By Hannah Reich Berman
If any grandmother with grandchildren at sleepaway camp does not recognize the five words above, it is a clear indication that she has not fulfilled her grandmotherly obligations. The 2013 summer camping season is now over and the campers are back home. Nevertheless, the following information is worth remembering for next summer and all the summers to come.
There are four summer commandments for grandmothers. The commandments are unwritten, but they do exist. The first commandment (one that everyone knows that I ignore) is that a grandmother should visit her grandchildren on visiting day. Commandment number two is predicated on number one. It states that if a grandmother does not attend on visiting day, she must do the next best thing, by showing up at the bus stop when the kids leave. In so doing, the grandmother will be absolved of the sin of not schlepping to camp midsummer. (Note: The term midsummer isn’t entirely accurate, since visiting day is nowhere near the middle of the summer. It is so soon after the kids get there that the parents, who have no choice but to visit, might be well advised to head up to camp visiting day within 24 hours after the bus pulls away. With any luck they’ll arrive in time.)
A grandmother’s third summer commandment is that she must send packages. One package is mandatory but, from a camper’s point of view, it is in no way sufficient. Make no mistake about that. Campers want as many packages as they can get. Who knows? Maybe there’s a contest to see which kid gets the most packages.
The fourth, and final, summer commandment for grandmothers is a letter-writing campaign! It is unclear who or what we are to campaign for, but we need to write. Every letter starts off in one of the following two ways: I hope you’re having a good time at camp or I hope that by now you’re having a better time at camp. Either greeting is acceptable, but both are boring. That, however, is perfectly okay and is not a problem, since campers don’t pay attention to the greeting. Actually, it’s doubtful that they pay much attention to any part of the letters that they receive.
After that scintillating opening sentence comes what I refer to as the “like” questions. Do you like swimming? Do you like your counselors? Do you like the food? Do you like your bunk? Do you like the other kids? That pretty much concludes the “like” questions.
Next up are the general questions. Did you meet a lot of new kids? Are the kids nice? Is the camp nice? Is your bed comfortable? Do you have everything you need? What’s your favorite activity? That sums up the general queries!
What is most interesting to me about all questions is that never has a single one of my grandchildren answered any of them. This should bother the letter writer. It doesn’t bother me. It took me a while to get with the program, but now I know not to expect answers. I continue to ask the questions in order to fill up space on the paper. And, speaking of paper, the kids don’t have to concern themselves with filling up a sheet of paper. They write to us, if they write at all, on something known as camp stationery. It looks like this:
YESTERDAY WE WENT
MY BUNK IS
MY COUNSELORS ARE
THE FOOD IS
_______________________ (space for the kid’s name)
All the kids have to do is fill in the blanks. It does not inspire creative writing, but it gives new meaning to the words easy as pie. Campers normally write anywhere between zero and two letters per summer. Grandmothers are expected to write a lot more than that, the suggestion being one letter a week. For that reason, I am waiting for some enterprising soul to come up with a similar type of stationery for uninspired adults; stationery that would follow a similar format and absolve us having to think about what to write. My suggestion is that it should look like this:
THE WEATHER HERE IS
I SENT YOU A PACKAGE OF
YESTERDAY I WENT
LAST WEEK I SAW
TOMORROW I HOPE TO GO TO
WE ALL MISS YOU SO MUCH!
Stationery like that would be a big seller among those grandmothers who take their letter-writing obligation seriously. Unfortunately, until someone comes up with such stationery, we will have to make do with creative writing. I offer the following suggestions.
A bad storm makes a newsworthy topic, but hurricanes and floods are currently off limits since Hurricane Sandy hit us last October. Any major new purchases, such as a car, a wide-screen television, or even a new computer are good news fillers. Anyone who is having her house or apartment painted can write about that. All of these are acceptable topics. Chances are that the kids will have absolutely no interest in any of them, but who cares? It’s something to write about! In any case, it’s unlikely that the kids ever get much real enjoyment from reading any of the letters they receive; they simply like to receive them. And just as there may be a contest to see who gets the most packages, it is reasonable to assume that there might also be a contest to see who receives the most letters. Now there is enjoyment, because kids love to compete.
The good news is that we’re now in mid-August. September looms and summer is over. It makes little difference to most of us that the fall equinox is on September 22. As far as most of us are concerned, summer is over. This isn’t too bad; in my parents’ house, the summer season was even shorter. When I was a kid, my mother would put a different spin on it. She didn’t wait until August to make her pronouncement. Every year on July 5, she would say, “Well, the Fourth of July is past; summer is almost over!” She wasn’t the only one. My friends’ moms said the same thing. For some reason, back then, mothers used to rush the season. And since much of what I say and do is exactly what my mother said and did, I feel the same way about things. Last month, as soon as the Fourth of July passed, I made the same statement. “Summer is just about over.” And now, so it is!
That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.