Last summer, in the midst of her seven weeks at a Pennsylvania sleepaway camp, Ilana Yunis’s 9-year-old daughter Serena wrote a letter home that said something like this, “I hate it here. How could you send me here?”
Yunis jokes that she “needed a horse tranquilizer” after receiving the letter. “Out of the blue, she sent me this incredibly, horrifyingly sad homesick letter,” says Yunis, 40, an attorney in Manhattan.
Yunis commiserated with her older sister, Aliza Licht, 45, a marketing consultant and author from Manhattan. The sisters grew up in North Woodmere and attended that same sleepaway camp when they were girls, and Licht also had a daughter, Sabrina, now 11, at the camp.
“Why don’t we start an Instagram account and post these letters? I’m sure we’re not alone.” And so the Homesickdotcom Instagram account was born — it now has more than 100 funny or poignant letters from campers submitted by their parents. Yunis and Licht screen the letters and redact all the identifying information before adding them to the collection, in the children’s original handwriting, misspellings and all.
The posted letters are meant to be entertaining. “Misery loves company,” Yunis says. Parents can laugh at the letters because they know they are very much written in the moment and that kids usually bounce back quickly from their moments of missing parents, the sisters say.
“Mommy, you prosimed me I will like my consler’s! And I hate all of them!” reads one. “Dear Mom & Dad, How are You? I am in hell,” reads another. A third reads, “Dear Mommy, I know you already payed for 7 weeks, but I want to come home.” Still another circled a spot on the letter and wrote, “This is a teardrop.”
Not all the letters are only about homesickness. One writer chastised his parents for not writing enough. “I have 4 letters this year I’m so mad. You hear me everyone else has 10,” the camper wrote. Another asked for medical advice: “My counsler Jason got scrached by a skunk before camp started and now the skin fell off and the tissue of his musle is showing. Should he go to the health center?”
Stacy Menikoff, 40, of Plainview, says she found out about the account, which now has more than 2,600 followers, because her daughter, Blair, 10, is in Sabrina’s bunk at camp. “It’s the funniest thing ever,” Menikoff says. “I think it’s realistic for parents who have children at sleepaway camp.”
So did Yunis pick her daughter up last summer after she got the missive? Of course not, she says. “It’s a huge luxury and a privilege,” she says of the sleepaway camp experience. “It’s teaching the kid independence and coping skills. I told her, ‘You’re going to feel amazing at the end of the day that you did it.’”
Serena happily returned to camp for the 2019 season. Yunis did, however, consider sending Serena to camp without any stamps this summer.