Today is the first day of summer vacation for exactly half of my family. My boy and I are in the sad, bereft half. He has four more weeks, I work year round.
Depending on your point of view, my husband and kids are either lucky or unlucky that Daddy is a teacher and also has the summer off. On the lucky side, no one has to go to day camp and everyone (except me) gets to spend all sorts of quality time together. On the unlucky side, no one gets to go to day camp and everyone (except me) has to spend all sorts of quality time together.
When I was a kid, summer meant one thing: The Club. The way I remember it, we were brought there at daybreak and forced to stuff all of our hair into bathing caps and then break through the ice encrusted pool for swim practice. At sundown, we were dragged from the balmy oasis and forced to return home. Unless there was a pool party and we got to stay late.
Swim practice was tolerable for a couple of reasons. If you were on the swim team, you got a new speedo every summer. Unless you happened to be the youngest of 6 girls, then you got a new OLD speedo every summer, and had to tie the back straps together with a dingy gray shoelace. Swim team members also had the privilege of participating in swim MEETS, and those were awesome. I was such a badass in my team speedo, prancing around jeering at the other, lesser country club swimmers. I don’t know who that quivering, sniffling fool was that you might remember from the starting block, who always came in dead last. *I* was a badass. We used to eat raw jello during the meets for extra energy and sustenance. I adore the logic behind that. The best part was that after the meet, we got candy. I was willing to endure just about any level of humiliation for the promise of candy.
Our family had rules about eating at the club. We had a giant yellow playmate cooler that was kept in a certain spot behind the forbidden zone of the guard shack. The cooler held our lunch, although for the life of me I can’t image what my mom put in there for me to eat, because I didn’t eat anything. But none of that mattered, because at 3:00 we got to have a SNACK! Mom held the tickets, to bequeath unto us at the appointed hour, and not one minute sooner. 3:00 was a reasonable time for a snack, and if you were “hungry” before 3:00, you should have eaten your lunch and there was fruit in the cooler. At 3:00 we got our golden ticket, and the delicacies of the snack bar were ours for the asking. The decision was paralyzing, there were so many choices! But not the candy, we’re not allowed. I don’t recall that chips were an option either, but the field was still vast within the boundary of our prescribed food group: ice cream. My favorite was Italian ice, preferably one that had a big layer of slushy crystals on the bottom so I could invert it and eat that part first. Mmmmmmm. Some people were thrifty with their tickets, and could save up for a few days and buy French fries, or a few weeks and buy a whole lunch. Me? I did not inherit that gene. My ticket barely had time to grow warm and sticky in my palm before it was turned over to the equally sticky and very important goon manning the snack bar.
Some days we’d pick raspberries from the field across the road and then dump sugar packets over them in a cup. Some days we’d sneak over to Spook Island. Every day was an adventure, and we kids traveled in packs to conquer the long hours. The moms had their stations around the pool, we knew where to find them if we needed them, but we rarely did. We knew the ropes at The Club, we knew everyone and everyone knew us. Our biggest problems were our peeling noses and the injustice of adult swim.
You’d hardly recognize The Club anymore. It’s beautiful, and a real treat to visit now that I’m semi-civilized. But the packs of kids who begin their summer there today have a totally different kind of club. Gone are the wooden family lockers, gone are the bathing caps. Gone are the tickets and coolers and the old guard shack. There are multi million dollar homes on Spook Island. But the high dive is still there, and in another year my boy will get to try it. The kiddie pool is still there. Ew. The snack bar is still there, and last time I was home I had a chicken Caesar salad and an Amstel Light. At 12:30. And I didn’t even have to save up tickets.