July 26, 1968, Narrowsburg, New York.
Dear Mom & Dad, Camp's Great! I made two friends yesterday and they only hid my eyeglasses for three hours. Tomorrow they are going to show me how to make a splint for the arm they broke for me.
Ten Mile River Scout Camp was getting to me. Heat, Mosquitos, Counselors. Every day, we were forced to sit down for a half hour and write postcards. Didn't matter whether you had anyone to write to, during that half hour, you could do nothing other than write in your tent. The first day I wrote two postcards, one to my Nan Dutch and one to my Nan Cuckoo or Kook for short. I was 14. This is embarrassing. Let me explain the names.
My mother's parents were the Ryan. They lived on York Avenue between 85th and 86th Street. They had a backyard off the kitchen of their first floor railroad apartment. The next door neighbors had a German Shepherd named Dutchess. I called the dog, "Dutch."
My father's parents lived on York Avenue between 83rd and 84thStreets. Their name was Pryor Rode; you know second marriage name plus first in front. I couldn't pronounce the last names, so I called them Nan and Pop "Cuckoo," because they had a beautiful antique cuckoo clock in their kitchen.
The nicknames stuck. My parents got a kick out of this, so did the Ryans, not true with the Pryor Rodes. I remember a conversation between Nan Cuckoo & me when I was around 6 years old.
"Tommy, you know I'm a big lady and your other nanny is not so big, so why not call me Big Nanny, and call your other nanny, Little Nanny, OK?"
"That's silly, your Nanny Cuckoo!"
My grandmother ran her hand through her hair and that was the end of that.
My first Ten Mile River post cards to my grandmothers.
Dear Nan Dutch, I miss you, I miss your house. Please send me a Bundt cake with lots of powdered sugar. Camp's great! We swim every day. Love, Tommy
Here's the other one.
Dear Nan Kook, I miss you, you miss me? Are you losing weight? Camp's great! Please send me a lot of cans of Bumble Bee tuna and a ballpoint pen this one's running out of ink. Love, Tommy
A week after I arrived at Ten Mile River, I get a huge box in the mail with a Bundt cake in it. "God bless, Nan Dutch!" And a smaller box with six cans of tuna and a Bic pen. "I Love you, Nanny Cuckoo!" Holding a can of tuna in my hand it dawned on me, I had no mayo and there was no mayonnaise at the post to be bought. The cans were useless, I forgot to ask for the Hellman's. Tuna is cat food without the blue label condiment. Upset, but still happy about the Bundt cake, I put it under my bunk and covered the cake with the box they came in.
We went for our afternoon swim in the lake. An hour later back at the camp site, my tent looked like it had a stroke. I looked inside the flap and saw a humongous raccoon with half my cake in its mouth splitting out the backside of the tent. I hate camp.
more Ten Mile River postcards revealed tonight at the Cornelia Street Cafe storytelling show @ 6pm