Memories of a Dork at Sleep-away Camp

I decided to do August Camp NaNoWriMo. I signed up and didn’t request specific cabin mates. “Surprise Me!” I’m in with a variety of ages and locations, including a student from Bangalore!

Anyway, it got me thinking about the two times in my life I went to camp for a week. There are only a few things from each I remember. I was a fat girl (still am) and that made me an automatic target for either being ignored or being the center of unpleasant and unwanted attention anywhere I was with other kids (even some adults, for crying out loud.)

The first was Camp Lackawana. That was sprung on me and my brother last minute-like. Somehow, we got a scholarship through something associated with the church-run childcare center my then youngest brother went to. I probably wouldn’t have gone if my brother, Chris, wasn’t going. He could get himself in and out of everything. I was 12, going into 6th grade. A very young twelve, in some ways. I can’t believe, in all the moving I did in the years since, that I still have the few pics I took. Note the subtle Instagram effect, courtesy of AGE.

A few highlights from Camp L:
Haggy Mary–the resident ghost who tormented girls with brown eyes-namely, me. The other girls in my cabin were friends and must have been at that camp before because they knew all about Haggy Mary. They also knew how to spot and torment a victim. I had nightmares all week. One night the counselors planned a sleep-out in the woods with a boys’ and girls’ cabin. I couldn’t do it–I was deathly afraid of Haggy Mary so the counselors arranged for me to sleep in the cooks cabin. I was ashamed and knew it was just a stupid story, but I couldn’t help myself.

That counselor I thought was hot.    

The guy counselor of my brother’s cabin was hot. I didn’t care much for guys in those early days, but him, I noticed. What was I thinking?

I was walking across the buggy field (a literal cloud of gnats) from the mess hall to the cabin area and a bug flew in my ear and got stuck in it. I could feel the thing buzzing and bouncing off the walls of my ear canal. Ugh!

My counselor. I forget her name.
I wondered if they liked each other

The place was rife with Daddy Long- legs. Most insects don’t bother me. On the evening of the sleep-out, my brother and I easily collected some and put them in the sleeping bags of the girls who squealed whenever they saw one. The counselors got wind of our vandalism and ordered us to remove them. We did although I doubt we got them all. I never knew what happened with the ones we didn’t get because that was the night I spent hiding from Haggy Mary in the cooks cabin.

We watched the first moon walk there.

Then there’s this. My first “sexual” experience. I use the term loosely. There was a black kid there from New York City. I imagined he was from the ghetto because as far as I knew all black kids in NYC lived in ghettos. This was 1969 with all the racial riots and stuff and that’s what we saw on TV. Anyway, he was in my brother’s cabin and like us, he wasn’t part of the main crowd and the three of us hung out at times. The day we had art in the art cabin, he and I were the last ones left in there. We were talking and somehow he backed me up against the wall. He started to put his knee between mine to separate my legs. I had an idea what he was trying to do and I got a squishy-afraid feeling in my gut. I forget what he said, but he stopped and we left. And I wondered how a kid that age knew about such things and would actually try something.

Then, it must have been the next year, there was Girl Scout camp. I was pretty into Girl Scouts until high school. My mom was a co leader and a Brownie leader and I helped her with that troop. I don’t remember much about it except:

A counselor named Cricket, who scared me. I don’t know why. We had to do some kind of secret friend thing. She was the one I had to secretly give gifts and notes to. Awkward.

There was a girl in my tent who was a sister dork. She had the hairiest armpits I had seen up to that point. She thought certain girls were lesbians and were after her. Or was it, other girls said she was a lesbian? I remember being in a canoe with her and listening to her talk about it. I did know what a lesbian was. Pretty much, in the culture of the time and place, if you were a girl who didn’t hang out with anyone, you were fair game to be called a lesbian. It happened once to me somewhere else. Another story.

I was happy to go home to my noisy crowded home where my brothers called me “whale on the beach,” and I had to change diapers and do the dishes and babysit. But my mom was there and not strangers.

Even though those camp experiences don’t come with all-American wonderful memories of friendship and kum-by-ah–I supposed we sang that at least at Girl Scout camp–they tossed me right out of my comfort zone.

And I’m sure that was a good thing.

2 thoughts on “Memories of a Dork at Sleep-away Camp

  1. Ahhh, Camp!My two camp experiences weren't quite as interesting as this, but I may have to steal this idea eventually.If this post in indicative of your writing style, though, I would expect some fun, awkward, and delightfully interesting stories.

I would love to know what you think.

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