Have Fun In The Summertime…

summercamp (1)

We all grow up longing for summer vacation.

I guess I have never really grown up because I am still feeling the pull. It is mid-July and I want to play…no responsibilities, just get out there and do whatever the hell I please.

Growing up, my summers were always accounted for. My parents did what every other parent did in Connecticut (as my mom would often say, “The thing to do!”) They would ship us off for a 2 month period.


We would finish school mid-June. Perhaps we had 1-2 weeks at home and the day before we were packed off to camp we would happily partake in the annual full day excursion to Rye Playland made infamous in the Tom Hanks movie, Big.

The day would end with a giant sundae at Nielsen’s Ice Cream Parlor in Greenwich…the only time my mother would allow me to indulge in a guilt-free caloric treat.

The next day I would find myself desolate, standing in the middle of some generic parking lot of a centrally located mall, steamer trunk by my side, waving goodbye to my parents for 2 whole months.

Camp Po-Ne-Mah (l to r) Nindy Kevis, Toby, Carol Birnbaum, Lynne Olson, Weegie Elwood Miller (counselor)
Camp Po-Ne-Mah
(l to r) Nindy Kevis, Toby, Carol Birnbaum, Lynne Olson, Weegie Elwood Miller (counselor)

I was first shipped off at 6. Of course, my parents deny this fact, but the above photo is definitive documentation (I was so tall for 6!) I still contemplate suing for emotional abandonment and emotional stress due to my bang situation…mom, how could you. I felt orphaned except for the care packages my mom would send,  probably out of guilt.

Camp fire AT Camp Po-Ne-Mah
Campfire At Camp Po-Ne-Mah

My first sleep away experience was at Camp Po-Ne-Mah in Kent, Connecticut. To be honest, I do not remember much about it, but that may be a reason why I never got into roughing it as an adult.

Camp Tevya
Camp Tevya

From there I was Fedex’d farther a field to Camp Tevya in Brookline, New Hampshire on Lake Potanipo. I liked this better because it was co-ed and I could play sports with all the boys. No, it had nothing to do with the attraction to the opposite sex, but everything to do with playing with more aggressive and challenging athletes.

I do recall the bottom of the lake being slimey and the older campers telling us never to touch bottom because the lake was laden with snakes.

If you are a Devil follower, you must know that I am all about equality of the sexes, but when it comes to playing and talking sports, I am all about the boys. That is when I can let my inner jock shine.

If memory serves me, I was usually on the winning side at Color War, which is the summer camp version of the Olympics. I excelled at volleyball, golf, swimming and tennis.

I also perfected short sheeting campers beds, the art of making bunkmates pee while sleeping by dipping their fingers in warm water and making razor sharp hospital corners. I was an expert at instigating uprisings and leading bunk raids to confiscate and pilfer hidden treats from younger kids.

Belvoir Terrace
Belvoir Terrace

Next on the camp front, I attended Belvoir Terrace, a fine arts camp for young ladies. Relatives owned the summer retreat and we were beckoned. Let me state that I would love to attend Belvoir now. It had excellent classes and stellar counselors who specialized in art, theater, music and ballet…the dance program had guest instructors from the Russian ballet.

A plethora of well known families were represented at Belvoir. My bunkmates father, prolific author, Theodore Issac Rubin, wrote the novel that the movie, David and Lisa, was based on. It was remade into a television movie in 1998 by Oprah Winfrey.


We had a special screening although I was too young to understand what the hell was going on and this is why: The emotional story of a young man in a mental institution for teens who begins to understand his psychosis in the environment of others with mental and emotional problems. He finds intimacy with Lisa, a young woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder….say what, a great summer flick for tweens.

We went to a Joan Baez concert and she brought her protege onstage, Bob Dylan. We attended Tanglewood frequently and participated in music sessions with Erich Leinsdorf, the Boston Symphony Orchestra music director.

The adventures and opportunities were endless and exciting, but I was all about the athletics and while I enjoyed it, Belvoir was not the place for me. Additionally, my adult cousin ran the camp even though my lovely Aunt Edna owned it. Nancy’s personality ran along the lines of  Nurse Ratched in, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Belvoir Uniforms and Toby Leading The Ceremony
Belvoir Uniforms and Toby Leading The Ceremony
(r) Toby th Ballerina
(r)  Ballerina Toby

We also had to wear purple flannel bermuda shorts with a white woolen blazer with the Belvoir crest on the pocket during the heat and humidity of a New England summer…torture!

Teen Tour
Teen Tour

I finally had a year off from the rigors of being someone I wasn’t and was sent on a teen tour across America. I witnessed my first and only lesbian encounter when I walked in on my 2 roommates in Denver. I called home to discuss the unusually coupling and the next I knew the chaperones were rearranging the roommate pairings.

I was a naive 15 year-old from Connecticut who played sports, was obsessed with the NY Giants and rode horses….again, I did not know what was up, but I was subjected to a far more intensive sightseeing trip than my parents had paid for.

I then graduated to junior counselor at Camp Spruce Hill and finally I was ready for college.

My daughter grew up in California and sleep away or overnight camp was not as popular. She chose not to go for longer than 2 weeks at a time and attended the Nike Tennis Camp as she was a very good player.

In lieu of summer camp, I planned exotic family vacations abroad. I never gave consideration to what anyone else was doing. I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter as possible while still providing memorable summer experiences before she turned 18 and flew the coop.

So, should I assume my parents wanted to get rid of us or just followed the pack?! Now that I am married, older and wiser, perhaps they just wanted to reconnect and enjoy some alone time.

Either way, I still love and admire my parental units and I did have some amazing summer experiences, became a better athlete while earning a ton of sports awards, I matured and gained independence, making my eventual college departure easy peasy. I collected summer boyfriends, made great friends and always maintained a  good tan.

So, live in the moment, get out there and enjoy your summer and always consult your children as to what they really want to do.


  1. Paula Lopez says:

    So is Cousin Nancy still alive!

  2. Nancy Russo says:

    That’s the Toby with whom I grew up! And I confess, I sent my sons off to camp for 8 weeks each, the younger one started at 7. But they loved it and still continue to talk about the memories. My husband wasn’t sure I was sane at first! I really enjoyed reading your articles–so true to the great friend I remember!

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