Saturday, July 4, 2009

Are you a camp person?

I love this article about camp and what your feelings toward it say about you. My experience in summer camp was strikingly similar to the author's. I remember using our daily rest time (my favorite camp activity) to write letters to my parents detailing the many ways I was suffering. The three weeks I was away felt like three decades or three generations maybe--each one containing its own unique personal battles that I fought bravely.

Week one was dedicated to meeting new people...also to sleeping, showering, eating, sailing, horseback riding, and eating ice cream out of a huge trough with no utensils with said new people. For someone who needs their alone time, all this togetherness made me feel starved for my bedroom at home where I could sit for hours with a book with no one but my stuffed animals to talk to.

Week two was devoted to cultivating a best friend relationship with one specific girl from my cabin. This girl was usually a trusted confidante who was even more uncomfortable in the camp world than I was. We would discuss how the camp soap was giving her eczema or how she thought we should all be wearing helmets while playing field hockey. If anyone was having a worse time at camp than I was, it was my camp best friend.

Week three was all about getting annoyed with my camp best friend and realizing that her own neuroses were really getting in the way of my becoming a better water skier.

The last day of camp was Parents' Day, and to me, it was the whole reason camp existed in the first place. This deprivation of the things one took for granted in their everyday life--things like parents, watching TV by yourself, taking a shower without wearing a bathing suit--made normal life transcend its normal life-ness. When I saw my parent's station wagon pull into the gravel parking lot on the last day of camp, I practically ran to them with my arms open like Laura Ingalls Wilder running to Pa in the opening credits of Little House on the Prairie. Surely, my parents thought camp had paid for itself in that brief, shining moment of utter devotion to them.

I remember one parents' day in particular...I was doing a twirl routine to the theme song from Beverly Hills Cop. As I twirled and flipped the baton expertly, I imagined that my parents were thinking, "who is this master of the baton and what has she done with our daughter?" Did I look different to them? Sure there were the superficial changes: the leaner, stronger physique--a pleasant bi-product of all the never-ending activity we were forced to do. I was tanner and had smooth legs (everyone shaves their legs at camp). But surely they could see beyond the cosmetic stuff and see that I was tougher in some way, perhaps a tad more mature? While I had not necessarily thrived at summer camp, I had survived. And I was stronger for it.

While my own feelings about camp are complicated, I would definitely encourage my own children to go. I have a feeling they will be more successful campers than I, but even if they aren't, parents' day will be awesome.

Happy 4th of July! And happy camp to all!


gwen1234 said...

This (and the Slate story) are great! They count as "research" for my novel, right? :)

Elizabeth said...

yes, Gwen! Definitely! As long as I can count watching food network as research for mine.

mdm said...

I'm sure there are deeper meanings to your post, but . . . can your recreate the baton routine for us?

Robin said...

THREE weeks at camp? I only got one...and never wanted to go home at the end. That should tell you something about me. :)


Grace said...

At overnight church camp I loved the whole thing. I Just hated that you had To go to bed at 11:00pm and woke us up at 6:00. Pure torture!!!

vchelle said...

Boy did you bring back memories for me.. Camp Allegheny! I absolutely loved it. I don't remmeber if there was torture but I do remember singing the camp theme song all the way home. I grew up in city projects so camp was heaven on earth to me and my sister and brother. I believe somehow back then, it served as an escape to green serenity away from red buildings lined with concrete ground... I have to admit, I did giggle at your beginning to end journey at camp and I thought, her parents knew exactly what they were doing... LOL! Wonderful story and thanks for sharing!

vchelle said...

p.s. Thanks for visitiing Operation You.

vchelle said...

I did post a comment here but for some reason it disappeared. I had a great time reading it and it brought back memories for me!

Nina said...

Your post bought back a flood of memories for me too. I only went on one holiday camp and I remember longing for familiar friends and surroundings, infact I felt so uncomfortable I never went on one again!