I have exactly one memory of day camp: canned spaghetti.
I couldn’t tell you a single activity, my age at the time, or even where the camp was. All I remember was that I was excited when I learned there was spaghetti for lunch – until I tasted it. It was vile. Mushy, bland, and disgusting. It bore no resemblance to the spaghetti I had at home, spaghetti with my mother’s tomato sauce.
I didn’t eat it. And for me to not eat something, even then, was a big deal. I ate everything.
It’s embarrassing that the only thing I remember from day camp is the food. Day camp plays an important role in socializing a child, and I should remember seminal childhood experiences like being picked last for teams, being made fun of, being ostracized by my peers. I’m sure all those things happened, and I think it says something about my psyche that what sticks in my mind is the Chef Boy-R-Dee.
I’m now having a second experience with day camp, and it’s also about food.
In the two-and-a-half weeks we’ve had them, our turkey chicks have gotten big enough that they seem a little cramped in their brooder. The pen we have planned isn’t yet set up, so Kevin decided he’d set up Turkey Day Camp in the upper garden.
The upper garden is a patch about ten feet square. Half of it is filled with potato plants, and the other half has the sad remains of our failed overwinter garlic. There’s a lone rhubarb plant and a clutch of catalognas across the back. Most importantly, though, there’s a chicken-wire fence.
Although the fence is only eighteen inches high, we thought it would be sufficient to keep four month-old turkey chicks confined. We were wrong. We had an escapee in the first hour. We solved that problem by putting a clam net – the commercial kind, used to cover clam beds on the sea floor – over the entire garden. Always useful to have a clam net lying around.
We put their food and water in a corner, and Kevin put a bedsheet over the section of net covering them so there’d be some shade.
Voila! Turkey Day Camp.
The turkeys seem to be enjoying themselves. They run around and peck at the bugs and the grass. They’ve started to practice being adults, fluffing out the their wings and raising their tails so they look like small scraggly imitations of picture-book turkeys. They chest-bump. In short, they spend the day being turkeys. At night, we put them back in their brooder in the garage, where they’re safe from predators.
The cat and the chickens have been around to investigate, but there haven’t been any fireworks yet. Since the cat and the chickens have gotten used to each other, they seem to be able to take a third species in stride.
What surprises us most about the turkeys is that they seem to enjoy human company. When they’re in the brooder in the garage, they often peep loudly and insistently, but settle down immediately when we come to visit.
At Day Camp, they tend to crowd against whichever wall is closest to where we’re working, running back and forth. We worry that they’re not eating and drinking enough, but when we go sit outside the corner with their food and water, they inevitably come over and partake.
Turkey Day Camp won’t see them through to Thanksgiving, but it’s buying us some time to get their adult pen set up. Meanwhile, they’re giving every indication of enjoying day camp a lot more than I ever did.