I’ve decided to write about my childhood a bit more. Although I have a lot of big blank spaces I have this vague idea that it was interesting enough and maybe by writing about it I will remember a little more and sort out some of my childhood issues that I can’t sort out in therapy. Since I don’t really believe in therapy, at least when it comes to me being the patient. So much for my previous post on "it’s not all about me."
I’m going to alternate these posts with ones about my children in similar situations. So, today, I go to summer camp. Tomorrow, it’s them.
I went to summer camp once. Well, twice, if you count Summer Bible Camp. My mother, Jan, did not send me there since the Unitarians didn’t have such a thing but I tagged after a neighborhood friend. She got extra Jesus points for recruiting friends. Summer Bible Camp was so boring I stuck with the Unitarians until I was 30.
The one summer camp I went to was Girl Scout Day Camp. My mother believed in raising her children through benign neglect so summer camp was not an item on her radar. My father, on the other hand, believed in raising his children by sending them door-to-door peddling stuff like William O. Brown greeting cards. He was disappointed to discover there were child labor laws in effect so sales was my first endeavor in the world of work. Since the Girl Scouts had peddling (cookies and calendars, etc.) as one of their major activities it was alright with him if I was a Girl Scout and I think that’s how I found myself going to day camp for a week. Or two. I can’t even remember how long it was. All I know is the first five minutes were an eternity and it was downhill from there.
Girl Scout camp consisted of an hour long drive in a station wagon ending in a hot pasture backed by deep woods. In the pasture we sat on dry, pokey grass in a horseshoe shape; there was something symbolic about the seating plan but I don’t recall what it was. We sang "Make good friends, but ke-eeep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold." The curious thing about my camp experience is I didn’t know another girl there. And for however long it lasted I never learned anybody’s name, I never played with anybody or made any friends at all. It’s possible I had some form of Asperger’s in addition to big, fat, thick glasses but I don’t think so. I just can’t remember ever saying a single word to anyone at camp or, for that matter, anyone speaking to me.
Here’s what I remember: Right after singing this song (where I did hold hands with strangers and sway) we would say the Pledge of Allegiance and precisely at "one nation, under God…" it would start to rain. And it never stopped. So we would arrive at the hot pasture, sit in dry pokey grass, sing and sway and then, as we pledged, it would start to rain for the whole day until the station wagons drove us home.
The only other two memories I have of camp are these: we had one morning activity that was the same for every morning of camp and that was making woven newspaper sit-upons. I believe, without exaggerating, that I made over 130 newspaper sit-upons. I never took any home and they mostly turned to paper mache but I was very industrious and made many of them. We had one afternoon activity and that involved walking around aimlessly in the deep woods behind the pasture. In the rain. With black ink-stained hands and clothes.
Every afternoon I would ride home with strangers and get dropped off in our driveway. I would go in the back door and my mother would be standing there with a bar of Fels Naptha soap and say, "Go down and bathe in the set tub and put your clothes in the washer." When I was on the seventh basement stair she would call, "How was camp?"
I always said, "Fine."
This is all true and should tell you something about the kind of kid I was.