In Which We Overpack for Overnight Camp

In Which We Overpack for Overnight Camp

Rule: Your child's clothes should not be sold or bartered, but they can be dragged through the lake.

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Do you, by any chance, have 18 pairs of socks? I hope not. But if your child is heading for overnight camp this summer, I hope he or she does have 18 pairs of socks, because to judge from the packing list, apparently either the socks are the item most likely to get lost, or they are making a whole lot of sock puppets at this camp.

Did you go to overnight camp when you were a kid? I didn’t, but I was a camp counselor at a day camp. It is always better to be a counselor than a camper. This is because the counselors have very good parties, and they spend the next day talking about them in code while making Froot Loop necklaces with the kids.

Anyway, my older son has been going to overnight camp for a few years. When he started going, I heard it was traditional to send your child with a treat he could distribute among his new bunkmates. Due to allergies, there is no food allowed from home, so this treat usually took the form of an inexpensive (junky) toy. That year, I sent glow sticks for him to give to the other boys in his cabin. When he came home, I asked him if the kids liked the glow sticks.

“Yes,” he said. “I got a dollar each for them.”

“You SOLD the glow sticks?!”

“Of course. That’s what everyone does.”

This didn’t seem quite the time for that “if everyone jumped off a bridge” conversation. I mean, a dollar each was a good profit. I wonder if he’d cut me in on the action.

But I decided I was not sending gifts for the bunk anymore. I suppose if my son really wants to, he can sell his extra socks to the kids whose parents did not go out and buy 12 new pairs of socks for their kids to lose at camp. I also bought him new underwear to take along. Although I know that this isn’t necessary, it makes me feel better. I know this isn’t necessary, because if you are an adolescent boy, part of the point of going away to camp is that you don’t have to change your underwear for several days at a time. You might shower, you might even use actual shampoo, and then you will find the place on the floor where you dropped your clothes, and you will put on whatever you find first, which may very well be the same thing you just took off. You are in a bunk with 12 boys. Who is it that smells? Who doesn’t smell?

The camp brochure emphasizes that You Should Not Overpack! Which seems impossible given the 18-pairs-of-socks requirement. In fact, I counted 137 items on the list that we are supposed to pack in his duffle. I scanned the list of “suggested items” for things we could leave out. And finally I found one: Bathrobe. Bathrobe?? Okay, yes, girls of a certain age may be inclined to wear bathrobes. But, boys? If they are wearing clean underwear, as I have indicated, that is a small victory.

Don’t forget you’re also supposed to label all of these items with your child’s name. If you sew name labels into all the clothing, make sure you allow enough time for this task. We started in January. I think we will be done on time. Name labels will ensure that all of these items make it home, even if you don’t want them to. The clothes that have been worn will have been worn 400 times, and you will think they have been dragged along the bottom of the lake. That is because they have been dragged along the bottom of the lake. However, the majority of the clothing will still be neatly folded in the bottom of the suitcase. This is why it is good to put a complete change of clothing in the top layer of the suitcase. In my experience, nothing below the top layer will get excavated.

In spite of all this labeling, I guarantee that certain things will not come home. For instance, one flip-flop will be missing. The good news is, the one that’s left from this summer can be worn with the one that’s left from last summer. Unless, you know, they’re both for the same foot. Adjustments are sometimes possible.

If you are like me, you are better at packing for your child than for yourself. Why is it that whenever I go away, I pack not 18 pairs of socks, but six pairs of shoes? If I were to create a packing challenge for myself, it would be to survive a week with one pair of shoes.

I said IF! Let’s not get crazy…

For more from Paula Whyman, see and her online parody newspaper

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