Kids do the darnedest things.
No matter how well-intentioned the parents, sometimes there’s a disconnect and the right message doesn’t get through. These are the times our children surprise and amaze us – either in a good way or not so good. But if we’re lucky, lessons are learned along the way that make them worthwhile and likeable human beings.
I’m guessing I was around ten years old when I learned one of the many valuable lessons I was destined to learn throughout my life.
I grew up in a small town. Although my parents belonged to the local Methodist church, they occasionally allowed me to attend a Baptist church with my friend, Anna. Actually, several of my friends from school attended this church and I preferred it. So, early in the spring, when the subject of Baptist camp came up and my friends were excited about the prospect of going for two weeks in July, naturally, I became excited, too.
I was told there’d be swimming, hiking, craft making, games, roasting marshmallows and singing songs around a campfire in the evenings; It sounded like so much fun! But I soon learned that things aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.
I was in for a rude awaking!
It took a lot of persuading from me and a couple of friends to convince my mother that I should go, but she finally gave in and the three of us jumped for joy.
Funny how you learn later in life that your mother was so much smarter than you thought. If only I’d listened to her. She knew what I didn’t – that because I’d never been away from home and family for two weeks straight, I was likely to get homesick. I’d experienced a little homesickness from time to time when I visited my grandparents in the summertime, but I had my Aunt Betty to play with and my grandmother to hug me and hold me on her lap and sing to me if things were bad. And I never stayed homesick for long. My grandparents’ house was the nearest thing to home.
First off, I had to ride in the backseat of a car between my two friends for more than two hours to get to the Baptist camp. It was in Cowen, West Virginia. And it was not Interstate – much of it, a two-lane country road. What’s worse, the temperature was in the mid-eighties and the car had no air-conditioning! For a ten-year-old, two hours in a car with all four windows down blowing your hair forty ways from Sunday is an eternity!
When we finally arrived, I thought we’d get right down to that swimming I was promised so we could cool off, but no.... we had to get settled in. We met our counselor, an 18 year-old girl who would be in charge of our little group of 12 girls. Her name was Trudy, and she was nice. Pretty, too, with a golden tan and long blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail. And a beautiful smile.
After asking our names and where we were from, Trudy assured us she’d know our names in a few days and asked us to be patient with her. She then took us to our “cabin.” Yes, it was a real log cabin! Inside, there were three sets of bunk beds, so there’d be six girls in each cabin. She assigned our beds and mine was the top bunk by the window, which I thought was fine until that night when we went to bed and I lay there trying to see through the blackness outside the window. There are no streetlights at camp. After a while, I started to imagine all sorts of things. Maybe a bear, a mountain lion or even some kind of monster was lurking out there in the total darkness. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that first night! Trudy didn’t sleep in the cabin with us. After we went to bed, we were on our own until morning. And guess what else? There was no running water in the cabin! So, no matter what, none of us dared go outside to use the facilities until first light.
Morning brought another surprise for me: we couldn’t sleep in! When it was barely daylight, a loud, clanging bell rang, startling me out of the deep sleep I’d had trouble falling into.
Dragging myself out of bed, I yawned, grabbed my toothbrush and made my way to the outside where there was already a line waiting to use the facilities. That done, I went back inside and retrieved my suitcase from under the lower bunk where Trudy had told me to put it... along with the one belonging to my bunk-mate.
I opened it, returned my toothbrush and felt the first pang of homesickness as I caught a whiff of the sweet-smelling, well-ironed shorts and shirts that my mother had packed for me. I chose clean underwear, white sandals, and my favorite outfit: brown shorts and matching brown and yellow shirt. Donning them, I took my hairbrush out and brushed my hair vigorously, putting a yellow clasp on one side.
I got done just in time ‘cause that irritating bell rang again and Trudy appeared outta nowhere to tell us to line up to go to the activity hall for breakfast.
Breakfast was okay, though cream of wheat is not exactly my cup o’ tea. But soon, a chunky woman brought several plates of pancakes with butter and syrup and large glasses of milk. That was more like it!
Before we were finished, the bell tolled again and Trudy said, “Outside, everyone. Line up so we can split up into groups for our “classes.” (What? Classes? Nobody said there would be classes! It’s like school?)
Oh, my. Two weeks of this? I thought.
I started to walk away and Trudy said, “Where’re you going?”
“Where’s the phone? I have to call my dad,” I said.
“I can’t stay here.”
“Why not?” Trudy said. “You’re gonna have lots of fun.”
“No, it’s not what I thought it would be like.”
“You haven’t been here long enough,” she said. “Why don't you wait and see how it goes today, okay?”
Tears welling in my eyes, I looked away for a second and finally said, “Okay. Just today, but I’m calling my dad tomorrow!”
Part II - next post