James and the Giant Poo

Ah, the sweet rhapsodic letter home from an appreciative child at camp

James and the Giant Poo

Getstock; Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

Many kids are currently off at summer camp, away from the lure of electronic devices and the strictures of personal hygiene—and far away from their parents, who yearn for correspondence from their children when not secretly delighting in their absence.

What follows in italics is an actual letter home from Algonquin Park from our 12-year-old son James. It is presented with its original spelling and grammatical errors. Commentary and analysis are provided for your edification. It begins:

One of the many things I am looking forward once I get home is a tolet that doesn’t get clogged so easily and when it gets clogged people don’t keep pooing in it until there is poo two inches over the water level.

That is the opening line of his letter. There’s no “Dear Mom and Dad.” There’s no “Camp is awesome!” He just cuts straight to the fecal matter. It’s like having a Jim Carrey movie for a son.

In his defence, our boy does have a history of getting to the point. During his first summer at camp, James mailed home a note that consisted of a single sentence: “I was riding a horse and I got thrown off and now my broken arm is in a cast.” One panicked phone call later, we learned that by “broken arm” he meant “sprained shoulder,” and by “cast” he meant “sling.” When he got home and we called him a “dummy” for making us worry like that, we meant “idiot.”

The wake up bell goes at 7:15 so it’s a big cut off from 9:30.

During July, James got into the habit of sleeping in, sometimes until 10 a.m. We think he’s apprenticing to become a teenager or a Van Winkle. Still, what’s important here is that the letter has a second sentence—and a second complaint. Will he be able to maintain this impressive ratio? Let’s find out!

It has only rained 1 time so far. I think we are going on trip in like 5 days.

Here James unleashes a burst of clipped prose reminiscent of any number of campers too lazy to think of an actual anecdote. Instead: random facts! “Trip,” by the way, is a four-day canoe excursion that’s mandatory at his camp. Unsurprisingly, last year’s correspondence focused heavily on where the campers poo while on trip.

The thing I am looking forward to most about coming home, besides juice that actually tastes like something, is hockey.

Wait, so now the juice is the worst thing about camp? Does that mean the clogged “tolet” actually isn’t so bad? Keep your story straight, kid.

We’re fairly sure James actually loves his camp. How couldn’t he? It’s a terrific place, the staff seem amazing and all day he gets to do fun stuff like canoeing, windsurfing and measuring the height of human excrement above a toilet’s water line. Memories that will last a lifetime, I tell you.

Like many parents, we try to expose our kids to adventures better and more memorable than the ones we had. As a boy, I never spent more than four days away at camp, possibly because a full week inside the heavy, cruel canvas tents of the time would have resulted in dozens of young Cub Scouts being roasted in their own juices.

Those awful tents! And I have other fond memories of Cub camp, such as a) leaving and b) never coming back. The outhouse was so vile that most kids tried to hold off from using it for as long as possible. I went so far as to hold off from using it for longer than possible, and wound up with a pair of soiled underwear—which I removed and, embarrassed, hurled into the nearby ravine. Genius! No camper or counsellor shall ever learn my secret shame! It was only with the benefit of hindsight that I realized I first should have removed the iron-on label that read “Feschuk.”

P.S By the way 30/56 main course meals here are chiken. Chiken wings chiken fingers chiken wraps chiken soup chiken salad. So when I come home please no chiken.

First morning he’s home, I’m waking this kid with a bell and giving him a breakfast of chiken breast, chiken flakes and chiken juice. Also, a dictionary.

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