a defense – read it! This is an unbelievable part of American history.
And so to Maine we went. We made an unplanned pit stop for lunch near New Haven at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, not knowing that it was a famous pizza joint. Worth the drive alone. Check out the ginormous brick ovens that must go 30 feet deep. The pizza was spectacular, but next time I’m getting the clam pizza instead of the tomato.
When we arrived in Maine we headed to…Target. When a city girl leaves the city it’s really not for salty fresh air and trees, it’s for big, beautiful Target! Stocked up on supposedly forbidden visiting day candy, toiletries that actually needed replenishing after 4 weeks at camp (only toothpaste by the way – the soap, barely touched), and of course paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent and Ziploc bags – because that crap is super expensive in Manhattan! I felt like one of those crazy coupon ladies, but I had a GMC Terrain with a back the size of my first apartment and you better believe I was filling it with Target priced goods!
You can’t go to Maine and not eat lobster. We didn’t go to the place we loved last year in Naples, The Lobster Pound. We were so tired and wiped out we just headed into Portland proper and went to the Portland Lobster Company. Here’s what I’ll say about that: Meh. Truly. I’m a lobster freak. I spent many, many summers in Cape Cod and Sag Harbor, and dirty lobster eating was one of the things I looked forward to most in the summer. This place might be good any other time other than visiting day weekend when it is swarmed with crazy NY parents, but it was not worth the one hour wait for our food, or the price, which wasn’t great considering we’re in the midst of the biggest lobster glut ever. However, the little vibrating lobster that signals when your food is ready. So cute.
So, one point for that.
Finally, the next morning we headed to camp. And it was awesome. My girls were healthy, tan, beaming and so happy. It’s hard to explain that moment when you see your kids emerge from the big wood lodge, pause at the top of the steps to find you standing the crowd of hundreds of eager parents, and then run down the steps into your arms. It’s pretty amazing. It has the power to erase every exhausted annoyed utterance of the year before, the bickering, the frustrations of parenting, and remind you that all o this having kids thing is pretty damn awesome. So, yes, having a break from each other can be a very good thing.
What happens at camp does not stay at camp. What happens at camp can truly help build a child into a stronger, more confident, more self-reliant, and more resilient person. Having to intentionally capsize a canoe to prove you can get back in and save yourself in order to pass on to the next level? That will change you. So will climbing mountains, living with 12 strangers in one big room, having to take care of your body, make your own food choices, and actually remember to use soap in the shower. And maybe in this day and age, the forced state of being completely unplugged. I know my daughters do not have the same perseverance with me around as they do at camp – they push themselves to try new things and tackle new activities at camp in a way that they would not do at home. Why, I do not know. But, I also don’t care. I’m just glad camp is there to give them the experiences and life skills that seem harder and harder to come by in our over-scheduled, hyper connected world.
We ended our time in Maine with a great meal at the EastEnder in Portland. Portland is full of small, locavore restaurants and this is one of them. This big bowl full of lobster poutine was way better than the whole lobster we had the night before, all sweet with fresh lobster, creamy with cheese curds, and salty with super skinny fries underneath soaking it all up.
The rest of the meal was yummy too. Like these homemade s’mores icecream sandwiches.
There’s a reason they call Maine Vacationland – though I think Campland would be apt too. Nothing says summer to me like a road trip, the ocean, shellfish, homemade ice cream and happy, sun-kissed kids. This weekend was the perfect encapsulation of all of those ingredients – and we still have 6 more weeks until the first day of school!
GMC provided me with the incredibly fabulous GMC Terrain for our trip. But, all those opinions, as always, they’re my own.