Making Summer Sing: When COVID Killed Camp, I got Creative with my Kids

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by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

As summer 2020 comes to a close, I’m feeling all kinds of emotions. I’m sad, mostly, but not just because I love this season, but because COVID-19 and other events of the world have created a dystopian-like existence I thought was years away from materializing. 

There were definitely many bright moments. But above all else, I’m grateful for the time I had with my kids.

When my sons’ day camp was cancelled, my mama friend Steph and I created “Camp OB” on a lark — named after Oyster Bay (the wine, not the town). Together, we envisioned a summer of activities like playing tennis, doing obstacle courses, crafting, going to the beach, and taking field trips. We planned s’mores by the fire pit and paddle boarding by the Long Island Sound. 

I’m incredibly grateful to say that WE DID IT! ALL OF IT (aside from camping outside — I didn’t feel like shelling out for a tent).

The boys of summer 2020 doing their thing

But still. With a little creativity and ingenuity, we managed to pack a summer full of activities. Our kids somehow forgot that they were supposed to be in fun camps for 9 weeks, six hours a day (although they did half-day camps for three weeks). And we somehow managed to (almost) forget we’re living in the era of COVID (and racial injustice). 

Our final big event of the summer, the Camp OB Talent Show, was appropriately fitting. While I could post a review of my own, my father in law wrote an amazing one already, which I’ll post below: 

A Concert for the Ages 

by Stuart Bloom

The Camp OB Fairstock Summer Music Festival kicked off Friday morning on the Bloom Tuller Farm grounds. After a riffin’ guitar intro by Marisa, Logan opened the show with a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony piped in from the enigmatic and reclusive artist’s home studio.  

Once the crowd settled in, the roadies, Alex and Zack – who doubled as bongo backups on many of the concert numbers — took over the stage to set up for an amazing display on the drums by Declan, who pounded the skins with the raucous enthusiasm of the great rock drummers.

Nathan brought the crowd to its feet with a down and dirty gravel voiced cover of the Scorpions’ Rock Me Like a Hurricane, accompanied by the slashing Marisa on guitar.

Then it was time to change it up, from metal to hip hop as Kellan took the stage and burst through the fog showing all kinds of ink to shout out NF’s The Search that had the crowd dancing in the aisles.

Stephanie brought the festivities to a close with a haunting rendition of A. Corelli’s Allegro.

This was a concert for the ages, and we may never again see the likes of such talent gathered together on one stage. Here’s hoping the live album isn’t too far behind.

Baby Clothes with Guitars and Gender Roles

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Nathan in his GNR onesie

Nathan in his GNR onesie

I love shopping for clothes for Nathan. And I especially love buying (or receiving) cute little boy attire emblazoned with band logos, images of rock icons, and big electric guitars. The latter, especially.

But if I hadn’t had a boy, I wouldn’t have had so many choices in attire, and chances are, many of those onesies that say “I wanna rock” would say “I wanna garden” instead.

During a trip to Carter’s in my eighth month of pregnancy, I spent several minutes on both the girls’ side and the boys’ side of the store. The sex of my baby would be a surprise, but I wanted to see what kinds of cute little outfits awaited my forthcoming arrival.

Since I teach guitar and play in a band, I was immediately drawn to the huge array of shirts on the boy side of the store with guitars on them — some with little guitars, others with big guitar prints on them. But I was a bit troubled when I went to the girls’ side of the store, and, much to my dismay, could only find one little guitar-decorated shirt. And it said, “My daddy rocks!”

I asked the sales clerk about this. Surely, there were other options besides the zillions of pink, polka-dotted floral-print dresses and PJs for my hypothetical daughter!  Daddy does rock, but, in this case, mommy does rock, too, and can even play a GNR solo — so where is the onesie for that reality?

Sadly, I was told, there weren’t any such onesies or baby tees.

Well, this made me a bit miffed. Yes, I intended to dress a girl in pink (though I realized this was adhering to the same gender stereotypes some of my college feminist friends eschewed). Yes, I intended to put her in little bows. But why, oh why, are a options for baby girl clothes limited to the likes of pink-and-yellow-dot dresses and daisy-imprinted tees? Being a boy looked SO much cooler at Carter’s — everything that didn’t have a guitar printed on it had a monster truck or a dinosaur on it!

Apparently, the market for girl clothes with dinosaurs, monster trucks, and guitars on them didn’t exist. If it did, then Carter’s, one of the biggest infant-to-children clothing chains in the country, would be selling them.

So I guess baby clothes are where it all starts. Next, there are little girl baby dolls, so a girl can practice being a mommy when she’s only two, and then there are little girl kitchens, so she can practice being a homemaker. I’ve never seen a little boy kitchen — one that is tailored to the color palate and gender assumptions that go along with boyhood (baby blue everything, cool-looking gadgets, and neutral, faux-granite countertops).

Then again, I can’t deny I am a byproduct, to a certain degree, of gender conditioning. Though I would never buy my little girl a play kitchen, I don’t have any plans to buy my little boy a play kitchen, either. Or paint his nails pink, a la Jenna Lyons of J Crew.

But until people take a stand and start asking for boy-tailored baby kitchens or boy shirts with flowers and girl onesies with guitars — Carter’s and its competitors won’t change either. It’s all about what the majority of consumers (you and me) want.

Swapping One Kind of Sunday for Another

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For three years after I moved to Connecticut I continued to teach guitar every Sunday in Brooklyn.

I’d wake up at 8 or 9, fueled by three to eight hours of sleep, and head for either the Metronorth station in Stamford or the highway (at first, the Metronorth; when I got a Ford Fiesta, the highway). A couple of hours later, I found myself in or near the Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn, traipsing around town, teaching one student after another, and sometimes taking a lesson.

I loved being in Brooklyn once a week. It felt cool when everything about Connecticut was very Stepford Wife-like. I taught guitar, and between lessons, ran around Prospect Park, shopped for secondhand clothes in Park Slope, ate huge, leafy-green salads, wrote songs in Room A at the Brooklyn Guitar School, and enjoyed paling around with the other teachers.

On my last day in Brooklyn as a guitar teacher, I was 32 or 33 weeks pregnant. Traipsing around town felt more like waddling, and my growing appetite meant big leafy salads no longer made me full. My students, too, started dropping when they heard I was taking a three-month maternity leave. And even though I swore I would be back.

Alas, I never did. return, except for a visit.

Today, I teach in Connecticut.  Mostly Weston and Wilton, but I’m hoping to expand my roster. The kids are great, as kids always are – some are curious, some are spastic, some are quiet and a little brooding.

The biggest difference: My Sundays are free.

Of course, by “free” I mean I don’t have to teach. But I still have to get up super early –7:30 or 8-ish – so I can feed my son. If he falls back asleep till 9, great. But if he’s ready to play, mommy has to play too!

It’s totally fine and fun. I love watching Nathan go nuts in his little exersaucer while I do a few dishes and make his breakfast. And I love feeding him his breakfast (yesterday it was apples and barley) while we wait for daddy to wake up. And I love playing him a few songs on my guitar while it’s just me and him. I’m grateful that it is: My husband loves sleeping in, and I cherish that private time in the morning with my little boy.

I’m also grateful that I have some time to focus on my own music when my son wants to listen and the mood is right – though I do long for more time to work on techniques. Then again, many Sundays in Brooklyn I was so busy with lessons that I didn’t really get good, quality guitar-playing time. And while I miss my old Sundays a bit, it’s much less than I expected. Today I can look back at my past Sundays in Brooklyn and smile at the memories.

There is a time in life for everything, and now is my time to be a mom. Brooklyn will always have a small part of my heart, but today, my family has all of it.