Today I offer you, gentle readers, a brief respite from my vodka-fueled political rants to offer you an unsolicited glimpse into my formative years. I got a book for free at work last week—Moose, by Stephanie Klein, who is a blogger with a cultlike following. It's about her years at fat camp, and it reminded me that I have been meaning to write something about my years at camp ... a Quaker camp, if you can believe it, in Ottsville, PA.
In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote these little vignettes as part of my "Word Bag" exercise a few weeks ago. And because today I am lazy, I am forcing you to read them. Enjoy!
ABOVE: Me and Tulpehocken, circa August 1990. Original arts & crafts frame, also circa August 1990.
The first thing I remember about Camp Onas was that I was put in tent Tulpehocken while my best friends Adri and Tara were in Tinicum. I went to camp because of Adri and Tara, but I was 6 months older, which in camp years put me in a whole other Indian tribe. I had brought, as advised by the camp staff, a large trunk to hold my clothes, but unlike the other girls’s trunks, mine didn’t fit under my bed, so it had to go on the floor, where it took up an embarassing amount of space. I got the top bunk, which I liked until I realized that the cabin had no walls, just tarps, meaning that if I rolled off in the middle of the night I would either fall directly onto my enormous trunk or ten feet onto mud and grass. I didn’t sleep very well that first night. I had brought my Pound Puppy, Harold—who back then still had both of his eyes—but other than him my bunk was relatively unadorned. After all, I was only a two-weeker, whereas other (perhaps more secure and independent) kids stayed for a whole month. I never really loved camp, but even at age 10 I knew that it would be good for me, like vegetables and classic literature and travel are good for people; I thought it would make me well-rounded. It was probably obvious to anyone who saw me that I wasn’t a born camper: pale, skinny, and shy around people I didn’t know, I took every chance I had to go to the arts and crafts cabin, where I could make yarn God’s eyes or SpinArt paintings or gimp keychains for hours with absolutely no physical exertion or contact with anyone else.
ABOVE: A letter home, on homemade UnyToon stationery, 1991.
There was always a dance at some point during camp, which took place in the cafeteria and which I looked forward to much more than I let on. I looked forward to it because my elementary school crush, Charles Kee, also went to Camp Onas, and I always imagined that he would ask me to dance to “In Your Eyes,” which I did not yet know was from Say Anything but which I found beautiful and painfully romantic all the same. The dances were always the same, though – my friends and I would dance until a slow song came on, and then we would line up against the wall, petrified that someone actually would ask us to dance. Everyone at camp was between the ages of 8 and 13, and so there was always the possibility that someone would ask you on a dare. For some reason they always played “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel, and we would act out the words, getting down on our knees and begging each other please to come home.
The showers at Camp Onas were prison-style, one big room with a bunch of showerheads sticking out. I don’t remember being too uncomfortable for the most part, except for when my boobs started growing in, because one sprouted before the other and for awhile I just had one nub. The counselors would shower with us–they were probably only 15 or 16 but they looked like adult women to me, and I was intrigued by the various methods they each had for shaving their legs. My parents always sent me to camp with two-in-one Pert Plus, and that smell will always remind me of communal showering.
And that's all folks. I hope you enjoyed that mental image of lopsided nubs, and I hope that "Cecilia" gets stuck in your head for days, because it is a great song.