We’re into May, the flowers are popping open all over Montana, the Missoula valley has exploded with green, and I’ve switched from whiskey to gin. That can only mean one thing: time to sign up the kids for summer camps.
Actually, the time to sign up the kids for summer camps was a month ago. That’s the message I’m getting from the moms of my kids’ friends. They’ve been calling me with increasing urgency since Easter, asking when and where Rusty and Speaker will be attending camps, so they can put their kids in with their friends. My standard answer became rote: “I’ll get them signed up for camps when I’m GODDAMN GOOD AND READY.” The one I said out loud, though, was “Yeah, Barb and I are going to sit down and get them all signed up this weekend.” But we rarely even have time to sit down on the weekend, let alone pore over some summer camp time/space grid and coordinate with half a dozen other families.
My suggestion of obtaining fake passports and shipping the kids off to a South African labor camp was immediately shot down, so we finally cleared all the tax documents off the dining table and replaced them with fliers and brochures from the various summer camp offerings we’d collected.
The YMCA is usually the starting point, as many of their friends go there, and we have a family membership. This holds down the cost somewhat, but the big drawback is their signup day, which they call Super Saturday. The name is an attempt to put a positive spin on a wild free-for-all the first Saturday in May, when parents show up before dawn to form a line that snakes clear around the building. When the doors are opened at 7:00, hundreds of surly, sleep-deprived parents rush into the gym and try to get their kids signed up for a limited number of spaces. It’s kind of like the Mariel Boat Lift, but without the camaraderie.
Barb and I considered all the possibilities of the YMCA camps, discussed the pros and cons of the various full-day and half-day options, and decided to forgo the Y this year. Mostly because Super Saturday was two days ago.
I picked up a brochure from “Youths In Positive Environmental Situations.” They offer a series of outdoor adventures, with a green attitude and a real “protect the earth” message. I called the number.
“YIPES!” said the woman on the other end.
“What?!? Are you okay? What’s going on?” I shouted.
“YIPES,” she said. “It’s our acronym. I know, it’s kind of unnerving, isn’t it? Still, it’s better than the one we had when we were called Teens In Trouble Trying Yurts. Anyway, what can I do for you?”
I hung up. My kids are not teens (yet), nor are they troubled (today). Next up was an art camp, offered by a hazy organization out of East Missoula. Listed as an “empowerment art camp,” it sounded intriguing. Barb clicked to their website on the laptop.
“Hmm,” she said, knitting her brow and squinting at the screen. “Their website says they teach girls how to express themselves and empower their inner warrior through art.”
“Well, that sounds alright,” I said. “Speaker could use a little push in the self-confidence area. Is she gonna have to wear a breast plate, or carry a mace?” I laughed.
Barb grew silent, scanning the web page. Finally, she said, “No, but they seem to discourage ‘breeders’ and people with ‘phallo-centric lifestyles.’ I don’t know about this place, Bob. Look at some of the art that was created by last year’s campers.”
The depictions of women wearing camouflage pants, with bandanas wrapped around their shaved heads as they plunged spears and knives into pencil-necked white men, were enough to curdle my cheese. A few of the well-muscled women in the paintings were wearing Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco t-shirts, and seemed to have dropped out of a Boris Vallejo calendar. I gave that camp a ‘no.’
“Hey, here’s a brochure from that gymnastics place,” said Barb. “Both kids are into tumbling, maybe it’d be good to get them started on some real gymnastics.”
I took the brochure and perused it. The camp seemed pretty straightforward, ‘til it got to Wednesday morning. The session that day begins with a “prayer muffin,” where the kids are encouraged to “flip for Jesus.” Well, I don’t like evangelism mixed with my somersaults, thank you very much. Nix.
As Rusty and Speaker both sport a strong dramatic streak (especially when their Gameboys are taken away), we thought they might enjoy a kids’ theatre camp. The Montana Kids Theatre Company was offering a one-week camp, full days, that took the kids from script to rehearsal to the full performance of an actual well-known stage play. The price was reasonable, and I knew the kids would dig it. Barb was at their website, so I asked her what the play was.
“’True West’ by Sam Shepard,” she said.
“I’ve seen that one,” I said. “There are only two actors in it.”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding at the computer screen. “The camp’s already full.”
We were running out of options. I looked at brochures from the Nature Cooperative (since I do most of the laundry, I dreaded the idea of emptying their pockets each evening), the Young Brewers Club (a local brewery teaches kids how beer is made—vetoed by Barb), Extreme Hang Gliding Camp (must be 21 or clinically insane), Neighborhood Crime Watch Camp, Aryan Youth Camp, Let’s Play Doctor! Camp, Video Gamers Confab (bring your own couch and bong, I suppose), and Tattoo Art Camp (includes your kids’ first tattoo!).
Barb and I looked at each other. The camps were either too pricey, too weird, run by dipshits, or just too boring. I gathered up all the paperwork and round-filed it.
“Same as last year?” asked Barb, cracking open a bottle of beer.
“Same as last year,” I said, opening a brew for myself and dialing the phone. “Hey, Mom! How’s it going? Great. Listen, are you busy this summer…?”[Even if you're busy this summer, take time out to check in with Bob Wire at NewWest.net/bobwire.]