Posts Tagged ‘catholic upbringing’

I was listening to a program on the plight of the helicopter parent vis a vis sleepaway camp. One would think that summer presents the opportunity for a reprieve; parents might relax and let go just a little. Instead, camps today employ photographers who are tasked to just wander around the campgrounds taking pictures of kids being kids – preferably happy and smiling campers – to be immediately uploaded to said camp’s social media pages! And so the phone calls begin to camp directors: “Why is junior’s shirt so dirty, didn’t he get my care package?” Or worse yet, “Why are there no pictures of my kid?”

For many years, I dreamed of my camp experience. These were my most cherished memories. I attended Camp St Joseph for Girls at the age of ten for a full 2 months, and went back every year until I was finally a counselor-in-training (CIT) and waterfront boating and canoeing counselor on the lake my 16th year. In the years before Title IX, this was the one place that allowed me to excel at sports. It may be hard to imagine, but PE at Sacred Heart School consisted of jumping jacks next to our desk, when we weren’t practicing hiding under them in case of a nuclear attack.

Most school days found me just sitting at my desk, hands folded carefully in front of me, counting the bricks in the wall of a car dealership across the street, and the days left until summer, dreaming  about camp. About the first frozen chill of the crystal clear lake water, about the sound of jacks being played on the cabin’s porch floor, about the pungent smell of the auditorium at a basketball game. And about nuns singing Ave Maria in a sun dappled procession to Mary’s Grotto in the woods.

It was a place to forge friendships, to be empowered when I was shuttling back and forth between two homes. I guess I was sent there since the Flapper had to work, because in those days, only kids from “broken” homes or those who’s parents were so wealthy that they were always flying around the world went to sleepaway camp. So it was a mix of the well-to-do with the down-and-out. And at camp, we were all equal, our best and only competition was the color of the team we played for, each year.

We never received phone calls or packages from home. I might have been homesick the first week a little, but I don’t remember that. My only memory is crying my eyes out at the end of each season. I never wanted camp to end. One day was set aside for Parent’s Day, I remember one summer the Flapper bringing her new husband, the Judge.  We were  expected to perform our duties raising the American flag, horse back riding, shooting arrows, playing tennis or basketball – my personal favorite. The nuns were large and in charge, no one would dare ask for special treatment. We went to mass every morning of every beautiful day.

Camp was a haven, the one place in a changing world that expected the best of its girls, where the rules were clear and laughter was the our constant companion. Here is a montage of the few pictures I could muster up this morning, One at an ice cream parlor, a treat with the Flapper outside of camp. She is standing in the dark sweater, while I’m petting a puppy. I wonder if 11 year old girls today like having their pictures posted all over Facebook from camp? I feel sorry for parents who can’t let go, and let their children grow up.

I am 16 in the picture with the flip, and the confidence you can see is all due to Camp St joseph. Just don’t ask me about the altar boys, and the golf course between the boys and girls camp…

CLR Montage Web 20130808

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I found out yesterday that my half-sister Shirley died. My sister Kay called to tell me. It was peaceful enough, she died in her sleep after refusing to be hospitalized for “low sodium.” I asked Bob what that means, and he said basically your system is shutting down. I have absolutely no memories of Shirley; she was 24 years older, she was having a baby at the same time I was born which I guess happened frequently back then. So, just as soon as I was born I became an aunt. She was out of the house long before our Year of Living Dangerously.

Shirley was the Flapper’s first child. The product of a dare, yes my mother married Shirley’s father on a dare. They met at a wedding in PA, and got along so well their friends dared them to get married. She was 16 years old, and I assume that kind of thing happened all the time too – the getting married at 16 part. Gi Closeup 20130505 Web

Before the Flapper’s first husband died, she had a son, Brian. At 21 she was widowed with 2 children. At first I thought their father died in the Great War, later I learned he died of a ruptured appendix, before penicillin was discovered. The Flapper moved to NYC with her sister in order to work, and left her children with their grandmother, my Nana.

And this is when the troubles started with Shirley. After awhile my beautiful mother moved back to PA and caught the eye of a young pharmacist at her street car stop. Enter my father, who promptly married her and insisted on adopting her 2 children…although maybe he didn’t since they never took his name. He raised them just like his own – the 4 who followed, Kay, Mike, Jimmy and then me. I told you this is all third hand knowledge.

The family folk tale is that Shirley never forgave the Flapper for taking her away from Nana, the woman she loved and considered her true mother. Certainly holding a grudge was a time honored tradition in our family. The result of this grudge fest is the eternal rift between Mother and Shirley. Show me a family that hasn’t experienced years of ‘not talking’ between relatives; still this mother/daughter feud was stellar in its length and complexity.

Recently I found out that Shirley contracted TB as a young, new mother. She was sent away to a sanitorium and her baby boy, the one who is my nephew, came to live with the Flapper after her accident. It was while looking through old pictures with Kay that I wondered who the baby was, the one who wasn’t me. The Flapper never told me – which is telling in itself – that after giving me up to foster care, while she was still in the hospital, she ended up caring for my nephew at home. Even Kay has no explanation for how this happened.

I was always told that I was never taken from my foster parents, Nell and Jim, because Mother was afraid of losing another daughter to a grudge fest. I have to think, considering our level of poverty, that we were lucky in avoiding placement in an orphanage, all of us. So maybe it was just the Flapper’s pride, which was fierce, that kept her from placing her first grandson in an orphanage. And even though she was bed-bound, crippled by that drunk driver, she would fight to keep him. Kay was 15, so she not only helped Mother with her physical rehab, she helped care for her younger brothers and her nephew. Without Kay, the middle of this family would not hold.

In this picture Shirley is on the far left, and Kay is on the far right standing. I wasn’t born yet.

Lynn Siblings 20130505 Web

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Nothing much new today, except that little thing about the Pope. I wonder what his parachute package will look like? Will they give him a condo in the Vatican with a kitchenette; a “memory” apartment option; maybe a nice gold watch? Just watched a podcast about a Hindu holiday in India called Kumbh Mela. Everyone swims in 2 rivers and gets blessed by these naked holy men who smoke marijuana, in a nutshell. I just knew my Catholic upbringing was lacking…but for me it took a Purim festival to figure out we all have different ways to worship. To practice faith.
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This week I took a quick trip alone, back to the Jersey Shore, to my land between 2 rivers, to see the Rocker and Ms Cait in their new, post-Sandy home. After so many years of not driving in the North on their turnpikes and parkways, I was full of faith at the start. My aggressive driving techniques have faded from too many country roads where everyone goes slow and stops for everything. But I crossed the Delaware Bridge with alacrity and managed to avoid bending any fenders. The first thing I noticed was the flags, or lack thereof. The flags that flew over bridges after 9/11 were mostly gone.

Times change, and maybe that’s good. We are really no longer a nation at war, hopefully leaving Afghanistan with the tools to govern themselves.

And speaking of tools. I may have said this before, but whenever a friend’s child would go off to college I’d pack them a tool box for their dorm room – a hammer, screwdriver, some nails. And then, at some point down the road, I told my adult children that I would no longer help them move, from college to first apartment, or apartment to a home. But, I would always be happy to help them “decorate!” Their second floor walk-up in a grand pre-War building is filled with light. Ms Cait found some plants and the Rocker took me on a tour of thrift shops in the neighborhood. And after watching my son build a table for their new nest in Asbury Park, I felt a certain peace.
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Hurricane Sandy may have taken away the boardwalk, and the big time developers may have dismantled the famous painted pony carousel and sold them off for a song, but there is a fresh, new vibe in this town. Everywhere we walked, they ran into someone they knew. A friend from Deane Porter elementary school started a vegan restaurant, “Seed to Sprout,” where you can take your loved one for a delicious and healthy Valentine’s prix fixe dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Cait’s Mom again, and sharing tastes of our sweet potato sushi and kale salad, with gelato that was to die for. It made absolutely no sense that it was made without cream, because it was that yummy. You can “Like” them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/From-Seed-to-Sprout/323375011030582

Faith is a funny thing. No matter how many storms may roar through your life, in our family, there is something special about the sunshine and strong wind that eventually follows. We will never leave the beach in our hearts.
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Happy Valentine’s Day to all you lovebirds.

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