Tiny cries for help from the woods
- Last Updated: 12:22 AM, June 10, 2012
- Posted: 10:33 PM, June 2, 2012
P.S. I Still Hate It Here!
More Kids’ Letters from Camp
by Diane Falanga
Campfires, bunk beds, sing-alongs — pure hell.
Sleepaway camp, a rite of passage for so many children this summer, has its own heart-wrenching and often hilarious side effect: the “Come get me, now!” letters to home.
Author Diane Falanga’s 8-year-old daughter, Bianca, was no exception when she attended a six-day sleepaway camp in 2006.
“I’ve made a horrible mistake,” one letter read.
“They made me clean the table. I want to go HOME,” another went.
Though Falanga was “wracked with guilt and weepy” and nearly chartered a plane to go rescue her daughter, she also found herself “belly-laughing.”
When Falanga shared her daughter’s letters with friends, she discovered almost every parent had their own, even funnier version of Bianca’s homesick letters. So Falanga started a collection, resulting in her first book, “P.S. I Hate it Here!” which was published in 2010.
After the success of the first installment, Falanga had a “full- blown camp-letter addiction” and began scouting out letters from all over the country via Facebook and other social networking sites.
She received 5,000 letters in total, some written as far back as 50 years, and narrowed them down to around 200 for her second volume, “P.S. I Still Hate it Here!”
“These are not letters to God. They’re not sweet or maudlin,” she said. “These letters are endearing, but also raw and honest.”
In the end, though, the tie that unites them all is that in the end, “The kids work it out.”
Like Bianca, now 14, who has gone back to summer camp for the past four years, many of the campers who most adamantly hated sleepaway camp returned or at least were able to look back on the letters and smile.
Eryn Helfant, now 31, Manhattan
In 1992, at the age of 9, Eryn sent a series of detailed letters outlining the various things she missed during her eight-week-long stay at Camp Starlight: rain boots, Keds, tennis balls, headbands and a hair dryer.
She also included an extensive missive about a seemingly surly doctor. "The reason I hate him is because he is old and doesn't care about anyone. He is not a good doctor," she wrote to her mom.
Looking back, she can't help but laugh at the dramatic letters.
"To this day, I still tell my mom that I'm glad she sent me even thoughI gave her such stress during those summers."
Eryn, now a teaching assistant in Manhattan, adds that she would probably one day send a child of her own to camp. "It was really a great experience. I met a lot of friends and learned a lot, too."
Alexander Sufott, now 11, Downtown Brooklyn
Alexander, then 10, didn't mince words in his letters home to his mother: "I'm stuck in hell."
"I thought it was terrible," Alexander says of his monthlong camping excursion in Rockland County last year. "I thought it was completely awful and it was a terrible idea to torture kids and send them away for the summer."
With a year's hindsight, he does admit that he may have been "exaggerating a bit" and that there were a "handful of things I liked" about the experience.
"I remember what I was doing there and it gives me a laugh or two, but it doesn't make me feel like I should have gone back. In general, I had fun, but I don't feel I should do it again," Alexander says.
Jackie, now 13, from Westchester County
Three dogs -- two Shih Tzus and a German Shepherd -- were not enough for 9-year-old camper Jackie.
"Dear Mom and Dad, its (sic) time for you to know that we need a fourth dog. Can we please please please please please please with a cherry on top get a black lab?"
Unfortunately for her parents, the camp had a new litter of puppies that it was raffling off to children (who got permission). Jackie wanted one.
"I even sent another letter full of pleases," she says.
But even with a new litter of puppies, camp wasn't all that great, she admits later.
"I'm not really the homesick type," she tells the Post. "But we were constantly being monitored, and I was afraid to tell my parents that I wasn't having a good time."
Jackie now goes to a different camp that she "loves."
In the end, her parents made the right decision to nix the dog, she says. "If I got the dog, it would remind me too much of camp, so I'm happy I didn't get it."Follow @NYPostOpinion