Monday, July 21, 2008

Bad Memories

I finished reading Padma Venkatraman's Climbing the Stairs -- it was magnificent. I think it's an important book. And last night I completed The Life History of a Star by Kelly Easton. Also wonderful; I think both books and their protagonists will stay with me for a long time.

The twentieth marked the three-year anniversary of my first trip to camp. It was a camp for children with juvenile diabetes. Complete overkill on any treatment, whether you were hyperglycemic (sugar too high) or hypoglycemic (sugar too low). These three days were filled with kickball under the raging sun, watching chubby spiders dance mere inches over your head in the cabins, beetles swimming in the toilet bowls, plastic mattresses stained with something that looked like rejected stomach contents, and frozen graham cracker-chocolate pudding-marashmallow sandwiches. To top it off, the girls in my cabin hated me.

"You know everybody talks about you behind your back?" a girl two years younger than I was asked me.

"No," I said. "Why?"

"Well ... when you talk, it makes the rest of us sound kinda retahded," she admitted.

(The Rhode Island accent, for those who have never heard it, sounds rather like a thinner, less refined version of the Boston accent.)

"Oh," I said. "Because I use big words?"

"Yeah," she replied.


"I thought you were gonna cry," said the other girl, looking disappointed.

I have to admit that I was the Hermione Granger of the cabin -- insecure enough to flaunt a broad vocabulary and refined grammatical skills. (But I can't possibly be the only one who couldn't bear to listen to, "She don' wanna be a junia counsela" and "I ain't, you ain't, he/she/it ain't". Can I?) Anyway, I am never going back to camp. Ever. This experience turned me off for life.

The only good part of camp was listening to the storyteller. I love storytellers. (Although this was around the campfire, and all but yours truly, who had a mouthful of steel, were enjoying chubby white marshmallows.)



spacedlaw said...

That made me smile because I have had multiple experiences like that (and still do every now and then, despite the years).

EmilyLady said...

Life will be life.

I'm glad it made you smile!


Yoga Gal said...

Camping can be great, Camp can suck! I don't think the girls hated you but you're different and that frighten girls -Hell, it frigthens people, march to your own drummer! I love storytellers too. My I suggest reading "Bless me Ultima" by Rudololfo Anaya, a great novel about a Mexican American boy growing up in New Mexico.

Dan Guy said...

Perhaps a different sort of camp would be more to your liking?

I went to the Duke Young Writers' Camp for six summers and then worked there for the next three. It was amazing, and is responsible for a large part of who I am socially.

I would say 90% of the camp are reading/writing/word geeks. It's like nerdvana. The other 10% are kids whose parents made them go, but the staff is so amazing that even they get caught up in the act. Using proper grammar and demonstrating a large vocabulary is the norm there.
The instructors are published writers and award winning teachers. Some of my friends from camp have gone on to amazing writing careers, including Justin D. Taylor, who released an athology last year featuring a story from Neil.

The dining is awesome, the dorms (these days) are relatively new freshman dorms, and West campus has amazing gothic architecture.

Your state probably also has TIP, or an equivalent, which is a summer camp for "gifted" brainiacs. ^_^ Most of my friends went there, and loved it.

Both are examples of camps where ignorance isn't tolerated and intelligence is rewarded. Being among one's peers, and finding myself one of the "popular kids" for that two weeks a year, enabled me to better grasp the logistic of social interaction, gain confidence, and make it through the rest of the year with my sanity.

Which is all to say: don't write camp off as a concept, just find a more suitable camp.

Dan Guy said...

There is a run of Peanuts strips in which Charlie Brown goes to camp with a bag on his head, due to a stress-rash that makes the back of his head look like a giant baseball. Due to his air of mystery, he becomes the most popular kid at camp.

Camp was my first chance to try out a different 'me', and refine it each subsequent year until it was who I wanted to be.

EmilyLady said...

Dan Guy, that kind of camp DOES sound like a wonderful place, and certainly a place that I would love to be. It's not that I'm against camp and the declaration that I never wanted to go again was kind of an exaggeration. I like the idea of going to nicer camps, which I do not doubt exist.

Thanks a lot for the input -- that really sounds wonderful and I'm happy to know there are such camps out there!