Here in 2015, however, I am on a seven-year-long wait list for a beach permit. The neighborhood kids and school pals are booked solid with camps, lessons, trips and tutors. Handing my kids Jarts or DEET would probably get me arrested. And, let's be honest: after a winter full of snow days with zero programming, my opposition to over-scheduled children has crumpled.
Unlike the Midwest, where everything from the roads to park districts seem to be governed by an overarching organizational structure, my new Northeastern town has about 78 distinct, little, private organizations offering lessons and activities. True to their Puritan roots, most of these entities shun any sort of self-promotion, including making information about dates and enrollment available to the public. Information is shared among close friends in tight huddles--"Miss Larkin teaches ceramics, surfing and dressage--she's a hidden treasure, and all the children love her. Here's her number." (I suspect these disclosures occur at the beach, but I won't know for 7 years. )
After two years in town wondering how to sign up Buzzy for decent swimming lessons, I've become more aggressive about stalking the town treasures until they add me to their email distribution lists, and about shaking down other moms about their kids' summer plans. The smart parents enroll their kids in one or two camps that cover most of the summer and call it done. (These are also the admirable families whose vacations are booked.) The rest of us juggle the 78 options (or the 6 of which we are aware)--all of which publish what little information they offer at different times--trying to coordinate multiple kids' preferences and possibly even the preferences of friends whose parents may be carpool allies. When one child's plan changes, an entire carefully crafted summer can come crashing down. Buzzy's friend's neighbor's decision NOT to attend nature camp resulted in a flurry of activity up and down her street. We came through relatively unscathed, with just two activities to rebook.
Now, I exaggerate--but just a little (and, sadly, not about the length of the wait list for the beach). And I do realize that even in the glorious hometown of my youth with the gridded streets and central park district, everything has changed. Planning kids' summers requires spreadsheets in most places. But, sometimes, I catch a whiff of Deep Woods Off, and miss those endless summer days. I may even resolve to keep Buzzy's and Rosie's summers a little bit open. . . . especially since Miss Larkin won't return my calls.