They get to spend 9 glorious weeks at the
summer sleepaway camp that I grew up at.
A place that has always been my second home and my safe place to
land. I started going right after my own
parent’s divorce and continued well into adulthood as staff. When I could no longer take summers off I
still made sure to visit and attend alumni functions every chance I got. My camp family was always in touch.
Shortly after my own divorce I returned for an
entirely different kind of summer, with my twin 3 year olds in tow.
I was able to give my babies a safe place to
land as well. And we thrived!
And we continue to thrive. Summers away give kids a chance to explore
and challenge themselves in the best way possible. We unplug from the world, we unplug from our
devices, we unplug from so many of our daily stresses.
It also turns our parenting schedule entirely
upside down. My ex only sees them one
day a week for the whole summer. I get
to be with them every night but on my only day off each week, I am bringing
them back home to visit her. We all give
up something. And it’s not without
difficulty, but it brings so much reward.
This summer our babies grew in leaps and
bounds. They went on hikes, they learned
to swim almost entirely without their puddlejumpers. They navigated new friendships and being
reunited with old friends. They learned
to handle crowded dining rooms and social scenes they don’t get to encounter at
home. They went to a water park and the
movies, learned songs and dances. They
spent the summer being kids and came home ready for kindergarten.
They have no idea what this means for them yet,
what seeds we planted. But one day they
will be so glad we didn’t spend the summer fighting over who gets to have the
kids when and instead gave the summer to them.
It’s not my time or my exes time.
It’s their time. And they loved
Sometimes, when I can’t help it, I leave New Jersey. Last weekend, my husband and I ventured about an hour north into Newburgh, New York. We embarked on the Estuary Steward and took a 30 minute ride up the Hudson River to Pollepel Island. Once we reached Pollepel Island, our tour guide regaled us with the history and folklore surrounding the island, as well as its locally famous landmark, known as the Bannerman Castle. Frank Bannerman and his family lived in New York in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Frank purchased military surplus goods such as guns and ammunition and resold them for profit. He eventually ran out of room to store his 30 million munition cartridges, and thus began construction on a castle to store his military surplus goods on Pollepel Island. Frank designed the castle based off of castles in Europe that he saw during his travels. Construction began in 1901 and ceased upon Frank’s death in 1918. In 1920, an explosion of gun powder and bullets stored on the premises destroyed a portion of the castle. The elements, including several snowstorms and fires, further destroyed the castle in the following decades. At the present time New York State owns the lands, and various tour groups offer walking tours and kayak tours of the area. The grounds are extremely well-kept, including an extensive array of flowers, the remains of the “Bannerman Castle,” and the residence in which the Bannerman family resided during their time on the island. This is a must-see location for anyone who enjoys modern American history, Hudson Valley history, and outdoor/hiking activities.
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Vietnam Era Museum is the most somber and important locations I have visited. My husband and I stopped by one Saturday afternoon in October on our way back from a random beach. As we pulled into the parking lot, I was taken aback by the fully-restored UH-1D helicopter (more commonly known as the Huey) perched on a pole right in front of the museum. Upon entering the museum, we noticed that we were the only visitors there. A friendly gift shop cashier suggested we take a guided tour with a veteran. Our tour guide, Jim McGinnis, was incredible. He guided us through the entire grounds, starting with the US War Dogs memorial, which was erected to honor to tens of thousands of dogs and their handlers that have served in the Armed Forces since World War I. Jim regaled us with stories of his tour of duty in Vietnam while also showing us dozens of pictures he took. The Memorial itself is an open area surrounded by 366 black granite panels arranged in a circle. Each panel represents month and day, and lists the names of the New Jersey residents who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War, on that particular day, along with the year they passed away. The museum offered an informative juxtaposition of the happenings of pop culture in government leading up to, and through, the Vietnam War, both un the United States and in Vietnam. On our way out, Jim began telling us the story behind the Huey on display in front of the museum. When I told him that I was a student pilot, we instantly bonded and shared stories of our respective experiences in helicopters (with his stories being exponentially more exciting than mine). I highly recommend this location for students, veterans, history buffs, and military families.
Jersey Shore Alpacas is a whimsical little farm hidden in Cape May. My husband and I were lucky enough to get a private tour on a Sunday in May, before their busy season. The owner happily provided us with pre-packed bags of carrots to entice the ultra-social woolly inhabitants. Some of the alpacas were amenable to pats on the neck. None of them wanted the perfect tufts on their heads to be touched. Others were interested solely in the crunchy orange offerings that they knew we had. The $25 fee for a private tour (four up to four people) is worth it to get up close and friendly with the friendly lumbering herd. The alpacas seemed to become comfortable with us being in their pen after a few minutes, and turned their attention to spitting their freshly chewed carrots at each other in a fashion that made them sound like mini mortars. After all of our peace offerings had been exhausted, we visited the gift shop, which was full of hats, gloves, socks, scarves, and fabric woven from various kinds of alpaca fleece. I left as a very satisfied customer with a baby alpaca scarf.*
*No baby alpacas were harmed in making the scarf. Baby alpaca wool is the name for the extra soft fleece taken from the underbelly of the animal.