I have indifferent memories of summer camp. The experiences were so strange to me, because it never seemed like I could hear or understand what anyone was saying. It was never an event I looked forward to; it just kind of happened to me and I had to survive so I could get home. I’d have a bag in my lap, my mom would tell me to get on a bus and that would be that.
Somehow I managed to get through a weekend without ever checking in, anywhere. Counselors showed us to our little cabins, where we made Indian hats. I remember everyone’s eyes on mine, as they copied the designs I was coloring on it. Then…I don’t know what happened, but I never had an activity sheet. Rather than admit I was kind of lost, I just started walking around.
I walked in on whatever activity group I came upon, whether it was basket weaving or a bunch of silly songs, and sat down. One group walked out to a shooting range and I got to fire a gun at balloons (bet I hadn’t been signed up for THAT one). Another ensemble ended up in a field where we paired off and took turns creeping up on each other, yards away, by removing our shoes and walking toe-heel, which I found interesting. The entire time, I marveled at how easy it was to stroll right by the people in charge if you didn’t act lost. When a certain siren rang, I went and got a lunch tray… I went swimming a lot (I bet, more than was allowed), and went back to the cabin when it got dark out.
One of the only times I ever talked to anyone was because I was trying to fall asleep. Having gotten the top bunk, my group left the door open all night (I think all of the kids were visiting each other’s cabins) and a million mosquitoes had collected on the ceiling, just above my head. I asked the girl staying with us if she would help me kill some of them, and I remember her looking very upset… I still went to sleep staring at mosquitoes, and got bit an awful lot.
For the last day, the counselors were supposed to award each camper with a unique certificate that specified some kind of strength or characteristic. My name was called and I accepted a paper that said “Most Paranoid”. It hurt my feelings to be made fun of, and I folded it into quarters and threw it away before my mom could see it.
Another camp was 4-H related, on the campus of Michigan State University. I followed numbers on my wrist and appropriate signs to where I was supposed to be, that time. I think I toured a news station and took some kind of music class. As it got dark, a lot of the people seemed to get together and go somewhere outside, but I didn’t know anyone. Instead, I would be exhausted and elated to have managed the day, and found my way back to the room where I climbed up onto the ledge and looked down on all the people and lights. My clearest memory is being in the dark, against the window.
One more weird set of memories must be from a day camp. Long walks in the woods to bring back water for the fire, and strange nature lessons in a pavilion. We set up a tent… we put stones around a fire pit. Went home at the end of the day, so I could get up early and do it all over again.
I was always half at attention, and half in a daydream. Lost in the woods, lost in my mind, I guess.
Okay. “Indifferent” was a poor word.
I fucking hated every day of that shit.