A Father's Journal / What we learned over summer vacation
Published 3:16 pm, Thursday, August 23, 2012
This summer we were a little more organized. Every year as the summer winds down we look around and lament our unrealized summertime goals. This year, we wrote down our goals at the beginning of the summer.
Just by writing them down, we feel like we accomplished more of what we wanted to. We have a few weekends left, but our biggest unaccomplished goals are going to Coney Island and renting a Dumpster.
The girls have never been to Coney Island, and it's so close. They have seen numerous references to it in books and movies. It is vanishing fast, so this year we vowed to go. We still have a few weekends. The Dumpster is something I want. You rent it for a few weeks, and your goal is to try to fill it with the crap you should have been tossing all year. It feels so good when you fill it and you can walk in your house again.
The girls went to a few camps -- teen theater camp, rowing camp, science camp -- and Julia is finishing up "weapons camp." Julia got her black belt this summer, and the local Villari Karate Studio offers workshops were they practice with different weapons made out of wood.
Caroline is also doing a stint as a counselor at Vacation Bible School. Who knew there was a summer Bible camp for Irish-Catholic Jews?
In addition to Julia learning how to rip my still-beating heart from my chest and show it to me, and Caroline learning the way to salvation, we learned a few other things this summer. Specifically:
1. If you leave your post-braces retainer somewhere, it's expensive to replace.
2. At an amusement park, we realized the statistics are right; not only is America fat, but we are heavily tattooed by very bad tattoo artists.
3. Grass needs water to grow.
4. Your sister can be your best friend or your worst enemy, often in the same day.
5. A 15-year-old can go into New York City without an adult, and the world does not fall apart. As parents, we felt that Julia checking in every 15 minutes was not an onerous burden. Just like when she was a baby and we would constantly check on her. We just wanted to hear her breathe. As she gains more and more independence, we simply want to make sure she's still breathing.
Growing up, we never went to real camp. Our house was more rustic than the camps we send our kids to now. Whenever my mother had too much of her nine kids, she would drop us off at the small airport nearby. We called it airport camp. We would spend the entire day just hanging out at the airport. We would watch the planes take off and land. Dad would pick us up on his way home. We packed our lunches, but not sunblock.
From the second-floor gate area, you could see the whole runway. We watched as the planes would land, then taxi and the passengers would come out. We would stare at them, imagining the far-off places they had come from. To us, everywhere was exotic. We had never been anywhere, and we lived from just down the road. We were not going anywhere exotic. We were going home at 5:30 when our dad would pick us up.
As we watched day after day, we noticed that some people had no one to greet them. They appeared to us to be sad. Maybe they were just there on business; they were going to rent a car downstairs. But, as one of nine children who lived in a small house, none of us could imagine someone not greeting you, not constantly at arm's length or closer. If the travelers looked lost, we took it upon ourselves to greet them. Many were not fond of filthy little urchins hugging them. Most of the time we just told them where they could get their luggage.
My best friend at camp was a "counselor." She was an elderly lady who ran the gift shop. She would let me buy one comic book in the morning, and if I kept it in good condition, she allowed me to trade it in on a brand-new one. She was my favorite counselor.
I miss airport camp. Maybe next summer, I'll just drop my daughters off at LaGuardia.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.