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Sh*ts & Giggles

A City Kid Goes To Camp

The first installment of a new humor series for parents—because if we weren't laughing, we might be crying.

Written By Liz McDaniel

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Johnson,

You’ll notice I am no longer calling you mom and dad since you abandoned me at Camp Sunnyside. It is a strange, unforgiving place with no Alexa. Well, there is one girl named Alexa but she doesn’t know how to turn on the air conditioning or play Ariana Grande. She’s from Santa Fe and she likes to tell long stories about her artist mother who rolls her own cigarettes and never wears a bra. When she gets to the part about her morning meditation and how you are allowed to acknowledge the thoughts without giving them power, I say, “Alexa, off,” but it never works.

Also, is this the country? You have mentioned in passing that the country is a nice place to relax, but they keep us very busy here. Every minute is planned and they are constantly asking us to sit in a circle. If we are caught without a smile on our face, someone in a bright yellow t-shirt will say, “Sunnyside up!” and give a thumbs up like the emoji, which I think we are meant to reciprocate. My bunkmate Genevieve says that if she had a cell phone she could get us all something called “Sunnyside Uppers” from a man named Glen. If I had a cell phone, I would use it to order Blue Ribbon Sushi on Caviar.

Once a week they drag us to a Ropes Course where we are forced to do a series of exercises that my counselor says are meant to teach us about trust. I told her I used to know about trust until I watched through the dust as my parents’ car got smaller and smaller. Also, I’m allergic to dust.

I know I am supposed to be enjoying nature, but when it started pouring rain on our hike, I asked the counselor if we could call a Lyft. Instead she presented me with a garish plastic thing she called a poncho and told me to focus on the journey. I just thought you should know.

After lights out, it actually gets quite dark and I have had a lot of time to think. I have wondered if it’s my fault, if I could have done something differently and you wouldn’t have sent me away. On the upside, I am learning to water ski!

Also—and this is something my counselor would call a “coinkydink”—my bunkmate Mathilda went to legal camp last summer and she has been helping me with the paperwork to become an emancipated minor. She is very knowledgeable. I hope you don’t take it too hard. I am sure we will run into each other when I am back in the city. Genevieve said Glen could give us a ride. Until then, Sunnyside up!

Your former daughter now mosquito-bite-covered-ward-of-the-state

p.s. I hope you enjoy this drawing tracing the outline of my upturned thumb. God, I miss emojis.

Liz McDaniel is a freelance writer in New York. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and Follow her on twitter @lbdgrl.