I got to thinking about something the other day, having read in our former town paper that the Boys Harbor Camp had been sold. It was a place put together by a man with money for underprivileged boys who lived in New York City. They'd spend the summer, or a portion of it anyway, on the eastern end of Long Island, in the country.
That pulled a memory from deep recesses of my mind. The third summer I was married, I was the mommy of a toddler girl and expecting another baby in early September. We decided to place an application with the Fresh Air Organization. This was a group who placed impoverished children from the city in homes in the country for two week periods during the summertime. We'd been reviewed and briefly interviewed and our application had been accepted. Then we waited for the time to pick up our child.
When we were notified of time and date, we drove to Southampton to meet our little visitor. He was seven years old and his name was Raymond. He was born to a Puerto Rican family, and his English was broken. He was shy, and he was scared. I don't blame him! Can you imagine being sent from your family to one you've never met, to stay in an unfamiliar place for 14 long days? And can you imagine being his Mom and doing that? It's unimaginable to me.
Raymond was fearful of the underbrush at the border of our yard. When we would play catch with him, he'd dodge the ball, and if it went into the low blueberry bushes, he wouldn't go and get it. I don't know if he was afraid of nonexistant snakes or poison ivy or bugs. Perhaps he thought they were planted gardens, I don't know.
His table manners were not very established yet. When he ate his food, he would put his mouth on the edge of his plate, and slide the food across the plate with his fork, until it got to his mouth. I attempted to teach him a more traditional method, and he tried to accomplish it. However, when I wasn't looking directly at him, I noticed he'd slip into his more comfortable way of eating.
Our little girl seemed to love Raymond. She laughed and tried to play with him. He seemed to like her, and was gentle with her. As I remember, he had younger siblings, so he was probably used to having a little 'shadow'. We took them, and my young cousin, to the LVIS Fair at Mulford Farm. Raymond got his first pony ride, and the picture shows anxiety on his face. He was happy to have Butch with us, though, my cousin being only two years older than Raymond was. I think all the kids had a fun time that day.
At the end of the two weeks, we returned Raymond to the spot where we'd picked him up two weeks earlier. I wondered what he felt as we said goodbye. I had grown to love the little guy, and hoped to stay in touch with his family so that perhaps we could have him come the next summer. As it turned out, my letters were never answered, and I finally stopped writing. We never saw Raymond again and I've wondered often about the youngster who would now be fifty-one years old! Has he any memories of that short visit that summer in 1969? Are they good ones? How did he grow up? Did he live a good life and become an upstanding man? I don't want to think any negative thoughts, but hope he was raised in a wonderful home. I hope he's had an education and has become a man of integrity.
But, alas, I fear I'll never know.