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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Dear Scarsdale,

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the Hamptons/Europe/the New England coast/horseback riding in the Grand Tetons (circle one). Here’s what I did while you were away.

June: After nine summers camped out at the Scarsdale Municipal Pool, I have become an expert at understanding its culture. This year, I entered the complex and immediately began a strategic assessment so as to determine the perfect place to sit. The pool is a bit like a middle school cafeteria that way; everyone knows that once you’ve picked a spot, it’s hard to switch out and become a member of another locale. So the first day at the pool is critical. Sun or shade? Hill or valley? Near the new moms or the new grandmas? Find some other Fox Meadowans, or branch off? As Brett and I perused the grounds with our children, chairs strapped to our backs, it all became clear: this was make-it-or-break-it time.

After some deliberation, we settled on the Greenacres Knoll, a grassy rise equidistant between the baby pool and the main pool, favored by a few families from one part of the village. With growing excitement, we realized that neither or our children, ages 8 and 5, would be spending much time – if any – in the two smaller pools this summer. When my children were little, I waded through the baby pool for weeks on end, only wet to the ankles. Then I spent a summer or two submerged mid-thigh, and then the following two fully soaked. Last summer, we turned a corner, and I didn’t even have to get wet! And, now that Zoe, my younger one, is a confident, able swimmer interested in doing handstands in the main pool when not diving off the high dive, we could literally turn our backs on the baby and medium pools.

Truth is, a kid could defecate in one of those small pools and throw up in the one, closing both indefinitely, and it would not affect our nuclear family’s happiness in the least!

We had progressed.

July: The phone rang one afternoon as I was home working on my novel, jarring me out of my creative spell. I saw the ubiquitous “Scarsdale Public Schools” number pop up on caller ID, and immediately assumed Zoe had been hurt at rec camp.

Turns out, she had actually hurt someone else. “Hi, Mrs. Gerstenblatt, this is Jill, over at Camp Sagamore. We had a little incident at the pool today, in which Zoe hit her friend, Daisy.” Oops, I thought, cringing. I had never received a call like this, one in which you instantly feel like the worst mom ever. As a former teacher, I had certainly made those calls, and now I hoped that Jill over at Camp Sagamore would not think less of me and that Daisy’s mom would forgive us both. “I’m going to call Daisy’s mom next,” Jill explained. “Please tell her that I am soooo sorry, will you?” I begged.

When I asked Zoe what happened, she explained it like this: “Well, Daisy was talking to me in the pool and I wanted to swim. And she just wouldn’t let me! So I punched her.” She took a deep breath. “And then, she punched me back. In the wiener.”

Which is worse, I wondered, sending Zoe off to kindergarten with a strong left hook and her own sense of justice or with an incorrect understanding of her own genitalia?

During the same week, my son Andrew came home from his swanky private day camp – complete with door-to-door bus service each day — with an announcement. “I think I want to go to sleep away next summer,” he said, between bites of his cookies and milk. I might have gasped. I looked at him across the kitchen island, fighting back tears. “But – but – you said you’d always live at home, even when you went to college! Even when you got married! You never wanted to leave me!” Andrew shrugged. “Yeah, well, I changed my mind. Plus, day camp is getting a little old.”

Well, excuse me. Maybe next summer, we should trade places. I’ll go to swanky day camp with water slides and zip-lines and he can go to the Scarsdale pool and try to find the perfect, quiet spot in the shade in which to read, preferably upwind of the sewage drain and downwind of the distracting chatter of the circle of friends on the knoll.

August: There is nothing I love better than trying on last season’s cashmere over my workout clothes in 95-degree heat while fighting off others who want the same item because it’s now 75% off.

That’s right: the first weekend in August brings the Scarsdale sidewalk sale! Of course, the sidewalk sale is a bit like the Jewish holidays; they come early or late but never on time. This year, the first weekend in August was actually the last weekend in July, but whatever. I’m not going to try and explain the complexity of this. I’m only going to say that I put it on my calendar and I came, I saw, and I conquered.

The sale, like the pool, has its own, unique culture. You basically find yourself half-naked in the back of a store like Pamela Robbins, giving strangers advice about what to buy. “Oh, my God, that looks awesome on you,” I said to a woman that I see regularly at spin class who basically ignores me, and I her. But today, bolstered by fashion at deep discounts, we could not only speak to one another, we could become each other’s temporary BFFs. “You think?” She asked, turning this way and that in the mirror. “Yes, I think!” I enthused, thinking, Duh, Dolce and Gabana, what a no-brainer. “Here, try this, it’s too small for me but it will probably fit you perfectly.” I added.

Too small for me? Had I just admitted that she was thinner than I was? Who was I, and why had I become so nice? Anyway, after 9 minutes of love-fest, we parted ways. I knew we’d see each other at spin class, but I waved goodbye like she was going to sleep away camp. “Talk to you next year!” I joked, sort of.

August is also when I head to Staples to buy school supplies. The third grade list wasn’t so bad; it was the kindergarten one that got me.

“Twistable crayons, thin and thick markers, and colored pencils, all have to be branded Crayola?” I said aloud in the middle of the store, to no one. “15 thick glue sticks?” The list also included two large boxes of tissues and pump soap and a Purell, plus two containers of wipes per child. At 48 wipes per container, that’s 96 wipes. Let’s say the class has 22 children in it. That’s 2,112 wipes per classroom. I pictured the kindergarteners, very clean and germ-free, stuck to their seats with all that glue, like something out of The Little Rascals.

But, then I thought, given Zoe’s track record, glue might not be such a bad idea.

Is Andrew on the verge of going to sleep away camp? Will Zoe make it through kindergarten without being sent to the principal? Will I ever finish writing my novel? The school year of 2010-2011 has all the answers. Stay tuned.

Your Pal,


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