Sunday, December 14, 2008

memories of 4-H camp

During the summer of 1957, I spent two weeks at a 4-H camp on Long Island. It was almost the two most miserable weeks of my life. I was more than homesick. I was so unhappy, I think I became catatonic.
And what made it so terrible is that I was allowed to remain so upset and fall into a condition which is clearly visible in this photo. When my parents visited me after the first week, they were appalled at how I looked. I had lost a great deal of weight and for some reason my hair was cut so short. And I stunk. Somebody had neglected to show me where the showers were. I did not even realize there were showers there. I had not eaten and my parents brought me chocolate milk that was so good that when I close my eyes today I can still taste the gooey rich sweetness. And they fed me the first meal I was able to eat in almost five days.
The camp provided good meals. But, I had lost my apetite. The first dinner there was Swedish meatballs, and I can still recall biting into one of those meatballs and pulling out a long piece of hair from my mouth. Then when we had a night picnic, some counselor loaded up my plate with fried chicken and corn and the weight of it made me drop it and after they all laughed, nobody gave me a refill.
For some reason, all the other girls went to activities in the afternoons. They even went swimming. I had not signed up for anything so I was left alone in the cabin to cry. I mean sob. I wrote my mother a letter and ordered her to pick me up and get me the hell out of there. Then, a few hours after I put it in the mailbox, I trekked down the hill to retrieve it. I didn't want to upset my mother. But, when my parents visited, the sight of me upset them plenty.
I recall waking up early one morning and I was sharing my bed with a grasshopper. The girl next to me laughed. The girls had short-sheeted my bed the night before and I guess the grasshopper was the prank's dessert. Look at this picture. My sister puts on a cheerful face. Sure, she was not attending that camp.
I was never skinny in my whole life. The camp was able to bring on my skinny. My parents asked me if I wanted to go home with them. I was not a quitter. So, I stayed. I should have been diagnosed as a masochist and sent home in an ambulance.
I think as I walk around today, the unhappiness of those two weeks still lives in a small corner of my mind and brings me to dark places for which I can never quite pinpoint a reason.

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