Last weekend, my friend Deb delivered her beautiful daughter for a week at Summer Camp. Summer Camp. Oh, those words!! I've been thinking about them all week and remembering -- even after 35+/- years, those summer camp memories still bring a smile (or a cringe).
It was a week-long YWCA camp in northern Minnesota and I went with my cousin during two summers, when I was 11 and 12. I took the Greyhound bus, by myself, from my home in NE Wisconsin to hers in Duluth (lost my pillow on the very last trip) and from there, we were delivered to camp. She was a year younger than me, but we weren't really close and didn't see each other much -- she always seemed to put on airs, anyway -- her dad was a doctor and her mom listened to opera and I think my uncle might have paid a part of my camp fee and she probably knew it. They had a huge treehouse in their backyard that my uncle had built and it had three trees going right up through the floor and the roof -- it was awesome and it was there that I saw for myself how much trees -- big trees -- actually move in the wind -- even a very little wind.
Summer Camp! I played a lot of just-for-fun tetherball -- I was pretty good at it and it's still a favorite game. I took archery (which I loved), swimming (not-so-much but mandatory), made lanyards, sang camp songs, and ate in a giant mess hall. My most favorite thing of all was horseback riding. "My" horse, both years, was a palomino named Taffy. We learned the very basics of grooming and how to saddle a horse, and I still remember giving Taffy a knee -- "Do it again," the counselor said, "harder!" -- so she'd expel any air she might be holding so the saddle could be cinched up tight. I learned all about "posting" and how much it can hurt when you're not used to it. Taffy was a good, sweet, and gentle horse -- unless she was tied up. She'd raise holy hell and be in danger of injuring herself and others if tethered. As I recall, she'd been rescued from an abusive owner who would tie her up and beat her, apparently, and with my maternal streak we were a pretty good match.
I won the camp-wide "Miss Ugly" contest one year. My cabin mates did me up good -- teasing my long hair (I swear, I lost half in the combing-out afterwards), applying fake moles and blackening teeth, they rubbed my legs with toothpaste which caked and dried and looked rather like scales (I smelled so minty!), it might have been on my face and in my hair, too. As I recall, someone sacrificed an entire tube of Crest. For some reason, I'd brought my violin to camp and for the talent portion of the program, I sawed and hacked an "accompaniment" while I belted out a completely tuneless "Mary Had A Little Lamb" in probably much the same manner as Rosanne's famous Star-Spangled Banner -- except worse.
There was the time I drifted over to "the other side" of the dock during swimming time and brushed up against some reeds. I picked up a huge leech -- honestly, the thing must have been three inches long on the side of my calf. Um, I freaked out a little. Someone -- one of the cooks, maybe -- came running from the mess hall with a big salt shaker. Ew, it was all very gross with the smily-turned-shriveled and blood...
Ask anyone in my family... I'm still mad at my cousin for throwing away my 16 Magazines. During one of those summers, she thought I was spending too much of my free time ogling the likes of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman, Davy Jones and Barry Williams (OMG, Barry's wearing "our" sweater in this photo -- I had this EXACT same sweater!), and reading about Dark Shadows, so she took 'em and tossed 'em. Just like that. (Airs... remember?) Made my blood boil and it still does. But it gets better... I mean, worse. Still miffed upon returning from camp, my aunt wondered why and when I told her that my cousin had taken and thrown away my magazines -- my personal property to which my cousin had absolutely no right, not to mention the whole making judgments about my chosen form of entertainment for my free time at camp -- my aunt frickin' backed her up. Oh! Don't get me started...
Yeah, so anyway. I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world and I know how lucky I am to have gone. I don't think any of my siblings ever had the chance. So how about it? Any camp memories to share?