Two of the best times of my life growing up (part II, Summer of Sam)
Alas, The other best time of my life growing up was my
summer at the Pineforrest campground in New Jersey. For some reason, my aunt Carol took me
and my sister for 2 weeks without my parents and it was the indeed the second
most amazing time of my youth. It was the summer before 6th grade,
and the Summer of Sam, when Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, was terrorizing New
Pineforrest was an institution in our extended family.
My Aunt Vera and her family spent their summers there and other relatives as
well. For some reason, my dad drove me and my sister down to
South Jersey that summer and left us there. We stayed in a cabin with my Aunt
Carol and my cousin Kathy, and sometimes Tommy I think, and my grandmother.
Again, I was in that special time of life where everything gets retained,
adolescence, when your brain is so open and porous. This is what I remember.
The water smelled like eggs and it rained for the
entire time. My grandmother Nanny explained that it would indeed rain for 40 days
because the Pope died or maybe she wondered if the pope died since it had rained for 40 days.
I was asked to wash the dishes one night and me and a
friend to threw them away instead.
I came and went as I wanted and no one bugged me, which
was beautiful. I spent the days running wild and free, unsupervised, barefoot,
and thrilled, catching baby frogs with my hands, swimming in the eggy lake and just having fun. I stayed out late each night
with the older kids listening to songs on the jukebox with a soundtrack limited
to Clapton’s “You Look Wonderful Tonight” and Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”.We would just hang out till late in the
cool night air. One night it started pouring on us and we were all running top
speed in the black night to get some cover and my legs hit a fence, mid thigh,
and I was catapulted into the air. I did not want to be left alone in the night
so I put out my arms and managed some gymnastic flip as my legs flew over my
head and back down to the ground and I kept running with the pack. I always
kept up with the gang.
I got a crush on an older guy, he was probably 3 or 4
grades older than me. I forget his name. He noticed that I liked him and
explained to me that I was just a kid, which was the most devastating rejection
of my life.
One night we went “drinking”, which meant drinking Rolling Rocks by the river. I tried to get through one, and was not loving it.
But it was great to be included. I loved feeling part of a gang and included.
I slept in a triple bunk bed and banged my head each
morning when I sat up.
Lastly, Aunt Vera and her husband Gerard very
generously took us to Atlantic City when it was still an amusement park type
boardwalk. (Thank you both!) We went under the water in a diving bell and got
scared when they acted like there was trouble getting us back up. We saw a
woman turn into an ape and break free and charge the crowd, and we all ran out of the venue like
we were supposed to. We went on rides and ate ice cream and waffles and really
lived it up, which I never really did in real life back home. Everything was so magical.
Incidentally, The Daily News front page that day was the sketch of Son of Sam
and it was everywhere we looked.
At some point my father picked us up and I cried as we drove back home. Again it was the generosity of my Aunt Carol who agreed to watch
us which made it all possible. Thanks again Aunt Carol. I miss you and love you.