Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where Time Stands Still

There are so many ways in which my kids' childhood diverges from the one I had in the 70s. Not just the obvious things, like them growing up in urban California and me in suburban upstate New York, but smaller things, mostly technology driven: they live in a world where anything they want, information-wise, is right at their fingertips on the Internet, and where they can reach out and connect aurally, visually, or in text form to anyone they know, anywhere, anytime.

The girls are sizzling with information and connection in a way that was just unheard of when I was a kid, raising issues, opportunities, and fears that I never dealt with. I thudded along with World Book Encyclopedia and face to face confrontations with the schoolyard bully, while they use Wikipedia and, with one daughter entering middle school this year, a whole new uncharted territory of digital peer interaction.

So it struck me last week, while on my annual vacation in the Central Adirondacks at a Family Camp run by the Rochester NY YMCA, that it is the only place and time in which our respective childhoods converge. My family has been attending this weeklong camp, which I've written about for Adirondack Life, since 1968, and about the only thing that has changed there, besides a couple of building face-lifts, is that the staff lounge now has two Internet-enabled computers.

Other than that: the mist still rises off the lake in the morning, pulling back the curtain on a pair of dark singing loons - and the human loons who make the 7 am trek to the waterfront for "polar bear swim." The horses in the barn still need feeding and brushing before reveille, and little girls gladly jump at the chance to do that scut work. The sailboats still need draining, the lifeguard always falls for the ski boat driver, the sound of basketballs smacking the court rings from one end of the property to the other, and the square dance always starts with the Hokey Pokey so parents can put their exhausted children to bed by 9 pm to rest up for the next day of non-stop action.

As I'm standing at the corral fence, watching my daughters mount up their horses for a ride down the Raspberry Trail, I'm keenly aware of the memory of my mother doing this for me, 35 years ago...memory made sweeter because she's standing here beside me now, watching my kids. It reminds me of the old days in school when a teacher would layer one transparency over the other on an overhead projector, matching up the edges of each and deepening the image with detail.

Before I was married I would say that camp was my touchstone - no matter where I was living or what I was doing, the last week in August would always find me there because that's where my brother, sister, and parents would be. It was a great comfort, and now, even though my touchstone is wherever my husband and children are, I still feel a compass pull to the lake and the cabins that surround it.

For my children I guess the effect will be even stronger - our cabin went from holding five Davis' during my youth, to now nearly 20 Davis', Davis IIIs, Berrys, Khos, Arras' and Packards, all related in the widening spider web of family. Whereas camp was a fun family getaway for me, for my California-raised kids it is the single time of the year where they get to spend hours and hours with their New York family (who spoil them rotten.) That combination of non-stop physical activity in a gorgeous setting with a huge dose of family love - that's a gift worth handing down through the generations.


  1. I love the photo and you make Family Camp sound like just what it is - a piece of heaven on earth!

  2. Nancy, you summarized Family Camp beautifully! I hope I am able to take my future children there and share in those experiences with them.


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