Earlier this year when asked to recall memories of sending my son to camp, I was amazed at the floodgate of memories that opened and washed right over that more recent time, flowing all the way back to my own childhood experiences of camp.
I went to Camp Featherfin, which I liked fine, except for the fact it was outdoors and there were bugs and dirt. My main memory was setting up the camp fire and making goulash which was pretty tasty. Campers went swimming in Lake Winthrop (even when not in camp I took swim lessons there in the early morning in what felt like sub-zero temperatures)—as an adult I learned subsequently the lake was be contaminated with dioxin. No point even beginning to ponder the implications of that for me or the thousands of kids and adults who spent their summers in those waters!
I also remember when I was around 8 years old, in one of my many young volunteer activities as apprentice to my uber-volunteer mom, packing lunches for a camp for underprivileged kids. The most fun part was that the Hostess factory from a few towns over delivered packages of Hostess CupCakes to my house in big metal racks, stacks and stacks of them in our carport—but not for me, for the campers, but still there was something heady about it.
I did go to sleep-away camp on my own one time and all I remember is how much I hated it and complained about it. I never was big at going outside my comfort zone, physically at least, and that included having to put up with a scary environment over which I had no control, and kids who saw an insecure, unathletic, braces- and glasses-wearing girl who was developing early as prime bullying material. I sent frantic postcards and letters home but was unable to convince my parents to come and take me home.
Let’s see, other heartwarming camping memories…How about getting lost in the woods at night at a Girl Scout sleep-away camp (my mom was a troop leader) next to some kind of huge detention center/jail, which I discovered finally arriving at a barbed wire fence. Or idealistically heading to New Hampshire one summer to be a camp counselor for troubled inner city youth, and freaking out, whether unable to hack the pressure or homesick or both, I’m not sure, and bailing out?
Of course, camp is not what camp used to be. If I was looking at camps now I could study newspaper writing or website design or yoga or learn Italian, I could stay in an air-conditioned cabin in the mountains, or on the beach in a yurt. My delicate tush need never touch the rocky, buggy ground, I need never stumble in the scary dark to an outhouse, and my food need never come with pine needles in it. For that matter, I could have stayed home. But then where would I have learned to make goulash, macramé a friendship bracelet or sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in rounds?