The Rite of Passage for Every Camp Mom: Packing the Duffle Bags


Growing up, the month of June meant not only that school was coming to an end but also that camp was coming near. I’m not talking about day camp, which has its merits and is enjoyed by thousands of children, I’m talking about overnight. I mean parents sending their kids away from home for days, a week or in my case, many weeks, every summer.

I will get to my personal reflections about overnight camp (and one in particular) in a moment and why I feel so strongly that every child who can and wants to go should go. First, I want to tell you all about an important rite of passage for every camp mom: packing the duffle bags.

It never occurred to me as a child, as I arrived at camp and threw my sweaters, shorts, bathing suits and other miscellaneous items on the cabin’s wooden shelves, that my mother had painstakingly bought, collected, organized and packed every item in my two duffle bags. Oh, and not only my stuff but also the dozens of items in my sister’s and brother’s bags as well. My mother considered every detail to prepare me for every weather condition, activity and special event that I would face every summer.

I own the matching blanket to this one, that has been packed in duffle bags for three generations

My camp days are over, but 2017 marks my son’s fourth summer at overnight camp. I have to say that as I get older each year maybe it’s a good thing my memory is weakening and I forget about how much work it is to pack a child for camp. I have carried around my now tattered packing list with me like a baby and its blanket. There have been dreams in which my son arrived at camp and his bags were empty and the camp had to contact me to scold me. I have even had dreams where I too was back at camp and forgot to bring my duffle bags.

Packing a child for camp is very stressful, but it is such a rewarding feeling to zip the giant duffle bags closed, dump them in the car and send my husband off to throw them in the truck, ready for the journey to Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia you say? Alicia, don’t you live in Toronto? Why do you send your child over 1,500 kilometres away for overnight camp? It’s simple – Kadimah.

Sunset over the lake at Kadimah

I attended four different overnight camps as both a camper and member of the staff. Each place had its positives and negatives, but my favourite camp, the one where I fit in best, was Kadimah. Founded way back in 1943 by the Atlantic Jewish community, Kadimah is rooted in community and gives children a warm, fun and safe experience summer after summer. It helped mold me and so many other children, teens and young adults into the adults we are today.  My sister met her husband there, children make lifelong friends there and Cathy the baker makes the BEST chocolate chip cookies (she has been baking these cookies for decades!).

My sister and I at Kadimah almost 20 years ago. We haven’t changed a bit, don’t you think?
My sister and her then boyfriend (now husband) at Kadimah just a few years ago!
My kids at Kadimah last summer, with their first cousins. Yes it’s a family affair.
Doesn’t everyone do a selfie on Visitor’s Day? Nessa wasn’t happy about it.

As I bought, collected, organized and packed every item into my son’s duffle bags this week my memories of my days at camp came rushing into my head. Will he wash his hair with the shampoo or dump it out on the last day of camp to make me think he cleaned himself regularly? Or, will he change his underwear daily, and if he does, will he place the dirty underwear in one of the two laundry bags I packed? Will any of the 17 pairs of socks come home? These are questions a mother asks as the duffle bags make their way to camp and the children follow close behind in the coming days.

Today is the last day of school, so that means camp must be near!