Once Upon a Time Near the Beach

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, in a snuggly hamlet close to the beach lived — for many summers — about 100 girls, at any one time.  And they would grow up and know each other for decades and decades.  But not yet.

And some years spun by and the little girls became hormonal teenagers.  And, as hormonal teenagers, the subjects of sex, drugs and — alas, not rock ‘n roll, but — punk captivated each and every brain cell in their still-formative minds.

There was one such girl, shy in her youth and averse to tongue kissing (let’s not discuss Greg Pogarsky), whose hormones would transform her, in her teenage years, into, well, let’s think of the caterpillar turning into the butterfly.

And more years spun by and now the girl is 50.  And Septembers bring her back to that snuggly little hamlet filled with love and friends, like a genetic homing instinct.

The smell of the air is the same as it was in our youth.  We all breathe in so deeply as if to capture the memories in our bodies’ organs.

And karma is a boomerang.  And it plays out like a maestro hitting our emotional buttons.

[play music to suggest that the idyllic story takes a turn for the humorous and slightly ooky]

And now she is a mom of a college freshman son.

And in the serene place where we can be as carefree as we were decades ago, technology and too much information intrude.  And in the same place (Google doesn’t discern between the steps of Lodge 1 or Lodge 2) as she pined for a young man named Will, came . . . .

OMG, my son just got to college and he slept with a girl!!!

He texted you that?”  All of us were thinking, but one person said.

They spent the night together but I don’t know what happened, HAPPENED!  I am trying to find out by asking if he put his sheets in the laundry.

GREEK CHORUS: “Understated, yet smart.”

Wrong question.  He is a BOY.   No matter what happened, he is not changing his sheets.

GREEK CHORUS: sigh, “Truth”.

Do you really need this information?” asked a sage one.

GREEK CHORUS: “NO one needs this knowledge.”


GREEK CHORUS: “Is this ready for prime time?”

I don’t know!! Ok.  This is a first!!” [“Ok, HOW do you know that?” thought all of us.]

GREEK CHORUS:  “We are closing our ears. We can’t HEAR you!!”

Ok, congratulate him for ALL of us.  Now, make sure that he has condoms,” said another sage one.

GREEK CHORUS: “Wait, this isn’t Braxton Family Values or Crazy Wives of [pick a City]. Let’s play on.”

Coincidentally, one among us is not only a professor at the young man’s college, but a professor of human sexuality.

I would be happy to deliver the condoms in a see-through bag while I am on the campus.  Is it ok if I say, ‘a group of your mother’s middle-age friends are very happy for you, but use these, please?

GREEK CHORUS:  “This is a whole new reality genre, like Naked Dating.  Let’s hang out; we may be revived by something other than a Shakespeare festival!”

[Revert to the fairy tale music]

The morals of the story, as you can plainly see:

  • You do it, you live with it (you along with a posse of older women).
  • Stop texting your mother about these things.
  • Things are only sacred if they aren’t bloggable.

And we all lived happily ever after, looking forward to the next visit to Camp Wingate.


So thirty or so middle-age women are at a reunion . . . .

Sounds like the start of a joke, huh?

Well, we do have our own odd communal sense of humor — and propriety.

First, a little background:

  1. And most of us are comfortably in our middle-age (but we look — to each other — as if we are still campers).
  2. We all feel close to each other, regardless of the facts — many of us only recently met at reunions.
  3. Those of us who did know each other at camp now share each other’s food, drink, and menopausal medications.
  4. As we age, we need to add supplements to our foods, and those supplements vary.

And that closeness has its draw-backs.

Imagine one middle-age camper’s surprise upon learning that, after taking a gulp of another’s coffee, it was laced with the mother lode of Miralax.  One camper’s constipation became another camper’s . . . . well, you know.

By lunchtime, the following conversation ensued:

Hey, yo, [Constipated one], I am f^&*ing stinking up Lodge 2 because I can’t stop shitting!  How much of that stuff do you need?

I need a lot because I have not gone in a while.

How constipated?  So long, as in an enema with a vacuum?” I offered (not so helpfully).

Let’s ask the doctors here.  You need help.  And I need to stop friggin’ shitting my brains out!

Oh, gross, we cannot talk about this about lunch.

Ha.  Of course we can.  Those assembled asked about our friend’s colon, intestines and just how much Miralax she takes (with every meal and then some).  I renewed my suggestion about a vacuum.

Thereafter at every meal, we discussed the progress of “things”.  The bizarro nature and the hilarity of it all got people laughing so hard, that yet another camper peed in her pants.

I’ve had THREE children.  These things happen!

And no one thought otherwise.

Next installment:  Twelve 50 year-old women are talking about their children’s sex lives. . . .


Wingate 52

Wingate is like Brigadoon. A magical place that exists in the hearts of so many and is accessible once a year in September.  And, during that weekend in September, a cohort  — ages late 30s to early 60s — enters a timeless place, where we bask in memories and incorporate the reality of our lives as adults.

There are rules:

  • We start the weekend at the “Winter House,” where Pearl reigns.
  • We only dance to 70s music.
  • We move in packs, never letting go of a hand, a hug or a smile.
  • Meals are for re-fueling and picture-taking.
  • The bunks are only for the tough; those of us over a certain age must seek refuge elsewhere.

As to the last bullet point, let’s get a few facts on record.

  1. Cape Cod, with a few exceptions, has only motor lodges and similar lodgings.
  2. The Four Seasons, Balazs and the Ritz-Carlton (never mind Klimpton or other international brands) have not come to Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
  3. And we didn’t get an invitation to the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis.
  4. We were staying at the Camp until it was time to sleep, so the accommodations needed only to be clean and passable.
  5. I only had to exceed the low expectations of staying in a bunk, with beds that had prison mattresses and communal toilets, etc., that are really only ok if you are under 16.

So I picked the Days Inn.  Not the Travelodge (more of a story) or the Econolodge.  The Days Inn.  Why, I thought, pay a lot for sleeping in a bed?  Our Brigadoon awaited us a Camp Wingate not at any hotel, motel or bed and bugfest.

Of course, because many decided that the bunk was too harsh and wanted a reservation at the Days Inn, I overbooked.  And, in my anxiety to book as many rooms as we all needed, I accidentally also booked the Travelodge (who can really tell the difference on-line????)  AT LEAST I ESCHEWED ANYTHING WITH “ECONO” IN THE NAME.

I have the dubious honor of being a rewards customer at the Days Inn.  If you book a zillion non-refundable rooms reservations by accident, you not only get special passes, but a visit from the CEO.  It is like having a platinum Sears card.

Still, the masses were not happy. They read reviews on-line about the “hotel”.  I had just spent visiting day at a “fine lodging” and it was gross.  So, I knew that the Days Inn was no better or worse than anything else.

After much hemming and hawing, and Pearl’s having laughed at my choice, my dear friend concluded, after some equivocation, that it could be worse — we could be in South Sudan.

South Sudan?  Whoa, I feel sooooo much better.  At least there is a worse place on Earth than where I had booked so many rooms that there is an indoor pool named after me in the very place we stayed.

We all laughed, knowing, tomorrow, we would drive back to Brigadoon.

Next installment — Janet2’s ebbs and flows and how Goldie literally ran afoul of them.


Phoning it in


On or about August 11, 2013, you came into the City to save me from the ravages of the Rings and promised to come in every few weeks to coach me in a new fitness regimen.  Your torture of choice? Running.  See, further, http://40andoverblog.com/?p=5478.

SIDEBAR: Since you are a lawyer and a litigator, no less, I can indulge that lawyer-istic bull shit that makes non-lawyers sooooo annoyed.

It has been almost 45 days (don’t count, I will not be moved), since you have come in to run with me and save me from the curse of the Rings.

Since then, I have run three miles twice a week and I have completed the Rings.  Ok, not with the finesse that I imagined, but now I can fine tune my skills, having accomplished my goal.

I let you know whenever I am running. Which is a misnomer.  I schlep, I pant, I look like I am heaving my last breath.  But you would not know.  Because you are TEXTING it in, with “go! go! go!” and “you are amazing!”.

Even the family is wondering, “where is CLSFOB?”  No, no, really.  We are good with it.

OKOKOKOK.  Lots of Wingaters are going to read this. And, dear CLSFOB, you are first and foremost, a camp friend.  OMG, you are in serious trouble.  Once a month, could you come in? Also, there is a reunion coming up in November in NYC and be there or be talked about.

And, you are the one who spread the rumor about whether I had face work or a boob job.  Even a camper I NEVER knew at Wingate knew there was a “controversy”.

And it took Janet2OB —  who had never felt another woman’s breasts and didn’t really know what she was feeling for — to announce that mine were real.  And Wingate campers who are now doctors (we are so proud, Sam and Julia, among others) knew there was no ‘face” work.

No, really, I am good with it.  And I am even honest about how much I run. Nah, I am lying.

So you have until the next reunion to make me into a marathoner, or I will master the finesse of the Rings. And it will be discussed and parsed at that reunion.  Worse still, live on in the annal of Wingate alumnae FOREVER.  And Goldie may even be in town for that November reunion.  Your choice.

But this texting it in?  Gotta stop.  I would rather work on SOB’s peach pit ring.

Wingate love,


Combined in one big hullabaloo

Today, I signed up SOB and me for a camp reunion in September, celebrating 55 years of Camp Wingate.  SOB started in 1969. I, in 1971.  And one summer in 1974, so did POB.

Camp Wingate.  These two words that evoke sweet days of childhood and friends for a lifetime, and it is quite irrelevant whether or not we see each other for decades.  Whether or not we were in the same bunk.  Whether or not we even overlapped in years.  As long as we know people in common, we share the extraordinary experience that is/was Camp Wingate.

I didn’t know it at the time.  I thought our bedtime was horribly unfair, possibly in violation of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners.  I didn’t understand why we couldn’t get two toppings on our soft-serve at Dairy Queen (what is wrong with sprinkles on top of the cherry or chocolate dip?)  Obviously, prison rations.  Oh, and remember the year when there were too many counselors who offered navel-gazing as the evening activity, so that Pearl had to tell counselors to be at the volleyball court and the waterfront?

SOB and I have to stay at a hotel.  Those bunks won’t do it for our decrepit bodies.  I snore, so we will have to have different rooms at those scary drive-by motor lodges in West Yarmouth (SOB, are ya sure?).  Worst comes to worst, we are sleeping on the floor of Pearl’s house, which we used to call the “Winter House” as distinct from where the family stayed during the summer months while camp was in session.

So, my best friend for those many years (other than POB who stayed for one year and captured my heart) may not come to the reunion.  To entice her, I challenged her to a tennis match but using wood racquets.  (Where does one find a Jack Kramer anymore?)   Years ago, when our friendship was in trouble, we decided not to play the intra-camp tennis tournament.  My best friend was sure to beat me soundly.  The bunk was on my side but I didn’t want that type of division.  The bunk was sensing my anger at feelings I couldn’t fathom and casting Pat in the role of the villain.  And I knew that they were wrong to blame her. I had to deal with how my sense of friendship had morphed into romantic feelings and how afraid I was.  I wasn’t kind to her during that summer, but I never wanted the bunk to pick sides.  We opted never to play that final in the tournament and, in a testament to the principles of Wingate, Pearl told us she was proud of us because we put the embers of a friendship ahead of competition.  For the record, I didn’t stand a chance against Pat.  We all knew it.   But I punished her in my own ways.  Clearly she never deserved it.  I have been a coward all these years because I have never said that I was sorry, that I didn’t understand it all until much later and that maybe she felt betrayed by me.

Will my friend do me the honor of playing a set of tennis and win, lose or draw? It is a little unfinished business.  I do not care about the outcome.  She will win (let’s be honest).  But I want to face my friend and hug her tightly across the net at the end.

If not at Wingate, then at the court of her choosing.  Or we can just meet, hug, cry and talk like I have needed to for over 30 years.

These Arrrrrrrrre the “Good Ol’ Days”

Forgive me, Carly Simon, for the lack of harmony in the title.  I tried.

A camp friend tagged in an old photo on our camp’s website.  I was 8 years old.  About my son’s age.  It sent me time-traveling through memories.

I was a camper for 10 of the 11 summers, from 1971 to 1981.  Some of my earliest camp memories are Saturday night campfires where we sang and listened to stories under the night sky.  Only as I am older do I understand the importance of those campfires.  In my mind’s eye, we were sitting in the majesty of nature and day turned to night, singing together about friendship and emotions we were too young to understand (like those in Carly Simon’s Anticipation), and being part of a group as we each let our minds wander — sometimes to homesickness, sometimes just in the music, sometimes to how much we loved our friends sitting next to us.   Sugar-coating in part, but only in small part.

So, this morning I had to follow the link to see other pictures.  I found some crazy old pictures of people I hadn’t recalled in years.  And I got so excited that I shared the pictures with camp friends on FaceBook whom I thought could remember their names.  I wasn’t sure that my best friend for many of those years would remember so I didn’t send to her.  Now I think I will, it is less important that she remember the names, but it will evoke for her a (I hope, happy) time — in all its wonderment and angst — that we, those campers of the 1970s, think of as the “Good Ol’ Days”.  When we sang, “these arrrrrrree the good ol’ days”, we may not have known then what we know now:  they were indeed so.

Just a little aside about FaceBook:  Too many levels of contradictions and irony, among them, that it connects people who were friends in a time before fax machines and copiers (rexograph machines were it).  Another blog entry, perhaps.

I was looking at these photos and smiling.  Then my son switched off the cartoons and wanted to cuddle.  I paused my trip to the OLD good ol’ days to enjoy the here and now.   And I think, I am old enough to know — in real time, as this time with my son unfolds — that these moments, too, will be the Good Ol’ Days in short order.

I guess good ol’ days happen all the time.  We just have to remember to enjoy the moment and then, years later, relive the memory.

And stay right here
‘Cause these are the good old days

Everyone, click YouTube of Carly Simon from 1972 and sing along.

Holding fast to the old and ringing in the new

Over New Year’s, my worlds collided in the most spectacular way.

We hosted our group of friends who have rung in the New Year together (in various iterations) for the past 8 years.  Our god-daughter (at whose wedding I will officiate this year) joined us this year and made a DELICIOUS confection that made me wonder anew why she is a lawyer and not a baker.  So, our nuclear family was complete (except for her partner who was stuck in THE HEARTLAND).

So, it would seem that it couldn’t get better than this.  And you’re right.  Except people from those dear, sweet (and sometimes naughty) childhood summers also guest starred.

First, a day before New Year’s.  This person is a dear friend (her handle is Janet2) whom I never see and yet to whom I feel bound in this deep abiding way, so much so that if she showed up on my doorstep, penniless, I would take her in, without a question. Maybe because she and her three sisters (one of blessed memory) and my sister and I shared summers — among us all — for maybe 18 years. Maybe also because her father and my uncle served and were scarred in the War together and her parents (now her mother) have been a part of my extended family all my life.  Maybe it is just, that deep down, there is just a connection that doesn’t need to be explained.

So, my friend is now a really big-deal in the music industry (and if she isn’t, I don’t care, because she is to me) and under the guise of a “family that plays music together, stays together” sent us the hugest package I have ever seen, with two Wii guitars, microphone and drum set.  Now I know she thinks I am this really successful lawyer, but it was hell to find a storage space for all of this because we live in a lovely box in New York City — but a box, nevertheless.  (We don’t have a suburban den, Janet2.)  We will discuss this more in depth as the story progresses.  (We do have storage for it, thank G-d.)

Then, because there are only two degrees of separation among Jewish lesbians, a friend called to say that they were coming with one more person for New Year’s and that person knows me from Camp Wingate!!!  Another person from camp in two days?  The circles of life about which we sang around the Saturday night camp fire are now creeping me out.

Of course, I remember this person, who shows up at my door essentially 30 years later and who looks EXACTLY the same (except, sweetie, the gray roots were showing and only someone-who-know-you-when can tell you this).  Almost exactly, except that she wasn’t wearing the Gilligan-like hat that she wore every day one summer as she walked around making wry and far-too-insightful-for-a-ten-year-old comments about the life unfolding before her eyes.  It also turns out we both had strangely close, yet chaste, relationships with the same women.  But that will be for another blog entry.

So we rang in the New Year, with family and old friends and even older friends (I include the box of Wii stuff as a stand-in for Janet2).  But not before I shilled for HOSOB.  He is a painter and we are determined that his fame not be posthumous.  So, I had him prepare cards with his watercolor of SOPOBAB with an indricotherium (sp?) (from the Extreme(ly Ugly) Mammals show at the Natural History Museum) as a sample of what he could do for those of our party with children.  No studio pictures, please.  Instead, watercolors courtesy of HOSOB.  I really put on the hard sell.   I poured it on thick.  My house, my Tupperware party.  So, eat our delicious food (courtesy of POB) and drink our wine but listen to my shpiel.

Happily, we were all of an age where we struggle to stay awake until midnight and everyone wants to get home almost immediately afterward.   We had dear friends and their kids sleep over that night (who can find a sitter on New Year’s Eve?).  One of our friends is very technically adept so when the kids woke up at 7am, she got to work on setting up the Wii extravaganza courtesy of Janet2.  By noon, SOS was mastering the drums, our friends had a guitar each and I was on vocals.

What I didn’t know is that after the song (from the Beatles greatest hits), the Wii grades your performance.  I figured that, not wanting to alienate users, Wii might stop with “Don’t quit your day job.”  But no, my vocals were such that I got “human? If so, an abomination.” Don’t worry, Janet2, if you appear on my doorstep, I will take you in AND I will not sing to you because you don’t need to go even lower emotionally.  But since you seem happy now, I may send you a tape of my performance.  I am way worse than Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello, but their voices also suck.  And, I can do a mean impression of both especially Elvis Costello when he looks like he has to pee and is holding it in.

So, let’s sing together the old camp fire song, “make new friends, but the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”  (http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/lyrics/makenew.htm).  And those of our childhood are like priceless gems.

Pearl Wolfson, thanks is not enough.