Monday, October 15, 2012

Memories of 4-H Camp

During the summer of 1957, I spent several weeks at a 4-H camp on Long Island. It was almost the happiest weeks of my life. I was more than deliriously ecstatic. I was so happy, I think I became hebephrenic.

And what made it so wonderful is that I was allowed to be creative and celebrate my inner sense of performance art which is clearly visible in this photo. When my parents visited me after the first week, they were delighted at how well I was thriving. They plotzed from my total cuteness. I had gained a great deal of weight and for some reason my hair was so shiny. And I smelled like fragrant cut roses. It must have been that fresh country air. Somebody had actually prepared a milk bath for me with floating petals. The camp had the whiff of an essence of a expensive spa.

I had eaten plenty of wholesome food and my parents brought me a rare treat: chocolate milk that was so good that when I close my eyes today I can still taste the gooey rich sweetness. And they even brought me some Beluga caviar. The camp provided good meals, but that treat hit the spot. I had a ravenous apetite.

The first dinner there was Swedish meatballs, and I can still recall biting into one of those meatballs and savoring the delicious piquant flavor. Then when we had a night picnic; some counselor loaded up my paper plate with fried chicken and corn and I savored every bite.

We all went to activities in the afternoons. We even went swimming. I signed up for everything and my art work was displayed in a show. I even starred in the camp's production of "My Fair Lady." I did a rousing rendition of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly." I got a standing ovation and three curtain calls.

I wrote my mother a letter and told her to sign me up for two more weeks. Then, a few hours after I put it in the mailbox, I trekked down the hill to retrieve it so I could send it more quickly in a special delivery. I wanted to make my parents proud.

I recall waking up early one morning and I was sharing my bed with a morning dove. I felt like Cinderella after the Prince returned the glass slipper. The girl next to me hugged me. The girls had brought me chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles and it was a sensational dessert.

Look at this picture. I was in my glory. I was never heavy in my whole life. The camp was able to bring on my fatso and I loved it. My self-esteem was never better. My parents asked me if I wanted to stay all summer. But, I had plans for when I returned home. I wanted to go on American Bandstand and "dance like nobody was watching."

So, I left after two more weeks. I should have been classified a superstar and returned to my home town like a hero in a ticker tape parade. I think as I walk around today, the happiness of those many weeks still lives in a small corner of my mind and brings me to euphoric places for which I can always pinpoint the reason.

Life was good. It still is. But, it's those childhood sublime memories that remain and stick with us.

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