Here’s the thing about sleepaway camp. It’s the one place these days where they can force us to stop being the hovering, crippling, can’t let your kid tie their own shoelaces kind of parent. Most sleepaway camps do this by enforcing one very simple rule: limit communication. No calls, no direct emails, no texting. For most of us, this is a radical, cold turkey kind of approach, from which we get only one meager scrap of relief: A letter. An eagerly awaited, weekly update in that beloved little scrawl.
I haven’t been so anxious to get a letter since I was in high school. Until my 8-year-old son decided to go to sleepaway camp for a week, my only experience of the camp letter came from having memorized the “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” song when I was a kid:
Now I don't want, this should scare ya
But my bunkmate has malaria
You remember Jeffrey Hardy
They're about to organize a searching party.
This is the letter I expected/wanted/dreaded. Instead I got a letter so comically boring, so devoid of relevant detail, so impersonal that it could have been written by my accountant. My son actually addressed it to: “Mom Rosin and Dad Plotz.” After reading it, I could only reasonably conclude that children don’t need their parents at all, that they are all perfectly contented in institutionalized care and thus should all go to boarding school.
This also made me think that, given how infrequently kids, or anyone communicates via scrawled word, the camp letter home has become its own special genre. We invite you to share any memorable camp letters you have. These can be letters your kids have written, or letters you wrote as a kid. They can be sad, desperate, ecstatic, funny (intentionally or not) or totally devoid of emotion, as mine was. Our aim is to collect the best ones we get into a slide show. Please scan and send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “camp letter” in the subject line, and let us know if you want us to use your name. Thanks!