My little group sat down at tables in the activity room and were shown how to paint a name on a mug. “Make it anyone’s name you want,” the craft teacher said. “Your mother, grandmother, sister or anyone you’d like to give it to – a gift from camp.”
I didn’t have to think very hard. My mother’s name was Gwendolyn and that was too many letters. I’d give it to my dad whose name was Dan. (Smile) After we finished our mugs, we put our names on the bottom and left them to be baked in an oven. “You can get them tomorrow,” the teacher said.
After crafts, we got to go swimming before lunch. I was excited until I saw where we had to swim. It was a creek! A green creek! Not a blue swimming pool, but an ugly old, muddy-bottomed creek! The other kids screamed with joy when they saw it and raced to see who could jump in first. I didn’t even want to get in.
Gosh, there are probably snakes and lizards in there, and who knows what else, I thought. I did get wet, but mostly sat on my towel on a huge rock at the edge of the water and got sunburned.
The rest of the day wasn’t too bad. We had hamburgers and potato chips and a banana for lunch. Then, it was game time. Some played badminton, others, volleyball. Still others donned lifejackets and went canoeing. I had a tummy ache and felt hot all over from my sunburn. Trudy told me to go back to my cabin and lie down until suppertime.
At least one promise came true. After supper, we roasted marshmallows around a campfire and sang songs. I enjoyed it and felt pretty good when Trudy said, “Off to bed, little campers. Don’t forget to brush your teeth and say your prayers.” I was tired and slept well until that awful clanging bell rang much too soon. Crawling out of bed, I dreaded another day like yesterday.
I never mentioned calling my dad again. Somehow, I managed to survive the next eleven days of getting up at the crack of dawn when that annoying bell clanged, swimming in that dirty old green water, and eating things I didn’t like, but I was so happy when the day came to go home. There was a ceremony and each camper was given a certificate and a medallion on a chain with the name of the camp and date on it. But what a joyful moment it was when we saw Anna’s mom and dad arrive to take the three of us home! I always felt that Baptist Camp had been totally misrepresented to me and never quite got over it. One thing for sure – I never fell for it again!
Home at last! How wonderful it felt to walk about my own yard and lounge in my own room while enjoying the pleasing aroma of the meatloaf my mother had in the oven.
During dinner, my parents questioned me about the past two weeks and the things I'd learned and done at camp. I was tired of talking about it and wished they’d talk about something else.
After dinner, my mother said, “Let’s go unpack your suitcase. I still have time to do a load of laundry before bedtime.”
I followed her to my bedroom and watched her surprise as she opened my suitcase. Except for the brown shorts outfit that I'd taken out that first day and my pajamas, everything was exactly the same as it was when she packed it.
Turning to me, she said, “Peggy, why are your clothes clean? Did somebody wash them for you?”
“No,” I said.
Turning to me, hands on her hips, she said, “Well? Why aren’t these clothes dirty?”
“I didn’t wear them,” I said.
“What do you mean, you didn’t wear them? Why not?”
“We didn’t have much time to get dressed and go the bathroom and brush our teeth and comb our hair after the bell rang every morning. It was easier to lay these clothes on the foot of my bed and put them back on every morning.”
“Peggy! Are you telling me you wore the same outfit for fourteen days?”
The look on my mother’s face was starting to make me nervous. No. Scared!
My eyes brimming with tears, I said, “Yes.”
“Why in God’s name would you do such a thing?”
Crying now and trying to avoid my mother's angry glare, I said, “I don’t know.”
“Well, get those clothes off right now and go get in the bathtub.”
As I was undressing, I heard her softly relating the story to my dad and, as odd as it sounds - I could have sworn I heard laughter - but I’m sure I was mistaken.
The worst thing was – she didn’t even bother to wash my favorite outfit. She threw it away!
I loved that outfit!
I have no good memories of Baptist camp!